Former Obama White House counsel charged with lying about lobbying work


On Thursday, April 11, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of former White House Counsel Greg Craig.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, the NY law firm that produced the report, agreed in January to turn over the $4.6 million it was paid and retroactively register as a foreign agent, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.

Craig and the firm did not register as foreign agents to conduct this work, apparently believing it was unnecessary as long as it avoided doing direct public relations work on behalf of the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Craig does not face charges of violating the Foreign Registration Act because the law's five-year statute of limitations has expired.

Craig becomes the first Democrat to be indicted in a case arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's now-completed probe into Russian election interference.

The report was meant to be an objective review of the Ukrainian government's prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the country's former prime minister who was convicted in 2011 on corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.

After the partner suggested that a fellow lawyer at the firm could render an opinion on whether to register, Craig wrote: "I don't really care who you ask but we need an answer from someone who we can rely on with a straight face". "I think we don't have to with this assignment, yes?" he wrote in a February 2012 email.

In January, the firm paid $4.6 million and agreed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government, as part of a Justice Department settlement.

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The political consulting of that era is the origin of the legal troubles for Craig and Skadden: Manafort helped arrange for Ukraine's then-pro-Russian government to hire the law firm at the time the regime was Manafort's client.

Prior to his work for Kiev and the Obama White House, Craig served as special counsel to Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and directed the team defending Clinton against impeachment.

Craig also failed to disclose that Skadden was simultaneously helping out with Tymoshenko's prosecution on other charges, prosecutors say. Manafort, the former campaign chairman to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty past year to charges related to his Ukraine lobbying.

Craig's indictment also attracted notice because he is the first person who made his name in Democratic Party politics to be charged in a case linked to Mueller's investigation.

Craig deliberately hid the true nature and compensation of his work for Ukraine in order to maximize the public relations value of the report he wrote for the Eastern European government, according to the indictment.

The Justice Department has signaled its intention to push ahead with similar cases.

Craig's attorneys have said his work was done in his capacity "as an independent expert on the rule of law, not as an advocate for the client" and that he had refused requests to participate in Manafort's lobbying in Yanukovych's favor.

It was transferred to D.C. federal prosecutors in March, who leveled Thursday's charge on Craig. Manafort agreed they failed to disclose their lobbying effort, which included disseminating the Skadden report to US government officials.