FBI Probes Firm Belonging To Brother Of Clinton Campaign Chair For Ukraine Corruption Ties
The top political news on Friday was the unexpected resignation of Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, which was the result of emerging revelations that his political consulting firm, DMP International, had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation in the period 2012-2014 on behalf of Ukraine's then ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country's pro-Russian government (which was overthrown in a CIA-orchestrated coup in early 2014).
As the AP reported yesterday, the lobbying included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine's then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her. Furthermore, under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (or FARA), US entities who lobby on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department.
The 1938 U.S. foreign agents law is intended to track efforts of foreign government's unofficial operatives in the United States. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The issue is that neither Paul Manafort, nor his deputy, Rick Gates, disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law. "There is no question that Gates and Manafort should have registered along with the lobbying firms," said Joseph Sandler of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, a Democratic-leaning Washington law firm that advises Republican and Democratic lobbyists.
Now if this was the extent of the violations, it would be an open and shut case of potential non-disclosure of lobbying on behalf of a foreign (soon to be overthrown) government, one which could result in felony charges and potential prison time for employees of DMP International, up to and including Manafort. Which is why it is clear why Trump had to quickly get rid of Manafort as his ongoing presence was a major risk factor overhanging the entire Trump campaign, one which could even lead to incarceration and ongoing accusations of pro-Russian influence.
It also explains why as CNN reported yesterday, the FBI and DOJ prosecutors have started a probe into possible US ties to alleged corruption of the former pro-Russian president of Ukraine, including the work of Paul Manafort's firm, according to multiple US law enforcement officials. "The investigation is broad and is looking into whether US companies and the financial system were used to aid alleged corruption by the party of former president Viktor Yanukovych."
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However, where things get trickier is that in addition to Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates, other, far more prominent firms are also implicated, chief among them the Podesta Group, headed by Tony Podesta - the brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.