(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch released new documents from the U.S. Department of State showing the Podesta Group working on behalf of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political group “Party of Regions.” The new documents also show then-Obama White House Counsel John Podesta lobbying on behalf of his brother’s firm.
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the State Department filed on November 20, 2017, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-02489)). The lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a September 13, 2017, FOIA request for:
- All records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
- All records produced related to any meetings or telephonic communications between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
- All records regarding the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
- The FOIA request covers the timeframe of January 1, 2012 to the present.
A March 28, 2013, email from now-Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State Baxter Hunt shows the Podesta Group, led by Tony Podesta, a Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, represented the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.
In the March 2013 email, to a number of officials including then-U.S. Foreign Service Officer John Tefft (who would go on to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2014) and State Department director for the Office of Eastern Europe Alexander Kasanof, Hunt writes:
See below, I also stressed to them the need for GOU to take concrete steps to get new SBA with IMF and avoid PFC/loss of GSP. Podesta Group is noted among host of Ukraine lobbyists in article I’ll forward in article on low side.
- Ben Chang and Mark Tavlarides of the Podesta Group, which is representing the Party of Regions, told us they were working with Klyuyev on a visit he plans to make to Washington in early May. They are working to broaden the POR’s contacts on the Hill, including setting up a meeting for Klyuyev with Chris Smith, and have advised Kyiv to stop trying to justify their actions against Tymoshenko in Washington. They also noted that during his recent meeting with former EC President Prodi, HFAC Chairman Ed Royce said that Congress would not be enacting sanctions legislation against Ukraine.
The Party of Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.
Like Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment in the errant special counsel Russia investigation, the Podesta Group had to retroactively file Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures with the Justice Department for Ukrainian-related work. The filing states that the Podesta group provided for the nonprofit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine “government relations and public relations services within the United States and Europe to promote political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the West. The [Podesta Group] conducted outreach to congressional and executive branch offices, members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.” Unlike Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, the Mueller special counsel operation hasn’t indicted anyone from the Podesta Group.
Also, the new emails show then-Obama White House Counselor John Podesta, lobbying on behalf of the Podesta Group’s efforts to secure a maintenance facility from Jet Blue and Lufthansa for Puerto Rico.
In a June 27, 2013, email former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and current New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy writes to John Podesta, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin Seth Winnick, and others:
Jet Blue and Lufthansa are considering 2 locations for a maintenance center – Puerto Rico or Mexico. The Governor of PR wants this badly. The question is can we get to LH at the right levels to make the case. Either John or colleague OR John’s brother Tony or colleague will get to us with more details.
Winnick then writes to John Podesta: “Washington alerted us to this advocacy issue and we are on it. Phil will try to connect in the next few days and we will follow up.”
Later that day, in an email sent to his brother Tony Podesta and Winnick, John Podesta writes: “Thanks Seth. The Governor is a friend of mine. My brother Tony represents Puerto Rico and will follow up with details.”
Winnick replies to John and Tony Podesta: “Happy to help on this one. I think we have the details we need for now from SelectUSA at Commerce but will come back if any issues arise.”
Puerto Rico was selected by the airlines for the facility to service A320s in 2014.
Judicial Watch is waiting to hear on any additional documents the State Department may produce in response to the FOIA lawsuit about the Podesta Group.
“By the standards of the Mueller special counsel operation, these emails alone would have been enough for the Podestas to have been hauled before a grand jury or worse,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These emails are a stark reminder that the Mueller’s special counsel operation seems more interested in the alleged foreign ties of the Trump team, rather than Hillary Clinton’s (and Barack Obama’s) associates.”