The Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is causing panic among a group of Washington D.C. lobbyists who may now find themselves vulnerable to criminal charges.
According to The Hill:
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has given federal prosecutors momentum to litigate alleged violations of what until last year was an obscure law governing foreign lobbying.”
“In the course of his now 19-month probe, Mueller has uncovered a web of alleged criminality linked to violations of a World War II-era law enacted amid concerns over foreign propaganda.”
The fear is that Mueller’s investigation has discovered violations of the seldom-used law that will end up capturing many other DC lobbyists who have been breaking the law for years.
Mueller has obtained guilty pleas under the law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), from two of President Trump’s 2016 campaign aides, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. Both pleaded guilty to charges linked to their lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
Mueller has also referred other lobbying cases to different prosecutors such as the case involving a partner of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Another Mueller referral resulted in the guilty plea last summer of GOP consultant Sam Patten, an associate of Manafort’s. Patten pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying on behalf of a political party in Ukraine. Patten has been cooperating with Mueller and other federal officials.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are stepping up their investigation into Washington, D.C., firms that helped Manafort lobby on behalf of Russian oligarchs, increasing the chances that there will be new charges filed in the future.
According to The Hill there are many others in the lobbying industry who fear this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“When you become ground zero for what America is angry about. anything can happen,” one source said. “All it takes is a couple of scandals.”
Another industry insider who was interviewed complained that these cases could give Americans the false impression that all lobbyists are involved in shady dealings with foreign governments. “One bad lobbyist can tarnish the whole industry,” the individual said.
It appears that one outcome of the Mueller investigation will be a crackdown on illegal foreign lobbying that is long overdue.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.