Greg Craig, ex-Obama White House counsel, indicted for alleged false statements
Greg Craig, who once served as White House counsel for then-President Barack Obama, was indicted on Thursday on two counts of making false and misleading statements to investigators in connection with his work on behalf of Russia-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Craig is the first Democrat to be indicted in a case arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s now-completed probe into Russian election interference.
The Washington-based lawyer was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for allegedly falsifying and concealing “material facts” and making false statements to the DOJ National Security Division’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit, which is responsible for enforcing foreign lobbying laws.
At issue was Craig’s lobbying work performed in 2012 for the Yanukovych, while Craig was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Specifically, Craig and the law firm were commissioned by Yanukovych and Ukraine’s government to write a report to assess the merits of the government’s prosecution of dissident Yulia Tymoshenko — a criminal case that was widely regarded as an abuse of power.
The aim of the report, critics said, was to provide cover for the politically motivated and unjust prosecution.
Yanukovych was overthrown in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, and now lives in exile in Russia. Tymoshenko, who was also one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, was convicted on embezzlement charges in 2011 but released in 2014 upon Yanukovych’s ouster.
Craig allegedly made false statements to investigators looking into whether he appropriately registered foreign agent under FARA, which requires lobbyists to declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders, governments or their political parties.
“The purpose of the scheme was for Craig to avoid registration as an agent of Ukraine,” the indictment reads. “Registration would require disclosure of the fact that Private Ukrainian had paid Craig and the Law Firm more than $4 million … [and] undermine the Report and Craig’s perceived independence; and impair the ability of Craig and others at the Law FIrm to later return to government positions.”
Craig faces a total of up to 10 years in prison — up to five years and a possible $250,000 fine for allegedly willfully falsifying and concealing material facts from the FARA Unit, and another five years and $10,000 fine for making false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit.
FARA violations were only rarely prosecuted until Mueller took aim at Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, for his own lobbying work in Ukraine. Manafort, who connected Craig with Yanukovych, has been convicted on numerous bank and tax fraud charges, and was separately accused of FARA violations as well.
Manafort was sentenced earlier this year to approximately seven years in prison.
Craig left Skadden last year after his work with Manafort became public. In January, Skadden agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s registration requirements and paid $4.6 million in a settlement to avoid a criminal prosecution.
“We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again,” the firm said in a statement at the time.
Craig’s attorneys on Wednesday night told The Associated Press in a statement that the “government’s stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”
On Thursday, the attorneys, William W. Taylor III and William Murphy, told reporters: “Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge.”
The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.