11:53, August 02 240 0 abajournal.com

2018-08-02 11:53:06
Mueller reportedly refers investigation of former Skadden partner, 2 others to US attorney

Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly referred an investigation of two lobbyists and a former partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan.

The former Skadden partner is Greg Craig, who was also White House counsel for President Barack Obama, report the New York Times, Fox News and CNN. Also under investigation are Tony Podesta, described by the Times as a “Democratic superlobbyist,” and former Republican U.S. Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, a lobbyist with Mercury Public Affairs. CNN broke the news; the stories are based on anonymous sources.

The men learned of the referrals in late winter or early spring. The referrals relate to their work on behalf of a former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was considered a Russian ally. They were recruited by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now on trial on charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and failure to report foreign bank accounts,

Craig left Skadden in April and Podesta’s lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, closed at the end of 2017, according to this prior Wall Street Journal article.

Prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether the lobbyists failed to register their work as foreign actors under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and are also examining how they were paid. Skadden prepared an opinion in 2012 that the two lobbying firms did not have to register under the law, according to prior coverage.

The opinion was based on information that the lobbying firms had received payments for their work from a nonprofit group that was not controlled or supervised by the former Ukrainian government. Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump who worked with Manafort, has admitted he misled Skadden when he supplied information about the nonprofit. Gates pleaded guilty in February for failing to disclose consulting work and offshore accounts.

Skadden also reportedly concluded it did not have to register its Ukraine work under FARA, though Craig promoted a report prepared by the firm that assessed the fairness of a trial of a Ukrainian prime minister who was a rival to Yanukovych.

According to the Times, the law carries a possible jail sentence of up to five years in prison, but the law “had rarely been enforced, and thus widely ignored, until recently.”

A former Skadden associate, Alex Van Der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in February to making false statements about his Ukraine work.