Former Obama lawyer tied to Manafort indicted for Ukraine lobbying violations

Arturo Kim
April 14, 2019

Former Obama administration White House counsel Greg Craig has been indicted by the Department of Justice with making false statements and concealing material information about his activities on behalf of Ukraine. The charges come about three months after Craig's former law firm agreed to pay more than $4.6 million and publicly acknowledge that it failed to register with the government for its work for the Ukraine.

The Justice Department unit overseeing the registration of foreign lobbyists had contacted Craig about registering after he was quoted in a New York Times article discussing the report.

In its settlement earlier this year, Skadden acknowledged it participated in a public relations campaign for the report and should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

The prominent Washington attorney has always been rumored to be the subject of a federal investigation resulting from the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller.

"I don't want to register as a foreign agent under FARA", Craig allegedly wrote to a fellow partner. "I think we don't have to with this assignment, yes?" he wrote in a February 2012 email.

Court documents show Craig "repeated certain of the false and misleading statements" during an October 2017 interview with special counsel Robert Mueller's office. They said that prosecutors from the Southern District of NY had already declined to bring the case.

Craig, a high-powered Beltway lawyer, served as President Barack Obama's top White House lawyer during the former president's first year in office. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The crackdown on those who work on behalf of foreign governments without giving the USA government proper notice has ramped up recently.

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The stated amount that Skadden and Craig were hired for was $12,000, according to an April 2012 agreement.

Manafort and Gates later became Donald Trump's campaign chairman and vice chairman during the 2016 presidential race and have faced criminal charges of their own related to their work for Ukraine.

He said the law should be enforced, but he's "not crazy" about DOJ changing its enforcement priorities under a special counsel.

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. 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.

After the Times published its story on the report, the Ukrainian government released it. Skadden responded to interview requests from two other US publications.

Craig delivered a copy of the Tymoshenko report by hand to the reporter's home, according to the indictment, and spoke with a Moscow-based reporter for the paper, which has separately been identified as The New York Times. That includes a case against Manafort, who was recently sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

They also raised concerns that Craig's political affiliation had made him a target, and that he was being examined to compensate for an investigative emphasis on Trump-connected Republicans as a result of Mueller's probe.

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