Tony Podesta, a powerful Democratic lobbyist and the brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, reportedly has entered Robert Mueller’s investigative crosshairs as the special counsel’s office probes whether his firm violated federal law.
NBC News first reported that Podesta and his Democratic lobbying firm are now subjects in the special counsel’s Russia investigation, after inquiries regarding former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s finances.
The Podesta Group was co-founded by Tony and his brother John Podesta, who is a longtime Clinton aide and served as chairman of her 2016 presidential campaign.
According to Monday’s NBC News report, Manafort organized a PR campaign for a pro-Ukraine nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). The Podesta Group reportedly was one of many firms that worked on the campaign.
According to NBC News, Mueller’s team began looking at Podesta and his company and is now pursuing a criminal inquiry into whether the company violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Under FARA, people in the United States who lobby on behalf of foreign entities must register through the Justice Department as a foreign agent and disclose their work.
“[The firm] is cooperating fully with the Special Counsel’s office and has taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms timely compliance,” the Podesta Group reportedly said in a statement. “In all of our client engagements, the Podesta Group conducts due diligence and consults with appropriate legal experts to ensure compliance with disclosure regulations at all times — and we did so in this case.”
Tony Podesta and a representative for his company did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News on Monday. The special counsel’s office also declined to comment on whether Mueller’s team is investigating Podesta and his firm.
The development, though, would speak to how the Mueller probe may be expanding well beyond the original focus on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump associates — ensnaring Democratic figures in the process.
“It’s a cliché, but a good cliché – prosecutors go where the evidence leads them,” former high-ranking DOJ official James Trusty, now with Ifrah Law LLC, told Fox News on Monday. “When you define the mission broadly, there is a lot of room for [an independent prosecutor’s] exploration.”
Trusty said Mueller’s investigation was broad, leaving “a lot of room to legitimately poke around and find information, on one party or another.”
“If you define it very narrowly, it is much easier to say the special counsel is a rogue elephant, but if you define the mission broadly, it is all fair game to look into any violation of federal law and relationships with Russia,” Trusty told Fox News. “You’ll find there are prosecutions no one would have anticipated at the start, or corruption from a different party than were initially looked at.”
Trusty added: “All of this is fair game if the independent prosecutor is doing his job the right way.”
In November, the Podesta Group told the Justice Department that it failed to file legally required disclosures of White House advocacy on behalf of a foreign government, according to federal filings. The Washington Free Beacon first reported that the Podesta Group was in violation of FARA.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.