Pavlich: Dems should also be nervous

Pavlich: Dems should also be nervous
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It’s been quite the week in Washington,  after the first indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller’s 2016 election probe were handed down by a grand jury.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is facing nearly two decades in prison after being handed multiple felony counts on everything from tax fraud and money laundering to lying to federal agents and failing to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). His business partner, Richard Gates, faces the same. FARA is defined by the government as a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

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Despite the left’s best hopes, the Manafort indictment didn’t contain a single reference to the Trump campaign and the charges he faces are completely tailored to a decade of shady business deals overseas. Collusion wasn’t the center of the charges and President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE was left out of it.

 

The lack of attachment to the Trump campaign should be cause for concern among Democrats, who would be wise not to assume Mueller will stop his inquiry at the boundaries of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election.

Mueller has broad authority to investigate leads outside of campaigns, made obvious by the Manafort indictment, and he’s enforcing violations of FARA. Prosecution for failing to register as a foreign agent hasn’t been enforced in years, which is precisely why lobbyists on both sides of the political aisle take the risk not to disclose their status. Failing to do so allows lobbyists and firms to keep money off the books in the United States and under the radar. It looks like the party may be over.

Just hours after Manafort left his Alexandria, Va., home Monday morning to surrender himself to agents at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., mega-lobbyist Tony Podesta announced he was leaving his firm. Why? Mueller is also investigating his foreign dealings and whether he violated FARA. Ironically, he found his lead through Manafort, who is facing charges on the same issue.

“Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller,” NBC News reported. “Sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine  and Manafort’s role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Tony Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Manafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT MORE’s 2016 campaign chairman, and has been running in high-profile Democratic circles since Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Keep your eye on essential facts in the unfolding impeachment circus MORE’s time in the Oval Office.

This is progress. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySpeaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Barr: Inspector general's report on alleged FISA abuses 'imminent' Pelosi aide hopeful White House will support drug-pricing bill despite criticism MORE (R-Iowa) has been pounding on the Department of Justice’s door for years demanding FARA be upheld. It looks like Mueller intends to do just that, going after Republican and Democratic lobbyists who have been gaming the system and getting rich off foreign governments for decades.  

“As always, it’s important to let our legal system run its course. While we don’t have any more information regarding the current status of the special counsel’s investigation other than what has already been made public, it’s good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Grassley said in a statement about the Manafort indictment. “I’ve been raising concerns about lackluster enforcement of this foreign influence disclosure law for years now, regardless of administration or political party. It should be enforced fairly and consistently, regardless of politics or any other factor. The dirty little secret is that lots of people across the political spectrum in Washington have skirted their FARA registration obligations for years with little to no accountability.”

Those who want to “drain the swamp,” should be praising Mueller for enforcing FARA violations and, in return, prompting more lobbyists to register as foreign agents when required. The lack of enforcement has bred corruption and deeply embedded, nefarious relationships between politicians and those who do their bidding for far too long.  

Pavlich is the editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.