When one of the defense lawyers tried to suggest to Mr. Manafort’s tax accountant Monday that Mr. Gates had kept Mr. Manafort in the dark about his own finances, the accountant, Cynthia Laporta, pushed back.
“In most instances, it was clear that Mr. Manafort was aware what was going on,” she testified.
Mr. Gates’s statements reinforced that picture. He said that Mr. Manafort knew it was illegal not to report his foreign bank accounts to the Treasury Department but asked Mr. Gates to help him deceive his accountants so he could conceal income and pay less in taxes.
“I assisted Mr. Manafort in filing false tax returns,” Mr. Gates testified. “We didn’t report the income or the fact that the accounts existed.”
.. He said that some of Mr. Manafort’s income was disguised as loans from 15 shell companies that Mr. Manafort controlled, most of them in Cyprus... Once that income dried up, the government alleges, Mr. Manafort, with Mr. Gates’s help, falsified financial records so he could obtain bank loans to maintain his opulent lifestyle... Gates testified that Mr. Manafort also was paid $4 million a year to help Mr. Yanukovych govern after he was elected president in 2010... while Mr. Yanukovych ran on a platform of integrating with the European Union, while also maintaining good relations with Russia, he eventually pivoted toward Moscow.. Mr. Gates also said that two American lobbying firms — the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs — assisted with their policy consulting efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has referred cases related to the firms’ work to federal investigators in the Southern District of New York... Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to help arrange inauguration tickets and administration posts — including secretary of the Army — for a banker from whom Mr. Manafort is accused of fraudulently seeking loans, Mr. Gates testified.
.. Emails presented during Mr. Manafort’s trial showed that he sought the favors for Stephen M. Calk, the founder and chief executive of The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago. The bank began issuing loans that eventually totaled $16 million to Mr. Manafort in the days after Mr. Trump’s election based on false information provided by Mr. Manafort.
.. Mr. Gates said he was involved in discussions about nominating Mr. Calk to an economic advisory council.
.. Mr. Gates, 46, admitted Monday that he was guilty of a long list of crimes, including stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Manafort’s accounts by inflating his business expenses. He said that while he was helping Mr. Manafort hide income to evade taxes, and later to inflate his income to obtain bank loans, he was doing essentially the same on his own behalf.
.. In exchange for his cooperation, the government in February agreed to dismiss 22 criminal charges stemming from his involvement in the scheme for which Mr. Manafort is now on trial.
.. sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of up to six years, he testified that prosecutors have agreed not to object if his defense attorney argues that he should receive probation.
Did Mercury Public Affairs participate in a scheme to obscure its Ukrainian lobbying?
.. Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota turned DC power-lobbyist, was a foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Mitt Romney and in line for a top administration job, should Romney win the White House.
.. The work was lucrative—it ultimately netted Mercury more than $1.1 million—but problematic. It might have required Weber to register as a foreign agent for a regime known for its close ties to Russia, which Romney famously denounced as America’s top geopolitical threat. That, in turn, might have complicated Weber’s chances of landing a job in a Romney White House.
.. Prosecutors charge that Manafort and Gates arranged for a Brussels-based think tank, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, to be “the nominal client” of Mercury and the Podesta Group
.. the former congressman pushed for Mercury and Podesta to avoid registering with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, as agents for Ukraine.
.. The “Centre is funded by a group of Ukrainian business people,” not Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, a spokeswoman for the firm inaccurately told the Daily Beast at the time.
.. The Podesta Group eventually agreed to skip registering under FARA after insisting that the firms also obtain a written certification from the European Centre that it was not funded or controlled by a foreign government or a political party
.. It has kept up its foreign lobbying business, in recent months signing on as one of a number of DC firms lobbying for Qatar.
.. Last month, Mercury registered to represent the Turkey-US Business Council, a group formerly headed by a shadowy businessman, Ekim Alptekin, who in 2016 arranged for Michael Flynn to secretly work for Turkey
.. Gates and Manafort held weekly calls with Mercury and the Podesta Group “to provide them directions as to specific lobbying steps that should be taken,” and “both congratulated and reprimanded” the firms “on their lobbying work,”
.. allege that both Mercury and Podesta “were paid for their services not by their nominal client, the Centre, but solely through offshore accounts” controlled by Manafort.
It is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III whose work seems to be sending shock waves through the capital, by exposing the lucrative work lobbyists from both parties engage in on behalf of foreign interests.
The Mueller probe has already claimed its first K Street casualty: Tony Podesta.
.. Since Mueller was appointed, more people and firms have either filed or amended registrations that make public their work on behalf of foreign interests than had done so over the same time period in each of at least the past 20 years. Lobbyists, lawyers and public relations professionals who work for foreign companies and governments say Mueller’s probe has spooked K Street, and firms are likely to be more careful in their compliance with public disclosure standards.
.. John Podesta, resigned on the day Mueller announced charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates.
.. The 12-count indictment included charges of failing to accurately report lobbying work for a Ukrainian political party as required under FARA. That section made reference to “Company A and Company B,” later confirmed to be the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC
.. According to the indictment, the men used a Brussels-based nonprofit organization, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, to hide that they were running a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign for a Ukrainian political party friendly to Russia. Mueller’s team alleged that the men hired the Podesta Group and Mercury to lobby for the Ukrainians in the United States.
.. The indictment alleges that Gates and Manafort had weekly phone calls and exchanged frequent emails with the two firms to provide direction on specific lobbying steps they should take. The men paid the firms, which have not been publicly accused of any crimes, more than $2 million from offshore account
.. Criminal charges for noncompliance with FARA — such as those faced by Manafort and Gates — are rare. The act, implemented in 1938 to expose Nazi propagandists
Fox News is calling the Podesta brothers “central figures” in the Mueller probe.
.. Tony is obviously a big Democrat, but he has Republican friends and represents some clients that have more in common with the Republican side than the Democratic side. John is a hard partisan — a lot of people think of him as more strident, doing things that have never been done before to get your way.”
.. Tony built his firm into one of the top lobbying shops in the country — walks a delicate line between principle and profit. For every feel-good cause or nonprofit client, there’s a corporation or a foreign government with public relations problems and buckets of money to spend.
.. Tony’s work for Saudi Arabia has caused some raised eyebrows among human rights activists. Last year, the Podesta Group — one of several lobbying and PR shops the Saudis hired — was paid $140,000 a month by the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court
.. “You try to help people tell their story, and you try to make them better. I think that’s all to the good.”
.. Podesta and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, say that they were hired by the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a nonprofit group based in Brussels, to boost Ukraine’s reputation in the United States and increase its chances of joining the European Union.
.. the question among lobbyists in Washington is why someone at the top of his game like Tony would have anything to do with Manafort, whom one Republican lobbyist described as a “shady businessman advocating for murderers, thugs and thieves — even if those criminals were heads of states.
Last week, Tony Podesta, an eminence in the annals of Washington lobbying, threw one of his signature events, a big birthday bash at his stately stone manse in Kalorama. His guests thought he was on top of his world, one of the men who makes the city go.
On Monday, hours after the first indictments in the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, Podesta abruptly quit his post atop the Podesta Group, the capital’s eighth-wealthiest lobbying firm.
.. raised questions about the work Podesta’s firm did with Manafort to buff the image of the Ukrainian government.
.. “It is impossible to run a public affairs firm while you are under attack by Fox News and the right wing media,”
.. For decades, Tony and John Podesta — brothers who share a Jesuit education, a devotion to liberal causes and a passion for politics — have been central players in Washington. And in the past year, both have been drawn into the orbit of scandals.
.. Tony’s Podesta Group is one of two firms described in Monday’s indictment as having been recruited by Manafort and Gates to lobby on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych
.. Both the Podesta Group and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, have said they were hired to lobby for a European nonprofit based in Brussels trying to polish Ukraine’s image in the West. But behind the scenes, prosecutors allege, the real client was a political party led by the former Ukraine president, who was friendly with Russia.
.. To their opponents, the Podestas are quintessential swamp rats, exemplars of the permanent Washington establishment. Their defenders, however, view them as the oil that makes the gears of government turn.
.. Tony Podesta has been a pivotal figure in the murky connections between policy and politics, becoming wealthy on fees from industries and foreign entities that want something from Congress and the White House. He also bundles big donations and dispenses them to politicians who might someday be helpful to those lobbying clients.
.. the Podesta Group, representing some of the country’s biggest and most powerful businesses, including Walmart, Bank of America and BP.
.. This year, the firm’s top clients are Mylan, a pharmaceutical company; Wells Fargo; Crawford Group, the parent of Enterprise car rentals; and Lockheed Martin
.. Along the way, the firm also represented a number of foreign entities, including the government of Egypt under ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Tony Podesta resigned so that he could address his firm’s involvement with Mr. Manafort’s firm while lobbying on behalf of then-Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych on, for example, “the propriety of imprisoning” his presidential rival. Yanukovych lives in exile in Russia now.
.. Robert Mueller is opening a drain on the Swamp.
.. That Tony Podesta would jump off the Swamp luxury liner called the Podesta Group suggests the seriousness of the threat Mr. Mueller could pose to the Washington economy.
.. When all this is over, President Trump will be seen as one of the greatest political naïfs to come down the Beltway pike in a long time.
.. The largely unheralded Trump effort to reduce regulation—in energy, the environment, land use, education, finance, telecommunications—won’t kill the Swamp but should shrink it.