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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 32 mins ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.