Ex-Obama aide Greg Craig charged in Mueller-related investigation

Geraldine Edwards
April 14, 2019

Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig was indicted Thursday on two counts of making false statements about work for clients in Ukraine in a case stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation.

USA prosecutors laid out how Craig, a top partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, took pains to avoid registering his work as foreign lobbying - in part, they allege, out of a belief that registering under the so-called FARA law would prevent him and others from taking government jobs in the future.

Craig was accused of lying to the Department of Justice for allegedly making false statements and concealing "material facts", which were revealed in a settlement announced Thursday.

The special counsel's office used lobbying violations in half a dozen cases brought against high-profile defendants over the course of his investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

When he was employed with the firm in 2012, it was contracted to draft a report on the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to the indictment, from the start of the work on the report, Craig didn't want to register as an agent for Ukraine "at least in part because he believed doing so could prevent him or others at [Skadden] from taking positions in the federal government in the future".

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Craig resigned in April 2018 amid a probe into whether the firm failed to register as foreign lobbyists. "I think we don't have to with this assignment, yes?" The firm also blamed Craig for the misinformation as reports said investigators identified false statements between Craig and the the Department of Justice.

Former White House counsel Greg Craig was indicted Thursday in connection with a report he prepared for Ukraine while working at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

In 2013, the Justice Department sent Skadden a letter informing Mr. Craig that his work on the report required him to register as a foreign lobbyist.

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

A top White House lawyer under President Obama is likely to become the first Democrat to face charges arising from the Mueller inquiry.

He said the law should be enforced, but he's "not crazy" about DOJ changing its enforcement priorities under a special counsel. Federal prosecutors in NY have been investigating two prominent Washington lobbying firms in a similar probe, and Justice Department officials in Washington have been increasingly willing to prosecute people who they believe intentionally hide their lobbying work from the federal government. Craig - while on the payroll of the Yanukovych government - found that the Yanukovych government's prosecution of its opponent met global standards, in a report that was widely dismissed as a whitewash.

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Even so, the public relations firm eventually reached out to a reporter identified by Craig, offering an early copy of the report as well as an interview with Craig.

It was transferred out of SDNY because, after examining Craig's case, federal prosecutors in NY concluded they had insufficient evidence to bring charges against him, CNN has reported.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Craig issued a statement in anticipation of charges, arguing that Craig acted only "as an independent expert on the rule of law, not as an advocate" for the Ukrainians. It admitted it was paid $4.6 million for the report, and not the $12,000 the Ukrainian government said at the time.

The New York Times reported the project was directed to the firm by Manafort, who was a political consultant in the region at the time.

Manafort was sentenced in March to seven-and-a-half years in prison for lobbying violations and financial crimes.

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