01:52 GMT28 January 2020
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    Tony Podesta ‒ brother of super-lobbyist John Podesta ‒ as well as former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig and a former Republican congressman from Minnesota have been under investigation by the US Attorney’s Office in New York for several months following a referral from US special counsel Robert Mueller.

    In November, Sputnik reported that Podesta and former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber had fallen under the scope of Mueller's wide-ranging investigation into allegations of collusion between US actors and the Russian government to affect the 2016 election. Late on Tuesday, media outlets reported that all three individuals are the subjects of a legal inquiry following a referral from Mueller. No indictments have been issued.

    Tony Podesta's brother, John Podesta, was Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman for her 2016 run for president against Republican Donald Trump. According to NBC News, John Podesta is not part of the probe, which is being handled by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

    Handing off the case to SDNY could have been prompted by concerns that Mueller would be operating outside even his broad authority in bringing indictments against them, or that the financial dealings being scrutinized are better suited for SDNY's jurisdiction, Vanity Fair observed in a Wednesday report.

    The inclusion of Podesta and Craig, both Democrats, as targets for Mueller makes Trump's claim that Mueller's probe is a "witch hunt" against Republicans less tenable. If indictments are brought against Democrats by New York prosecutors as an offshoot of the Mueller investigation, it could be taken as evidence that the probe is more than a partisan ploy.

    "It also illustrates how the murky web connecting K Street" — a figure of speech for the many powerful lobbyist offices in Washington — "and Kiev was a bipartisan affair," Vanity Fair noted.

    Paul Manafort, former advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign, as he checks the teleprompters before Trump's speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. (File)

    All three individuals are reported to have done work for one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort when Manafort was doing political work in Ukraine. Manafort is facing criminal charges for a litany of allegedly illicit financial transactions related to his political consulting in Ukraine and the money he earned from it — illicit activity turned up by the Mueller investigation and indicted by Mueller, though Manafort's alleged crimes all took place well before the 2016 campaigns began.

    Manafort's trial is taking place this week in Virginia, and he is slated to appear before a court in the District of Columbia on September 17 (his many charges are being tried in two different courts).

    The New York Times reported that Craig, Weber and Podesta were being investigated for failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires lobbyists to disclose income for advocacy work conducted for a foreign government. Since 1966, only three criminal indictments have been levied alleging FARA violations, according to the US Justice Department; none of them resulted in successful criminal prosecutions.


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    Democrats, probe, Mueller, Paul Manafort, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Washington
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