Brother of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman faces investigation over work for Ukrainian not-for-profit group tied to Paul Manafort.
The most prominent Democratic lobbyist in Washington, whose brother served as campaign chairman to Hillary Clinton, has stepped down from the firm he created after being ensnared by the Russia-Trump investigation led by Robert Mueller.
Tony Podesta, who has donated millions of dollars to the Democratic party and lawmakers on Capitol Hill and worked as a link between corporate America and the Democratic establishment, has reportedly stepped down from his lobbying firm after it emerged that the US special counsel was investigating his work for a Ukrainian not-for-profit group linked to Paul Manafort.
Podesta’s brother, John Podesta, served as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and was a victim in the hacking attack against the Democratic candidate’s campaign.
Continued below the fold …
Among hundreds of emails that were hacked from the Clinton campaign and later released by WikiLeaks – a crime that lies at the heart of the Russia investigation – were emails sent by John Podesta. One email from the known foodie included a detailed description of his secret to a good, creamy risotto.
News of Tony Podesta’s resignation, which was first reported by Politico, was revealed on the same day that Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and his associate Rick Gates, were charged in a multi-count indictment alleging conspiracy against the US and money laundering. A third official, a campaign adviser named George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators.
Podesta has not been charged with a crime. He declined to comment to the Guardian after being reached on his mobile phone. The Democratic lobbyist’s departure may come as a blow to some Democrats on Capitol Hill, but it also demonstrates the far reach of Mueller’s investigation.
Any potential charges against Podesta, who reportedly told staff that he did not intend to “go quietly”, could make it harder for Republicans to accuse Mueller of politicising the Trump investigation by only targeting Republicans.
Our official #ObamaPortraits will join other portraits of the Obamas in @NPG. Shepard Fairey’s Obama "HOPE" Portrait became an iconic campaign image in 2008: https://t.co/Anj5ZA2NJt pic.twitter.com/mAkVWFjI8L
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) February 9, 2018
But Podesta’s decision to step down, and any potential legal issues in his future, will be embarrassing to Democrats. Podesta is known for his art collection: he and his former wife, Heather, owned Shepard Fairey’s famous “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama, which they donated to the National Portrait Gallery.
Lobbyist Anthony “Tony” Podesta filed his final papers with the Department of Justice earlier this month chronicling the last work performed by the once-powerful lobbying firm that bore his name but which is now defunct following its entanglement in special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia investigation.
The Podesta Group’s 28-page closing foreign-agent registration filing – made three months late due to a “computer error,” a spokesman said – marks the firm’s termination of work for foreign clients including Iraq, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia, and suggests an end to Podesta’s 31-year run at the intersection of politics and influence in Washington.
It offers few clues, however, to his fate in the Mueller probe.
The special counsel demanded copies of records and correspondence from the firm, and federal investigators have interviewed half a dozen former employees in what several sources described to ABC News as long, grueling sessions. Many have been hit with exorbitant legal fees that Podesta was expected to pay.
When Gates and Manafort were indicted and pleaded not guilty in October 2017 to charges including money laundering, tax fraud, and failure to register as foreign agents, many of the charges were tied to their work for Kremlin-backed Ukrainian politicians.
Gates then pleaded guilty in February to reduced charges and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators. In that agreement filed with the court, Gates admitted that to help hide their foreign lobbying work, he and his partner “arranged for the Centre to be the nominal client” of two Washington, D.C., firms, Mercury Public Affairs, which is still in business, and the Podesta Group.
The term “Russian Laundromat” was coined by the OCCRP. The analyzed documents contained the details of approximately 70,000 banking transactions, according to Bloomberg, with 1,920 firms in the UK and 373 in the US involved. Russian Interior Ministry said, in turn, that $10.9 billion were siphoned out of Russia via the Moldovan scheme in 2015 alone.
How does the [Tony] Podesta Group fit into this whole mess of corruption, bribes and money laundering with connection to the former Soviet mafia/underworld?
This article reported that Vladimir Plahotniuc had a controlling stake in three banks that were part of a scheme to defraud the Moldovan central bank of $1 billion. During the reporting of this story, we tried numerous times to contact the government of Moldova, and various associated officials, to confirm these and other facts, but got no response. After our story was published, a representative of Washington DC lobbying and public affairs firm, Podesta Group, contacted Forbes saying he was a representative of the Democratic Party of Moldova. He refuted Plahotniuc’s stake in the three banks, and implication in Moldova’s banking scandal . The article has been updated to reflect this information. The complete corrected article follows:
On Monday, July, 25, a Moldovan businessman named Kobalev Platon was arrested in Kiev, thrown into the back seat of a car by police, and thrown in jail. He never saw it coming. What makes his arrest so important is that he was going to turn state’s witness and release information on a money trail left behind by his former business partner, 50-year-old Moldovan A-lister and wealthy businessman, Vladimir Plahotniuc.
Plahotniuc, who according to Interpol has been investigated by Italian police for money laundering, and loose association with the Russian Solntsevskaya mafia, is believed to have participated in a plot to siphon Moldova’s central bank reserves into shell companies and foreign bank accounts, according to a man named Mihail Gofman. Gofman is a former a deputy level official at a Moldovan money laundering investigative agency.
The bank scheme bankrupted three of Moldova’s largest banks and has thrown it back into the arms of the IMF which is now bailing out a country the members of its ruling party helped crash, Gofman claims.
“Platon wanted to cooperate with any U.S. government agency interested in the investigation of crimes committed by the organized criminal group led by Plahotniuc,” says Platon’s attorney Vyacheslav Lych. “Given Plahotniuc’s connections in the government, he has no problem getting Moldova to demand his extradition,” Lych says, adding that Plahotniuc has also been a business partner with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in real estate deals in Moldova, saying he had some support against Platon.
Plahotniuc is a shadowy figure. He has not been charged with any wrong doing, though he was banned from running for Prime Minister by president Nicolae Fimofti and recently stepped down from his senior level affiliation with the Democratic Party amid Moldova’s now infamous $1 billion bank heist.
Previous diaries wayback when …
- Once again, many more links of NY mobsters with Israel and equally with [Jewish] mobsters from Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. Israel’s Netanyahu looks after his own interests when dealing with foreign policy. Illegal contracts even reached Iran during the US and UN economic boycott.
More to come from the Moldova linked to Romania mobs and corruption. All global players are cross-linked in a web of espionage, bribes, corruption and lobbying. Unraveling the Gordian knot, wishing you all the best! See you next decade with the result.
My little extra bit on Cold War espionage …
A far snazzier version of Semenko was, of course, Ms Anna Chapman. Her career took her via an unwitting English husband, Alexander, to the glitziest nightclubs in London and New York, and a social life that has attracted prurient attention from the tabloid newspapers, not least when he sold topless pictures taken during their marriage. But the revelation that a young Russian woman has not only breasts but a sex life is news only by the standards of the popular press. Her cover story was utterly convincing: a young Russian who marries a British man, working first in banking, then in an executive jet company, and then in real estate. These are all jobs that can be useful for an intelligence service. But nothing about her personal or professional life distinguished her from hundreds of thousands of other young women from the ex-communist world who head abroad in search of fame, fortune, marriage and travel.
Later on I plot her meteoric career on her return to Russia. A convenient first point of analysis of her career before that is her entry on LinkedIn. Like those of her colleagues it is an artful mixture of truth, exaggeration and outright falsehood. She was born in Russia and speaks English fluently, with a mild accent that disguises her indifferent grammar. She also claims conversational German and basic French. After that, it gets more complicated. Illegals commonly set up an identity in one country and then use it as a springboard for a more effective and espionage-focused life in another one. Ms Chapman built up an English CV and gained a real passport by marrying a British citizen, before moving on. It is unclear who paid for her jet-setting lifestyle: certainly not her work as a personal assistant or as a humble banking adviser. Southern Union, a company with which she was associated, may have provided some. She says she received a grant from a Russian government fund that supports start-ups. This may have been a disguised payment from Russian intelligence.
She returned to Moscow in 2006 to try to set up a Western-style real-estate company called domdot.ru. She describes it as a `search engine in real estate for [sic] Russian speaking audience’ and her own role as `running all aspects of business, setting strategy for development, international expansion, people management, investors reporting.’ Business contacts who had email dealings with her say she made an unremarkable but professional impression.8 But it seems to have got nowhere. She then moved to New York, where it is unclear if her business idea, a property search engine called NYCRentals.com, was part of a cover story or a real business. The business plan on its website was written in careless, Russian-inflected English that would have inspired little confidence among potential investors:
By specialising on narrow region it will allow for a system to gather not only information about letting but also create rich with information database with building, city infrastructure, other useful and relevant for choosing real estate to live area specifics.
A video interview she gave about it for an entrepreneurship event in New York was notably light on content and heavy on flirting with the camera.10 Plans were not far advanced: she bought the NYCRentals.com website only on 22 June 2010, for $25,350.11 Her private life, however, was another matter. Former friends in New York describe her as a hard-partying and insatiable networker. Among her conquests was a multi-millionaire businessman from New Jersey, more than twice her age. The New York Post called her a flame-haired 007-worthy beauty who flitted from high-profile parties to top secret meetings around Manhattan [with] a fancy Financial District apartment and a Victoria’s Secret body.
She seems to have come on to the spycatchers’ radar quite late in the story. The FBI says that on `approximately ten Wednesdays’ in the first half of 2010, Ms Chapman used a laptop to exchange clandestine messages with a Russian government official.ai On one occasion the official drove a minivan past the coffee shop, long enough for Ms Chapman to send a burst transmission from her laptop to a computer in his car. On another, she was inside a bookshop while the official was passing near by. On a third occasion, the official appears to have noticed that he was under surveillance and aborted the mission. The same official had already been spotted carrying out a brush-pass with one of the other illegals in 2004: it is likely that he led the FBI to Ms Chapman, not vice versa.