A lot has been reported recently on the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller turning the screws on former Trump campaign manager and alleged Russian mob fixer Paul Manafort. The New York Times reports that the investigation has branched out from Manafort to the mega-law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and the investigators are from Department of Justice.
The Justice Department, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, recently asked the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, for information and documents related to its work on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych’s government, which crumbled after he fled to Russia under pressure.
The request comes at a time when Mr. Manafort, his work for Mr. Yanukovych’s party and for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs as well as the handling of payments for that work have become focal points in the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and connections between Russia, Mr. Trump and his associates.
It’s unclear if the Justice Department’s request to Skadden, as the firm is known, is part of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. But the interest from prosecutors in what Skadden did for the Ukrainian government is one indication of the wide-ranging nature of the inquiries related to Mr. Manafort. It also highlights the risks associated with advising authoritarian governments overseas, a lucrative sideline among Washington lawyers, lobbyists and public relations consultants.
What makes people think this is related to Mueller’s investigation is that Mueller has called members of two lobbying firms involved in Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying before his grand jury:
As part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, prosecutors last month issued grand jury subpoenas seeking testimony from officials from at least two lobbying and public relations firms that worked on the team Mr. Manafort assembled to plead Mr. Yanukovych’s case in Washington — Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group, according to two people with direct knowledge of the subpoenas.
I, obviously, don’t know much more about this than anyone else who is not on the investigation or receiving targeted leaks from the Mueller camp. But it seems like Mueller might be following the intent of his appointment letter, that is, focusing on the Russia-election-interference charges, and handing off garden-variety criminality to Justice. If that is the case, I’d feel much better about what is happening because if Mueller brings a single charge against anyone that is not directly related to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election I hope President Trump gives that guy the Joe Arpaio treatment.