It seems like just yesterday that the top campaign official for Donald Trump found himself caught in the middle of a political dragnet for his work as a lobbyist on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych with the media clamoring about his purported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a reason why the Republican nominee was a less desirable candidate than Hillary Clinton. Wait, that was just yesterday?
It turns out that Hillary Clinton’s campaign guru, head of the lobbying firm the Podesta Group, has found himself smack dab in the middle of the same criminal investigation spawned when devious political operatives decide to merge international relations with campaign politics. For weeks, the pages of the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal have chimed that Trump is a "Putin pawn" as part of some maniacal plot by the Kremlin to interfere with the US election.
Turns out, the Podesta Group founded by none other than John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chair and chief strategies, was retained by the Russian-owned firm UraniumOne in 2012, 2014, and 2015 to lobby Hillary Clinton’s State Department based on John Podesta’s longstanding relations with the Clinton family – he was the White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton.
Interestingly, UraniumOne’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation from 2009 to 2013. Perhaps a more blatant evidence of allegations that Hillary Clinton’s State Department operated on a pay-to-play basis is the fact that, as the New York Times reported last April, “shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting UraniumOne stock.
Not only are investigators wondering whether there was any impropriety in the lobbying arrangement such as the provision of beneficial treatment by the State Department to an old friend, but they are also probing the work that Viktor Yanukovych’s regime paid the Podesta Group to do while he was the head of the Ukrainian government.
The controversy for Podesta links to his work for the Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels based organization that describes itself as "an advocate for enhancing EU-Ukraine relations." Unfortunately for Mr. Podesta, the organization has been described as "an operation controlled by Yanukovych" and tied to the former leader’s Party of Regions suggesting the Podesta Group may have been, like has been said of Paul Manafort, tasked with greater reporting requirements pursuant to US law.
The Podesta Group quickly hired the white-shoe law firm Caplin & Drysdale as "independent, outside legal counsel to determine if we were misled by the Centre for a Modern Ukraine or any other individuals with regard to the Centre’s potential ties to foreign governments or political parties."
And the plot of the 2016 presidential election thickens.