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Manafort-linked lobbying firm registers as foreign agent

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Paul Manafort. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said he was wrong when he told The Associated Press earlier this month that Manafort would register with the Justice Department.

WASHINGTON >> A Washington lobbying firm that worked under the direction of Paul Manafort and another former campaign aide to President Donald Trump registered Friday with the Justice Department as a foreign agent — the same day a spokesman for Manafort backed off his previous statement that Manafort would also register.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said he was wrong when he told The Associated Press earlier this month that Manafort would register with the Justice Department. Maloni said Manafort is still considering his options after receiving guidance from the Justice Department about formally disclosing his efforts to influence U.S. policy and public opinion on behalf of a foreign client.

As of today, both of the lobbying firms involved in the influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests have acknowledged that their work should have been disclosed to the Justice Department. The AP reported in August that Manafort’s consulting firm covertly orchestrated the lobbying and public opinion operation on behalf of a pro-Russian political party, the Ukrainian Party of Regions, and its leader, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

The latest registration came Friday from Mercury LLC, which disclosed that Manafort was involved in its lobbying work, attending meetings with Mercury managing partner Vin Weber.

In a statement to The AP, Maloni downplayed Manafort’s involvement as it was detailed in Mercury’s filing. “One meeting with one lawmaker connected to this topic in a two-year period looks like incidental contact to fair-minded Americans,” Maloni said, referring to a meeting Manafort had with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. That was one of four meetings detailed in the filing. Emails obtained by The AP show that Manafort’s firm and his deputy Rick Gates, also a Trump campaign aide, directed Mercury’s efforts. Those emails are not disclosed in Mercury’s filing.

Mercury had announced earlier this month that it would register for the work after another lobbying firm, The Podesta Group, had registered. The Podesta Group acknowledged its work could have benefited the Ukrainian government and should have been disclosed to the government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

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