Fox News ‘Source’: Manafort, Podesta Brothers Ties to Russia Focus of Mueller Investigation

Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” host Tucker Carlson laid out details of what an unnamed source said of how former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort previously worked as a liaison between the Russians and the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm co-founded by John and Tony Podesta.

Manafort was working to advance “Russian government interests” in Washington, D.C. according to that source.

Carlson said the source scoffed at press accounts of the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in American politics, arguing it had little to do with the 2016 presidential election.

Transcript as follows:

Well, good evening and welcome to “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” We are beginning tonight with a story we just learned a few hours ago, a story that amazed us.

Last night on this show, we told you about how the Podesta group, a lobbying firm co-founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and John Podesta and his brother Tony have been sucked into the independent counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian interference in American politics. Before last night’s show was even over, we got an email from a man with direct personal knowledge of that story.

The man, whose name we can’t reveal for the time being, is a former senior employee of the Podesta Group. He worked there for years. He said he was motivated to contact us by the disgust he felt watching media coverage of the Russia story. Not only were most reporters getting it wrong he said, they were getting it backward. The Russians were in fact deeply involved in American politics, but the real story had almost nothing to do with the 2016 presidential campaign.

Well, intrigued, we agreed to meet with that source today. He just left our offices here in Washington a couple of hours ago. The story he told us is astonishing. We will be following up on it, confirming more of it and bringing you details throughout this week and after.

But first, here’s an overview of what he told us: Media reports describe Paul Manafort as a central figure in the Russia investigation due to the several months he spent as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. According to our source, that’s only half true. Manafort is indeed at the center of this investigation, but not because of his ties to Trump. In fact, Paul Manafort spent years working with the Podesta Group on behalf of Russian government interests.

That relationship extends back to at least 2011 when our source claims Manafort had dinner in Washington with both Podestas, Tony and John. In the years following, our sources says, he saw Paul Manafort in the Podesta Group offices, quote, “all the time.” At least once a month. Manafort was not there to socialize, he was representing Russian business and political interests, who sought to influence Capitol Hill, Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Obama administration.

Our source describes Manafort bringing what he called a parade of Russian oligarchs up to the Congress where they met with members and their staffs. But the central effort to extend Russian influence was focused on the executive branch, the Obama administration. The vehicle through which Paul Manafort worked for the Russians was a shell group called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine.

Now, the group supposedly was based in Belgium, but it had no actual offices there. It had in fact only two employees, both of them based in Ukraine. Their telephone number in Brussels rang in Kiev. It was a sham. Yet it did have a presence here in Washington. The European Center for a Modern Ukraine was a major client of the Podesta Group.

Now, why did the Russians choose the Podesta group? Well, because both Podestas were close to the Clintons and Hillary was then Secretary of State. She could get things done for the Podestas’ Russian clients. It was influence peddling, the most obvious kind.

For example, our source says that at John Podesta’s recommendation, his brother Tony hired a man named David Adams. Now, before joining the Podesta group, Adams worked at the State Department as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. He was also chief legislative adviser to Hillary Clinton. As part of his job, Adam’s personally briefed Hillary Clinton every day.

He aided in the confirmation of at least 122 political nominees at state. By hiring him in 2013, our source says, the Podesta Group got a direct liaison between their offices and by extension their Russian clients, and Hillary’s State Department. Sometimes, our source said, ties between the Podesta Group and the Clintons were explicit. Tony Podesta spoke regularly to Hillary Clinton while she ran the State Department.

Our source remembers Podesta’s assistant announcing that, quote, “Secretary Clinton is on the line.” At one point in either 2013 or maybe early 2014, our source says a meeting was held that included both Tony Podesta and a representative of the Clinton Foundation. The explicit subject of that meeting? How to assist Uranium One, that’s the Russian owned company that controls 20 percent of American uranium production, and whose board members gave more than $100 million to the Clinton Foundation.

As our source put it, quote, “Tony Podesta was basically part of the Clinton Foundation.” Now, apparently there was not a lot of pretending about this internally at the Podesta group. According to our source, Manafort was clear, crystal clear that Russia wanted to cultivate ties to Hillary Clinton in the belief she was likely to become president. These links to Hillary were apparently quite valuable to the Russians.

Our source believes that the Russian money Manafort funnel to the Podesta Group greatly exceeds the roughly $1 million they were officially paid. That’s what he said. Some of these payments he indicated could be hidden kickbacks that would be hard for investigators to trace. Our source described the Podesta groups books as, quote, “A treasure trove, and highly secret.”

He told us the Podesta group had no board overseeing it and that all financial decisions internally were made by Tony Podesta personally. The group’s employees he said included a person whose only official job was managing Tony Podesta’s art collection. It would be obviously pretty easy for an organization like that to conceal financial transactions. Now, the source we spoke to has been interviewed extensively by Robert Mueller’s independent investigators.

In press accounts, Mueller’s investigation is still framed for a hunt for collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia. Our source says investigators are in fact very interested in Manafort’s behavior while he ran the Trump campaign, but otherwise that description is mostly bogus. The investigation has broadened now to determine which people and which organizations in Washington have spent years working secretly as de facto operatives on behalf of Russian government and business interests.

The Podesta group is chief among these. Quote, “They are more focused on facilitators of Russian influence in this country,” says our source, “than they are on election collusion.” “The Podesta Group,” he says, quote, “is in their cross hairs.”

Now, we should note the obvious, which is that many of the lobbying efforts are source described to us today are not yet illegal necessarily and that tells you a lot about modern American politics.

But if true, the story we heard overturns much of what we think we know about Russian attempts to influence American policy. We believe our source is telling the truth. We don’t think he has reason to lie to us. The facts we’ve been able to check have turned out to be accurate. We believe our source has exposed behavior that undermines this country, but that unfortunately is common here in Washington.

We plan to proceed carefully as we report this out, but we will proceed bringing you everything we find. We suspect there’s a lot there.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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