Major Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta is stepping down from his namesake Podesta Group after falling under investigation from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to Politico.
Politico on Monday reported that Podesta announced his departure during a firm-wide meeting that morning and has also begun alerting clients of his move.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the meeting told Politico that Podesta is giving full financial and operational control to longtime firm CEO Kimberley Fritts.
Fritts and a senior group of the Podesta team will be starting a new firm in the next day or so, with sources noting that the transition has been in the works for several months.
One source told Politico that Podesta told staff that he "doesn't intend to go quietly, or learn how to play golf" in the wake of his decision.
The Justice Department probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group for their work with a nonprofit group affiliated with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Manafort was responsible for organizing a public relations campaign for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), a pro-Russian Ukrainian nonprofit. Podesta Group was one of the companies that worked on the campaign, according to NBC news. Podesta and the company reportedly came to the attention of Mueller as his probe was investigating Manafort's finances. Mueller's inquiry into Podesta started as a fact-finding inquiry regarding Manafort and his relationship to the ECMU, but it later evolved into a criminal investigation due to possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
FARA requires those who lobby on behalf of foreign entities to register with the Justice Department and to disclose their spending and activities. The Podesta Group registered with the Justice Department only after its work with the ECMU was publicly reported. Manafort's company registered under FARA after media reported on its work in Ukraine from 2012 to 2014.
Manafort's relationship with the ECMU stems from his work for Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine's former president and the head of the Party of Regions. The ECMU was reportedly backed by the party while the public relations campaign ran from 2012 to 2014.
Tony Podesta chairs the Podesta Group and is the brother of John Podesta, the former chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
The company "is cooperating fully with the Special Counsel's office and has taken every possible step to provide documentation that confirms timely compliance. In all of our client engagements, the Podesta Group conducts due diligence and consults with appropriate legal experts to ensure compliance with disclosure regulations at all times — and we did so in this case," said a Podesta Group spokesman in a statement to NBC.
Willful failure to register under FARA is considered a felony which carries up to a five year prison sentence, though FARA prosecutions are rare.