After more than a year of reports indicating the Podesta Group's work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian think tank was not properly disclosed to the Justice Department, on Monday news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller has opened a federal criminal investigation into the firm's conduct.
Mueller's probe of the firm grew out of the special counsel's investigation into ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to NBC News, which was first to report the story.
Over the past 14 months, several outlets have published thorough reports on the Podesta Group's retroactively disclosed work on behalf of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels-based think tank with ties to Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions, but most have failed to adequately note Tony Podesta's ties to Hillary Clinton.
For instance, extensive reports in both CNN and the AP noted Tony's brother John Podesta, co-founder of the Podesta Group, served as chairman of Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign (though he was no longer affiliated with the firm by the time period in question). But, crucially, along with NBC News, neither outlet noted that Tony himself was involved with that campaign.
As I noted last April, by July of 2016, Tony Podesta had raised $268,000 for Clinton's campaign. He donated $34,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund, according to FEC records. Clinton's campaign website listed him among its "Hillblazers," described as "individuals who have contributed and/or raised $100,000 or more for Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund, and/or the Hillary Action Fund" since the campaign's launch. He also donated $33,400 to the DNC over the course of the 2016 cycle.
Given that his firm was actively lobbying Clinton's State Department -- and failed to disclose the extent of that lobbying until 2017 -- Tony Podesta's connection to her campaign is a relevant detail.
Take this section from CNN's extensive May report:
The Podesta Group's work for the center peaked in October 2012 at a crucial time in U.S.-Ukraine relations. Europe's leading election observer reported in early October 2012 that candidates in Ukraine were being attacked, opposition leaders were imprisoned, and that reports were circulating of intimidation, bribery, and vote-buying.
Clinton, then secretary of state, voiced concerns about the election four days before it was held and called it "an important bellwether" of the Ukrainian government's commitment to democratic institutions.
The Podesta Group went to work.
In the two weeks before and after Ukraine's election, the firm had near-daily contact with the State Department, holding seven meetings, conducting "outreach" on seven days and having conversations or email exchanges on 11 days, including with top department officials.
In this context, Podesta's direct financial connections to Clinton (to whom he had previously donated as well) are clearly relevant.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.