Federal prosecutors in Washington indicted former Obama White House
counsel Greg Craig on April 11, accusing him of making false statements
in connection to his foreign lobbying work in Ukraine.
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.
The prosecutors allege Craig knowingly perpetrated the scheme in
order to avoid registering as a foreign agent, which would undermine the
perception of independence of both the report and Craig and “impair the
ability of Craig and others at the law firm to later return to
“Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge and the government’s stubborn
insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of
prosecutorial discretion,” the attorneys, William Taylor and William
Murphy, said in a statement on April 10, the day before their client was
Craig, 74, faces a five-year sentence for each of the two charges.
The prominent Washington attorney has long been rumored to be the
subject of a federal investigation resulting from the probe by special
counsel Robert Mueller.
special counsel has already successfully prosecuted a case connected to
the Ukraine report at the center of Craig’s case. Alex van der Zwaan, a
Belgian-born Dutch national, was sentenced to 30 days in prison in
April 2018 for lying about his work related to the report.
Craig’s former law firm has already paid more than $4.6 million and
acknowledged that it failed to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine.
The civil settlement with the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher &
Flom LLP, laid much of the blame for the violations on Craig.
According to the indictment (pdf),
Ukraine engaged Craig and Skadden in 2012 to prepare a report about the
trial, conviction, and sentencing of Yulia Tymoshenko, which has been
perceived by Western government and media as unfair and politically
motivated. Ukraine sought the report as part of a lobbying campaign to
improve its international image.
Craig was aware of the registration requirements under the Foreign
Agents Registration Act but didn’t want to register, the prosecutors
say. Registering “would have required Craig to disclose that a third
party had paid the law firm more than $4 million for the report and that
the law firm had a parallel engagement with Ukraine to assist in the
prosecution of Tymoshenko on additional charges,” the indictment stated.
The $4 million was paid by a private Ukrainian citizen whose identity
Craig and his colleague concealed, and instead drafted false, backdated
invoices showing that the funds came from the Ukrainian government.
The probe into Craig comes as the Justice Department is reportedly
cracking down on violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a
decades-old law meant to allow Americans to know when foreign entities
are trying to influence public opinion or policymakers.
Veteran political operative Paul Manafort was sentenced in March to 7 1/2 years in prison for illicit foreign lobbying and other as part of Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Mueller concluded his investigation in March, finding that neither
President Donald Trump nor anyone in his campaign colluded with Russia.
Attorney General William Barr is expected to release Mueller’s final
report within a week.
Craig was the first White House counsel to former President Barack
Obama. In private practice, his clients have included former North
Carolina Sen. John Edwards and James Cartwright, former vice chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was investigated and charged for leaking
classified information. Reuters contributed to this report. Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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