According to Tucker Carlson, the special counsel investigation of nefarious Russian meddling in the 2016 election has just flipped a key witness in the biggest trial on their docket. And the person who got the immunity deal is … a member of the Trump campaign? A family insider? Don Jr’s personal aide’s cousin’s sister on her mother’s side? Nope — it’s longtime Clintonista Tony Podesta, whose brother John was both a victim of hacking in 2016 and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.
If true, this isn’t going to do much to instill confidence in the non-political nature of Robert Mueller’s probe. But is it true?
Tony Podesta, founder of the now-shuttered Podesta Group and brother to former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, has been offered immunity by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, according to a report.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson announced on his show Thursday evening that two separate sources confirmed the offer.
“In other words, for a near identical crime, Bill and Hillary’s friend could escape and emerge completely unscathed while Paul Manafort may rot in jail. Only one of them made the mistake of chairing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” Carlson said.
So far, this is the only reporting on an immunity deal for Podesta. It’s hardly the only reporting on Podesta’s connection to the Manafort case, however. He had to step down from his firm last October after it became apparent that Mueller had taken a keen interest in his work with Manafort. Podesta’s legal team threatened Carlson with legal action for discussing it, but that went nowhere as other media outlets picked up the story.
One can understand the interest Mueller might have in Podesta, and therefore the interest Podesta would have in saving his own skin:
Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta’s company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine’s image in the West.
The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU 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, known as FARA. …
The ECMU was reportedly backed by the Party of Regions, the pro-Russian and oligarch-funded Ukrainian political party for which Manafort worked as a consultant, and which paid his firm millions. Viktor Yanukovych of the Party of Regions, a Manafort client, was president of Ukraine during the ECMU campaign, which ran from 2012 to 2014. He fled the country in 2014.
Neither firm registered under FARA for this work until far afterward, as the FARA law was widely ignored until Mueller saw it as a lever to press forward on his investigation. That came as a shock to the Beltway, enough so that Podesta’s firm disbanded after his resignation, and a flurry of updates ensued from K Street firms.
It’s entirely possible that Mueller could have offered Podesta immunity in order to nail Manafort. Prosecutors make those kinds of deals all the time. However, one cannot ignore the politics of this investigation, either. If Mueller’s cutting deals to let Clintonistas off the hook in order to get to Trump — the clear intent of prosecuting Manafort and Rick Gates — then Trump’s supporters will have a field day with this immunity offer. Mueller has to know this too, and so perhaps it could mean that there’s really nothing coming down the pike for Trump and other campaign figures.
That’s if Carlson got this one right. We’ll see.
Addendum: One point to note here on Carlson’s commentary. The case against Manafort was already well developed long before Manafort briefly served as Trump’s campaign chair. The DoJ for some reason never pressed the case, but they had it pretty well ready to go as early as 2014. Whatever “mistake” Manafort made, it wasn’t chairing Trump’s campaign.