Lawyers for special counsel Robert Mueller III, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, have issued subpoenas to several prominent Washington lobbying firms as the probe examines the finances of two former Trump campaign advisers, according to people with knowledge of the requests.
The subpoenas asked the firms to answer questions and provide records regarding their interactions with the consulting firms led by Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump presidential campaign, these people said.
The requests suggest that Mueller’s investigators are looking closely at Manafort and Flynn, both of whom face possible legal jeopardy for allegedly failing to disclose that foreign governments or parties may have been the beneficiaries of their consulting and lobbying work, as they seek potential links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment, while a lawyer for Flynn did not respond.
Two of the subpoenas were issued to Mercury Public Affairs and SGR LLC, according to people familiar with the requests. A handful of other lobbying firms that did similar work have also received subpoenas from Mueller’s office in recent days, those individuals said.
A lawyer for SGR LLC confirmed the company received a subpoena. Representatives of Mercury declined to comment, but people close to the company confirmed they also received requests from Mueller’s team.
The investigators asked Mercury for information about their public relations work at Manafort’s behest for a Brussels-based organization called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, which pushed for improved relations between the Ukraine and European countries. The Brussels group primarily advanced the interests of a Russia-friendly Ukrainian political party that had been a client of Manafort’s before he joined the Trump campaign.
Mercury, which has prominent Republicans among its senior partners, had worked on the Ukraine lobbying project with the Podesta group, led by Anthony Podesta, brother of John Podesta, who led Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Podesta principal Mark Tavlarides declined Friday evening to comment on whether his firm had been contacted by Mueller’s team.
The firms involved with the Ukraine project did not initially register as foreign agents at the time, citing legal analyses that indicated they were not required to do so because they were working for a nonprofit and not a foreign political party or government. But in recent months, the Podesta Group and Mercury have filed retroactively, acknowledging that the Ukrainian political party benefited from their efforts.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger