Huawei is not Podesta’s first major Chinese customer. Disclosure forms show that his former company also represented the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), which funds many activities in the United States. The University of Texas at Austin in 2018 rejected an offer to fund the foundation over concerns about its ties. to the Chinese Communist Party, as reported Inside Higher Ed.
Podesta – a colorful K St. personality known for loud ties and elaborate art and wine collection – was previously the head of the Podesta Group, his eponymous lobby boutique. But in 2017, special advocate Robert Mueller scrutinized the firm for its work with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chief Paul Manafort. The Manafort team called on the Podesta group in their efforts to restore the reputation of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, friend of Russia.
Podesta was not charged with wrongdoing, but closed his business and withdrew from lobbying after Manafort’s indictment. He spent several years in the political wilderness, focused on selling art. In early July, he caught Washington’s attention with a splashy New York Times story revealing he wanted to get into the fray.
“I don’t want to recreate what I had, but I kind of miss working, and art alone doesn’t support me, because I love politics,” he told The Times.
Manafort also tiptoed back to Washington. Earlier this week, a reporter for the Daily Caller tweeted a photo of the former Trump campaign leader – his signature pompadour turned gray – dining at a seafood restaurant in downtown DC. Manafort spent time in prison before Trump pardoned him.
Podesta is expected to attract more customers soon. He has known President Joe Biden for decades and is friends with a number of his advisers. Podesta also lives across the street from former President Barack Obama in DC’s glitzy Kalorama neighborhood. His brother John was an adviser to Obama as well as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
Besides Podesta, Huawei recently hired several other representatives: the consulting firm of Lee Terry, a former Republican congressman from Nebraska; lawyer Stephen Binhak; Glenn LeMunyon, who was an assistant to former House GOP Whip Tom DeLay; and the consulting firm JS Held. The company also retains white shoe law firm Steptoe and Johnson, paying them $ 60,000 in the second quarter, according to a disclosure. And the company has ties to energy brokers across the nation’s capital. Christopher Fonzone, general counsel in the office of the director of national intelligence, advised the company when he was a lawyer at the firm Sidley Austin. Fonzone told senators he worked less than 10 hours for Huawei. The connection created challenges for its confirmation in the Senate, but it has always been confirmed.