Vin Weber, the Republican former Minnesota congressman and veteran political operative, resigned from Mercury Public Affairs Friday amid scrutiny of his pro-Ukraine consulting efforts, the Washington Post reported.
Mercury, the since-shuttered Podesta Group and the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom have drawn prosecutors’ scrutiny over their involvement in Paul Manafort’s long-term efforts to boost Ukraine’s former president, the pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych.
Manafort was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of eight of 18 counts against him, mostly financial crimes stemming from consulting work he’d done in Ukraine. In a separate case in Washington, D.C., he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and was sentenced to an additional 43 months.
While Weber has not been charged — nor has Tony Podesta, who led the effort at his firm — the former congressman told Mercury leadership in a letter that the scrutiny had become a distraction.
“We respect Vin’s decision to resign from Mercury to focus his time and energy on protecting his reputation. He is an honorable man, a good friend and we wish him well,” Mercury partner Michael McKeon told the Post.
Mueller’s probe brought new and unusual attention to so-called FARA, or Foreign Agents Registration Act, violations.
Michael Flynn admitted to submitting false FARA information as part of his December 2017 plea deal for lying to federal agents. And his former business partner Bijan Kian was found guilty last month of failing to register as a foreign agent and conspiracy.
In late 2018 and earlier this year, reports from the Associated Press and New York Times indicated prosecutors were ramping up their activity regarding potential FARA violations related to Manafort’s work.
Weber was working as an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign at the time of his Ukraine work with Manafort, the Times noted.