Ex-Obama WH counsel charged with lying in lobbying probe

Ex-Obama WH counsel charged with lying in lobbying probe

Ex-Obama WH counsel charged with lying in lobbying probe

Craig was at one time reportedly investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's "Russiagate" probe, before his case was passed on to the Southern District of NY and then prosecutors in Washington.

Craig, 74, was indicted by a grand jury in Washington on Thursday following an investigation that grew out of Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Skadden produced the 187-page report at the behest of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign who is now serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for lobbying violations and financial crimes. Check back for updates.

Emails between members of the law firm indicated Craig was concerned about whether the lawyers would need to register under the FARA statute, according to the indictment.

Skadden's client, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, hired it to write a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine, a project on which Craig was the lead attorney. The Justice Department said Craig lied about his work there to avoid having to register as a foreign agent.

Craig, who served as President Bill Clinton's defense counsel and as counsel in then-President Barack Obama's White House, resigned in April 2018 amid a probe into whether the firm failed to register as foreign lobbyists for his activities. "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", Craig's attorneys said.

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

Craig was charged with two felony counts related to alleged false statements related to his Ukraine work.

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The federal investigation began as an offshoot of the Mueller probe that was later handed off to Manhattan federal prosecutors. Manafort, a veteran Republican operative, meanwhile worked as a consultant to Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Kremlin president, who was later ousted.

But human rights advocates say the report had been engineered by Yanukovych's government and had whitewashed the jailing of his political opponent.

His 2012 project in Ukraine was allegedly a part of Manafort's illegal lobbying efforts.

He faces charges of making false statements and making misleading Foreign Agents Registration Act statements.

Craig came under scrutiny in part for contact he had in December 2012 with reporters, particularly at The New York Times, to explain the content of the report.

"A truthful and complete FARA registration by CRAIG would have made a public record of the Private Ukrainian's role in funding the report, and the amounts he paid to the Law Firm", the indictment reads. Prosecutors accuse Craig of lying about his work during this process, citing an email in which he allegedly told Skadden's general counsel that he did not disseminate the report, and that he did not "contact the media". The language of the settlement appeared to pin almost all of the blame on an unnamed partner who matched Craig's description, saying he repeatedly gave "false and misleading" statements to Justice Department officials.

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.

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