Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta is stepping down from the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm he founded, after special counsel Robert Mueller expanded the investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents to include Podesta himself.
Announced Monday during a firm-wide meeting, Podesta’s departure was revealed to employees, business partners and clients the same day Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on multiple charges as a result of the Mueller investigation.
“[Tony] was very magnanimous and said, ‘This is an amazing group of people,’” said a source reporting Podesta’s remarks.
Podesta will hand over operational and financial control of the firm to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts, sources say. Fritts and another member of the Podesta team will launch a new organization in the next few days, the transition having been worked out over the last several months as Mueller set his sights on the firm.
According to Politico, the investigation veered to Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm when Mueller’s team was examining former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s finances.
“Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine,” Politico reports. “Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.”
In April, the Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department, citing work completed for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. That work also benefited a Ukrainian political party which Manafort once advised.
According to the Podesta Group, they believed their client was a European think tank which was not affiliated with any political party.
Since finding itself on the investigation’s radar, the Podesta Group has had more than a dozen of its lobbying clients end their involvement with the firm, meaning revenues have been in decline. According to Politico, “[t]he firm brought in an estimated $4.8 million in the third quarter of 2017, down from $5.2 million in the second quarter of 2017 and from $6.1 million in the third quarter of 2016.”
Regarding the investigation, Podesta reportedly told staff Monday that he “doesn’t intend to go quietly” and “needs to fight this as an individual,” but doesn’t want the firm to fight it.
Tony Podesta’s brother, John Podesta, was twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Podesta bundled approximately $260,000 for Clinton’s presidential campaign and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to high-ranking Democratic lawmakers, PACs, and committees.
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