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Former Minn. congressman under examination as part of Mueller probe, sources say

ST. PAUL -- A southwest Minnesota native and ex-congressman, who at 65 is known as a Washington "super lobbyist," apparently is in the sights of a grand jury looking into a Russian connection to the Trump for president campaign.

Vin Weber, a Republican, is being examined for his involvement in work on behalf of Ukrainian interests, The Associated Press reported late Thursday, Nov. 2. Also being examined is Democratic operative Tony Podesta.

The two are tied to Paul Manafort, who along with colleague Rick Gates were indicted earlier in the week on charges of being unregistered foreign agents and lying on federal forms. Manafort and Gates also face money laundering charges.

Reports out of Washington did not directly link Weber and Podesta to the Russian investigation, but news reports indicate that investigating them apparently shows an expansion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's probe into whether Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential campaign in favor of Donald Trump.

The new path for Mueller seems to include investigating people who tried to work as foreign agents, but did not register with the federal Justice Department. Still, it is not an entirely new angle since some of the Weber and Podesta discussion is about a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, AP reports it has learned.

Weber and Podesta are cooperating with Mueller.

Weber, who served in Congress from to 1981 to 1993, runs the powerful Mercury lobbying firm and long has been considered one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists. Last year, he opposed the Trump candidacy.

While Weber came from Slayton, in the southwest, he now lists his home as Walker, in the north central part of the state.

Weber has lobbied for Russia's state-owned natural gas company.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.