Longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta is joining Huawei as the embattled Chinese telecom company ramps up its efforts under the Biden administration.
Podesta, who previously led one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington, is making his return to politics after an extended hiatus. His Podesta Group disbanded in 2017 amid scrutiny from then-special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE over the firm’s work with former Trump campaign adviser Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ investigating one-time Trump campaign adviser over alleged ties to Qatar: report Foreign lobbyists donated over M during 2020 election: report Former Mueller prosecutor representing Donoghue in congressional probes: report MORE.
The Justice Department ultimately dropped its investigation into Podesta’s firm. With Democrats retaking power and his legal troubles lifted, Podesta is eyeing a return to lobbying, The New York Times reported earlier this month.
Huawei has hired Podesta as a consultant, according to a source familiar with the matter. Politico first reported the news of Podesta’s hiring Friday.
Huawei is bulking up its lobbying team as the Biden administration reviews the Trump White House's China-related policies. The firm’s sales outside of China have plummeted following a series of restrictions imposed by the Trump administration and further tightened by President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE.
The Shenzhen-based company hired several new lobbying firms run by former government officials in recent months. The telecom spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2021, up from just $170,000 during the same period last year, according to filings.
Huawei wants Biden to undo a 2019 Trump administration order that bars it from doing business with American companies, including key partners such as Google, Qualcomm and Intel. The telecom is also pushing for the release of its executive Meng Wanzhou, who is being held in Canada on charges of circumventing U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. has accused Huawei of using its technology to spy on U.S. entities on behalf of Beijing, an allegation it denies.
While Huawei was hopeful that Trump’s election loss would bring relief, Biden has imposed further restrictions on the Chinese firm. Last month, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting U.S. investments in Huawei and other firms that allegedly helped the Chinese government repress the Uyghur ethnic minority and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
Huawei and Podesta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.