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.

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Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump has not attended a White House coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” NIAID director Anthony Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.

Why it matters: At the beginning of the pandemic, the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, met every day, but in the "last several weeks," members have held virtual meetings once a week, Fauci said, even as the number of new cases continues to surge in the country.

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Nearly 130,000 fewer people will die of COVID-19 this winter if 95% of Americans wear face masks in public, according to research published Friday.

Why it matters: “Increasing mask use is one of the best strategies that we have right now to delay the imposition of social distancing mandates," Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington told the N.Y. Times.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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