Report: Former MN congressman a focus of Mueller Russia probe

The Republican politician-turned-lobbyist is being looked at for his work with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

Former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber is the latest to be caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The Associated Press reports on Friday that Weber is under scrutiny for his ties to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who were campaign manager and adviser respectively for Donald Trump's presidential run and were this week indicted on 12 charges, including money laundering and failing to register as foreign lobbyists.

The Republican was one of two lobbyists – the other being Democratic operative Tony Podesta – hired by Manafort and Gates as part of a multi-million Ukrainian lobbying effort, with the AP reporting the FBI are probing any work or communication the lobbyists may have had with a pro-Russian Ukrainian party.

Two days ago, MinnPost reported that Weber could play a role in the Mueller investigation, citing legal experts who say he could potentially be a witness as Mueller builds a case against Manafort and Gates, who have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The 65-year-old was the principal on a Ukraine-related lobbying portfolio in 2012 at Mercury Public Affairs, where he's a partner, MinnPost notes.

The Star Tribune reported last year that Weber received almost $700,000 between 2012 and 2014 to lobby for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine,, with Weber saying he'd been under the impression he was working to help Ukraine join the E.U. and against Russian interests.

But he admitted to the newspaper he may have been misled by Manafort about who was funding the Modern Ukraine group, saying of Manafort: "I didn't know he was pro-Russian."

The newspaper added that Weber did not register as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department, which has now become a focus for Mueller's broadening investigation.

Who is Vin Weber?

Minnesotans will remember him as the GOP representative for Minnesota's 2nd District between 1981 and 1993.

A native of Slayton, Minnesota, he attended the U of M between 1970-74 and in 1980 was elected to Congress, according to Politico, serving until he decided to retire in 1993.

He played a prominent role as Republican Party strategist, working as an adviser on numerous presidential campaigns including for Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2008.

His Mercury bio says he now provides advice to "institutions with matters before the legislative and executive branches of federal government."

"He has successfully advised numerous clients on matters pertaining to mergers & acquisitions, crisis management, strategic communications and international strategies," it adds.

In its breakdown of Washington's top lobbyists, The Hill says Weber "remains close to GOP policymakers and operatives, giving him power behind the scenes."

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