When former FBI Director and now-Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation into possible influence by Russia on the 2016 presidential election, he was initially focused on possible wrongdoing by President Trump or Trump’s campaign staff at the time. However, as the probe has continued, the scope of Mueller’s investigation has enlarged, as typically happens with purviews of special prosecutors.
In late July, Mueller ordered a pre-dawn raid by the FBI on the New Jersey home of Paul Manafort, the former manager of Trump’s presidential campaign. Officially, this was done in order to prevent Manafort from possibly destroying documents in case he got advance word of the search. But according to a new report on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight show, the investigation into (and potential future indictment of) Manafort is only tangentially connected to the Trump campaign.
The bigger issue is that prior to working on the Trump campaign, back in 2011, Manafort had a number of Russian clients he did political consulting for. More interesting than this, however, is that Manafort did not maintain an office in Russia; instead, he operated out of Ukraine and claimed that his business was based in Belgium.
That business, named the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, had a Belgian phone number that simply forwarded calls to Ukraine, which fooled at least some people into believing Manafort had European connections and/or interests.
But the really interesting part of Manafort’s business back then is that in Washington, D.C., Manafort met and worked with John and Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm with deep ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration and the Democratic National Committee. John Podesta, the former chief of staff for ex-President Bill Clinton, ultimately left the Podesta Group to be a special counselor to former President Obama and then, more prominently, to run Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in 2015. He also had founded the Center for American Progress (CAP), a left-wing think tank and advocacy organization, in 2003. (CAP is the umbrella group for a number of media vehicles such as Think Progress and Science Progress).
Starting in 2011, via Obama and Hillary Clinton (who was then the Secretary of State), the Podestas were in a position to have legislation created, deals approved and waivers signed that benefited Russian oligarchs and companies. One confidential source who Fox’s Carlson extensively interviewed was a longtime employee of the Podesta Group. This source claims that Manafort was at the Podesta Group offices regularly every month starting in 2011 and dined alone with Tony and John Podesta. This same source described tours Manafort gave to Russian oligarchs of Washington and meetings he set up with them with American Congressmen.
In 2013, the Podesta Group hired an employee named David Adams. This man previously was the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Adams had been responsible for helping to confirm more than 120 political appointees at the Department of State and served as a daily personal briefer for Hillary Clinton. Thus, when he began working for the Podesta Group, Adams had extensive contacts at the State Department and could get Hillary Clinton on the phone at the drop of a hat.
Soon, meetings were being held at the Podesta Group regarding Uranium One, a Russian-backed company that sought to acquire 20 percent of the American supply of uranium, a critical component of nuclear power plants and atomic bombs and missiles. The Podesta brothers used their influence to get a deal approved for the purchase while Uranium One board members committed $100 million to the Clinton Foundation and got a Russian bank connected to the deal to give Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in Moscow. According to Carlson’s confidential source, “Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.”
Manafort made no secret of the fact that his Russian clients wanted stronger ties to Clinton because there were ongoing rumors that she was going to run for president again in 2016. Carlson’s source claims that Manafort’s clients gave many millions of dollars to the Podestas. But because the Podesta Group didn’t have a board of directors, its finances are — and were — relatively confidential. In fact, this source described the accounting books of the Podesta Group as “a treasure trove and highly secret.”
The source claims that Robert Mueller’s investigation has now switched gears from focusing on Russian influence via the Trump campaign to focusing on past influence on the Obama administration via Manafort, the Podestas and others. “The Podesta Group,” says this source, “is in their crosshairs.”
Rumors are that Mueller’s investigation “has now morphed into a criminal inquiry,” particularly over whether the Podesta Group committed violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which mandates that lobbyists or agents representing foreign interests must declare their relationships and financial remuneration.
As Tucker Carlson reported on his show, “The story we heard [via our source] overturns much of what we think we know about Russian attempts to influence American policy. We believe our source is telling the truth. We don’t think he has reason to lie to us. The facts we’ve been able to check have turned out to be accurate. We believe our source has exposed behavior that undermines this country, but that, unfortunately, is common here in Washington.”
Carlson has promised to dig much deeper into this story. But already, it appears that the “Russian collusion” that the nation’s mainstream media has been creating a circus sideshow about doesn’t so much concern the Trump campaign as it does the former Obama administration, Hillary and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
If everything that’s been reported by Carlson is indeed true, John and Tony Podesta may have hell to pay, and that’s not even mentioning the Clintons, possibly Barack Obama and/or specific members of Congress. In short, the Democrats may eventually regret ever pushing for a Special Counsel regarding Russia in the early part of this year, but it remains to be seen how deeply Robert Mueller will be committed to prosecuting any criminal offenses he discovers in this regard.