Tony and John Podesta might be getting some bad news soon.
The Hill reports that The Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by Democrat Tony Podesta, might be shutting down soon. The firm has been under increased scrutiny after becoming a subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Kimberly Fritts, CEO of the Podesta Group, informed employees that the company would not exist at the end of 2017. She also stated that the employees would likely not receive pay through the end of November.
The Podesta Group was hired by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his business partner, to do some lobbying work. Both Manafort and Gates are now facing indictments for concealing years of work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. They are accused of hiding the money they made in order to avoid paying taxes on their foreign income.
According to Robert Mueller’s team, Manafort and Gates failed to properly register as foreign agents for the work with the Ukrainian political parties. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. While Mueller’s investigation revealed potential misdeeds, it did not find evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The special counsel is currently attempting to determine whether or not the Podesta Group disclosed its foreign work in the Ukraine to US authorities.
Fritts now plans to start her own firm. Her last day of employment at the company was Friday. After Tony Podesta stepped down in October, the future of the company was in doubt. Fritts’ announcement confirms what many have already speculated.
Employees who spoke with The Hill stated that the morale at the firm was optimistic. Fritts’ new firm is expected to bring workers and clients from the Podesta Group with her. The transition between the two firms could take a few weeks.
The Podesta Group is the first real casualty of Robert Mueller’s investigation. It’s not clear whether or not Manafort and Gates will be convicted of their crimes, but the allegations against them are considered to be lower-level offenses. They would carry little, if any, jail time.
Many believe that Mueller is indicting Manafort in an attempt to get the former campaign manager to reveal details that could harm President Trump. This scenario is likely, given the fact that the Russian interference in the 2016 election has been investigated by numerous agencies for over a year now without finding evidence that the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russian government.
When Mueller was first appointed as special counsel, many individuals expressed their concerns. Some were worried about his relationship with former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year. Others took issue with the fact that his team is made up of mostly Democrats, some of whom have donated to Democratic campaigns. Many are also concerned by the possibility that he could exceed his mandate — and this is the concern that seems to be the most likely to have an impact.
Mueller was appointed to investigate allegations against the Russians for their attempted interference in last year’s election. He is also tasked with determining whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the results of the election.
His most recent indictments are indicators that he has not found evidence showing that the campaign worked with Russian operatives. It appears that the special counsel’s investigation might be turning up evidence of potential crimes, but it is not revealing any smoking guns about Russian interference in the 2016 election.