Newly obtained government emails provide more than enough evidence for special counsel \
Based on the standards special counsel Robert Mueller has established in his pursuit of former Trump officials, newly obtained State Department documents provide more than enough evidence for him to pursue a top Obama administration official, according to Judicial Watch.
The Washington watchdog said Thursday it has obtained documents revealing the Podesta Group was working on behalf of the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian group Party of Regions.
The company was being run at the time by Tony Podesta, the brother of then-Obama White House Counsel John Podesta, who was found to be lobbying on behalf of his brother’s company, Judicial Watch said.
“By the standards of the Mueller special counsel operation, these emails alone would have been enough for the Podestas to have been hauled before a grand jury or worse,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“These emails are a stark reminder that the Mueller’s special counsel operation seems more interested in the alleged foreign ties of the Trump team, rather than Hillary Clinton’s (and Barack Obama’s) associates.”
It was reported last fall that the Podestas had become “subjects” of Mueller’s review.
At the time, three sources told NBC the interest in the Podestas grew out of Mueller’s inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Mueller is investigating Manafort’s public relations campaign for a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
The report said Podesta’s company, which promoted Ukraine’s image in the West, was one of many firms that worked on Manafort’s effort.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch are from the Obama administration.
They show the Podesta Group, run by Tony, was working on behalf of the pro-Russia political organization in Ukraine and that John was lobbying for him while he was White House counsel.
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit against the State Department filed Nov. 20, 2017. The suit followed the State Department’s failure to respond to a request for records of communications pertaining to the Podesta Group.
The documents included records of meetings and telephone calls involving the company and anyone in the State Department, information about the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine and more.
“A March 28, 2013, email from now-Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State Baxter Hunt shows the Podesta Group, led by Tony Podesta, a Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, represented the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine,” Judicial Watch said.
“In the March 2013 email, to a number of officials including then-U.S. Foreign Service Officer John Tefft (who would go on to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2014) and State Department director for the Office of Eastern Europe Alexander Kasanof, Hunt writes: ‘See below, I also stressed to them the need for GOU to take concrete steps to get new SBA with IMF and avoid PFC/loss of GSP. Podesta Group is noted among host of Ukraine lobbyists in article I’ll forward in article on low side.”
Judicial Watch noted the Party of Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.
“Like Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment in the errant special counsel Russia investigation, the Podesta Group had to retroactively file Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures with the Justice Department for Ukrainian-related work. The filing states that the Podesta group provided for the nonprofit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine ‘government relations and public relations services within the United States and Europe to promote political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the West. The [Podesta Group] conducted outreach to congressional and executive branch offices, members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.’ Unlike Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, the Mueller special counsel operation hasn’t indicted anyone from the Podesta Group,” Judicial Watch said.
The documents also reveal the White House counsel lobbied for the Podesta Group to build an airline maintenance facility in Puerto Rico.
Judicial Watch obtained a June 27, 2013, email former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and current New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy wrote to John Podesta, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin Seth Winnick and others saying: “Jet Blue and Lufthansa are considering 2 locations for a maintenance center – Puerto Rico or Mexico. The Governor of PR wants this badly. The question is can we get to LH at the right levels to make the case. Either John or colleague OR John’s brother Tony or colleague will get to us with more details.”
Winnick responded: “Washington alerted us to this advocacy issue and we are on it. Phil will try to connect in the next few days and we will follow up.”
Then John Podesta wrote: “Thanks Seth. The governor is a friend of mine. My brother Tony represents Puerto Rico and will follow up with details.”
Winnick replied: “Happy to help on this one. I think we have the details we need for now from SelectUSA at Commerce but will come back if any issues arise.”
Judicial Watch said it is expecting additional documents from the State Department responding to the FOIA lawsuit.