Ex-Obama WH counsel charged with lying about lobbying work

Clay Curtis
April 12, 2019

In this October 17, 2016, photo, attorney Gregory Craig arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington.

Craig, who stepped down from the firm Skadden, Arps previous year without explanation, is part of the latest investigation by authorities involving the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires disclosures by people in the USA working for overseas entities.

Gregory Craig faces federal charges in relation to legal work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012 after leaving the White House.

Craig's lawyers called the indictment "unfair and misleading" and indicated that he will plead not guilty. The allegations were uncovered as part of the investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Craig allegedly expressed concern multiple times - including to Manafort - that information about his work would become public.

To help hide the private funding, Craig is accused of backdating and falsifying invoices at Manafort's request to make it appear the Ukrainian government was the sole funder of the report.

Craig's attorneys met with Justice Department prosecutors in recent days in a bid to avoid charges against him, CNN has reported.

Yanukovych was one of Manafort's main lobbying clients.

Had Craig complied with the law, he would have been forced to reveal that funding for the report largely came from Viktor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire.

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He and his law firm, Skadden Arps, worked in 2012 for Ukraine's ministry of justice.

The Ukrainian government only paid Skadden $12,000 - an amount so low that it aroused suspicion in Ukrainian media.

Prosecutors say Craig lied to both his law firm and government investigators about the extent and nature of his contacts with the media in connection to a report he prepared on Ukraine.

"That would do enormous damage to the credibility" of the report, Craig wrote in an email to other Skadden attorneys, according to the indictment.

They said Craig "did not lie to his former firm or the government" and said his contact with The Times was meant to ensure that the newspaper accurately summarized the way the report criticized Tymoshenko's trial. "Mr. Craig had no interest in misleading the FARA Unit because he had not done anything that required his registration. That is what this trial will be all about", attorneys William Taylor and William Murphy said in a statement.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and is not evidence of guilt.

Craig, 74, is the highest-profile Democrat to be indicted in a matter stemming from Mueller's work, which resulted in charges against numerous Republicans connected to President Donald Trump. He also represented former President Bill Clinton during his 1998 Senate impeachment trial.

Another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his work on the report, agreeing that he had slipped an early copy to Manafort to assist in his pro-Yanukovych lobby efforts and later deleted emails related to the effort.

If charged, Craig would be the first prominent Democrat to be caught in the dragnet cast by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian Federation interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Attorney General William Barr is expected to release Mueller's final report within a week. He could also be fined up to $100,000 and $250,000 for the respective charges.

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