The Associated Press reaffirmed Thursday afternoon that lobbyist Tony Podesta and former GOP congressman Vin Weber are now the focal points of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into unregistered foreign lobbying activity:
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…
FBI agents working for Mueller are asking witnesses about meetings between Gates, Podesta and Weber to discuss the lobbying work in detail and any communication with representatives of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, according to two people familiar with the interviews who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
“There were questions about how much Podesta and Vin Weber were involved. There was a lot of interest there,” one of them said.
FBI agents also expressed interest in the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which produced a 2012 report used to justify the jailing of an opposition politician in Ukraine.
Podesta, who is the brother of former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, resigned from his firm Monday. The fact that he was under investigation has been in the news for a week and the fact that the investigation centered on lobbying connected to Paul Manafort was revealed Monday. Frankly, most of this information was out there. What’s new in this AP story are some of the details about what the FBI is asking.
The AP story also seems to confirm that this foreign lobbying really is Mueller’s focus at this point. The very end of the story notes, “Separately, Mueller has an ongoing investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn on similar allegations related to lobbying work…” So another target but again the focus is lobbying work.
What does not seem to be a focus of Mueller’s attention, at least according to this story, is Russia and collusion with the Trump campaign. The AP notes the investigation into Podesta and Weber shows “Mueller’s criminal probe is moving beyond investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.” The question now is whether or not it will move back to collusion and Trump after Mueller racks up a few more charges.