Business & Lobbying

Report: FBI, DOJ looking at Manafort in Ukraine investigation

Greg Nash

The Department of Justice and the FBI are looking at Paul Manafort as part of a broad investigation into alleged corruption in Ukraine, according to CNN.

Manafort, who resigned on Friday as Donald Trump’s campaign manger, is not the only focus of the probe.

{mosads}The investigation is instead broadly examining whether U.S. corporations and financial institutions had been used to aid former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of office, CNN reports.

Manafort worked for Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, though much of his activities are not publicly known. He has said the work did not trigger disclosure under the U.S. foreign lobbying law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The Podesta Group and Mercury, two Washington lobbying and PR firms, worked for a client introduced to them by Manafort — the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a non-profit that had ties to Yanukovych’s political party.  

The former client — who paid the the two firms $2.2 million from 2012 to 2014 — assured them that it had no backing from foreign governments or parties.

The CNN report says that other firms that had been involved with Manafort have also been caught up in the Justice Department investigation, including the Podesta Group. However, the report does not list Mercury as being part of the probe.

CNN cites law enforcement officials saying that prosecutors “haven’t ruled anything out.”  

The Podesta Group on Friday announced that it had hired a law firm to look into whether the former client misled it about its sources of funding. 

“The firm has retained Caplin & Drysdale as independent, outside legal counsel to determine if we were misled by the Centre for a Modern Ukraine or any other individuals with regard to the Centre’s potential ties to foreign governments or political parties,” said Podesta Group CEO Kimberley Fritts in a statement. 

Podesta’s advocacy activities were disclosed under the domestic lobbying statute, the Lobbying Disclosure Act, but not FARA. Both Mercury and the Podesta Group did so because of a signed statement from the client and an outside legal opinion. 

“When the Centre became a client, it certified in writing that ‘none of the activities of the Centre are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.’ ”

“We relied on that certification and advice from counsel in registering and reporting under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We will take whatever measures are necessary to address this situation based on Caplin & Drysdale’s review, including possible legal action against the Centre.” 

Mercury has retained Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to “to look into the matter,” said Kenneth Gross, the leader of Skadden’s political law practice, on Friday. 

The two firms made the statements about outside hires prior to the CNN reporton Friday evening. 

Yanukovych was ousted after a public uprising in Ukraine in 2014 and fled to Russia. 

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