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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's investigation into Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs, two high-profile Washington lobbying firms under scrutiny for not registering as foreign agents in relation to their work for the pro-Russian Ukrainian government, has escalated in recent weeks, the AP reports.

The big picture: Special counsel Robert Mueller referred the cases to the Southern District of New York earlier this year, when his investigation revealed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort directed the two firms to lobby on behalf of Ukrainian interests. Once an obscure law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has taken on greater significance in the era of Mueller, per the AP, with investigative crackdowns on Manafort and his associates shining a new light on long-standing, but questionable lobbying practices that have "enriched countless former government officials" across both parties.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.