Former White House Counsel Arrested On Lying about Foreign Lobbying Charge
Former White House counsel Gregory Craig was arrested Thursday in Washington, D.C. on charges that he lied to federal investigators about his role in a foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
Craig worked for the Washington law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP and wrote a report for the Ukrainian government in 2012 on the prosecution of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko was a political opponent of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had her jailed and prosecuted on financial corruption charges.
Craig’s report was supposed to be an objective analysis, but critics said it whitewashed the political motives behind the prosecution.
The allegations against Craig arose from the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating whether Russia influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
The investigation led first to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was paid millions of dollars by the Ukrainian government for providing lobbying and consulting services.
However, Manafort never registered as a foreign lobbyist, which is required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
He eventually pleaded guilty to charges that he lied to Justice Department investigators about his efforts for the Ukrainians. He is serving a seven-year sentence.
Craig’s report was used by Manafort in his public relations campaign for the Ukrainians. He was trying to help the Ukrainian government respond to Western allegations that Tymoshenko was a political prisoner.
Craig’s law firm reached a settlement in January with the Justice Department in which it acknowledged it should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The settlement included a $4.6 million payment to the U.S. Treasury, the same amount the firm was paid by the Ukrainian government.
Craig, 74, is represented by lawyers from the firm of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, which released a statement Thursday saying, “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 was an Obama administration White House counsel who has represented clients in several high-profile cases. The two-count indictment accuses him of making false statements and concealing material facts. He faces up to five years in prison on each felony count.
He posted a video on YouTube Thursday in which he said he always tried to be honest with federal officials.
“I never discussed the findings of our report with any U.S. officials and certainly did not lobby any U.S. officials on behalf of Ukraine,” he said in the video. “I did not help Ukraine promote its spin when it released our report.”
The 22-page indictment describes a different story indicating Craig and his firm declined to register as foreign agents partly because they were concerned it might interfere with their U.S. federal government contracts.
They also would have needed to disclose the $4.6 million they were paid and the subject of their report about the prosecution of the former Ukrainian prime minister.
“These disclosures, as well as the registration itself, would have undermined the report and Craig’s perceived independence,” the indictment says.
Craig is accused by the Justice Department of reviewing a plan to help the Ukrainians with a New York public relations executive. During their meeting, he allegedly said he would try to promote his report to a reporter with The New York Times.
His contacts with the media would require him to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the indictment says. But in responses to the Justice Department, he never mentioned his media contacts.
The indictment was filed by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The case is U.S. v Gregory Craig, case number 1:19-cr-00125-ABJ, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
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