One of the big stories last week was Democrat power-lobbyist Tony Podesta stepping down from the firm he founded. When I posted on the subject, he seemed to hint that he might be facing indictment. As the announcement came about the time that Podesta’s company was identified as being “Company 1” in Paul Manafort’s indictment, the two events seemed linked. That seems to be exactly what is happening:
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury is investigating a prominent Democratic lobbyist and a former GOP congressman for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation.
At the center of the widening probe are Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic operative, and Vin Weber, a former GOP congressman and leader of his own high-powered lobbying firm, Mercury LLC. The two men were hired as part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort directed by Manafort and longtime associate Rick Gates.
With the emphasis on the Ukrainian lobbying efforts, Mueller’s criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and is aggressively pursuing people who worked as foreign agents without registering with the Justice Department. More witnesses are expected before the grand jury in coming weeks.
Representatives for Weber’s firm and Podesta said they are cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation. Podesta, whose brother was the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has resigned from his firm.
Except we know that is only part of the story. Just as some parts of the Manafort indictment had zero to do with Russia, and by “some” I mean “all,” once Mueller’s investigation starts looking into the activities of Podesta and Weber they are going to find a lot of other stuff that looks shady.
There is a danger here for Mueller. Both Weber and Podesta are pretty popular in Washington and on Capitol Hill. While all of the Democrats and a lot of Republicans have been happy to cheer on Mueller’s investigation because it serves to embarrass Trump, he’s going to find the enthusiasm for an open-ended investigation into lobbying firms isn’t there. This week three members of Congress filed a resolution asking for Mueller to resign. Mitch McConnell has said that the Democrat bills protecting Mueller from being fired aren’t going anywhere. Added into that mix is Mueller’s role in the rapidly evolving Uranium One investigation, particular what looks like a conscious effort to keep Congress in the dark, which is not going to look good for him.
If Podesta or Weber are indicted, particularly if Mueller investigates anything beyond the directly related Manafort contracts, I think you’re going to see more people calling for his resignation and he’s going to find that Harry Truman was right, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.