Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Top Obama WH Lawyer Charged With Lying About Foreign Collusion

Top Obama WH Lawyer Charged With Lying About Foreign Collusion

US prosecutors laid out how Craig, a top partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, took pains to avoid registering his work as foreign lobbying - in part, they allege, out of a belief that registering under the so-called FARA law would prevent him and others from taking government jobs in the future.

In 2013, the Justice Department inquired whether the firm's work for Mr. Yankovich required it to register as a foreign agent of the Ukrainian government.

After the FARA unit then concluded that the firm needed to register as an agent of Ukraine, Craig and other Skadden attorneys met with members of the FARA unit in October 2013, and Craig "made false and misleading statements", particularly that "his media contacts were exclusively reactive and for the objective of correcting misinformation".

If charged, Craig would be the first prominent Democrat to be caught in the dragnet cast by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian Federation interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Craig, 74, is accused of lying to the Justice Department about his promotion of a 2012 report aimed at justifying the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's former prime minister and a political enemy of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-friendly president of the country at the time.

According to the indictment released on Thursday, the FARA unit told Craig he didn't need to register because of its "reliance on Craig's representations and having been misled by Craig". The firm then wrote a letter to the department's FARA unit containing Craig's false and misleading statements, which ultimately allowed for him and the firm to avoid registering, the indictment said. "I think we don't have to with this assignment, yes?" he wrote in a February 2012 email.

A January settlement between Skadden and the Justice Department singled out Craig-claiming he made "false and misleading" statements to other Skadden attorneys and the Justice Department regarding his work on the report. They said federal prosecutors in NY had declined charges, but they expected an indictment to be brought by the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington at the request of the Justice Department's national security division.

If convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in jail for each count along with over $250,000 (£191,000) in fines. Manafort helped create the relationship between Craig and the foreign government, according to the Justice Department. The civil settlement with the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, laid much of the blame for the violations on Craig.

Lawyers for Mr Craig denied the charges before they were filed.

"Mr. Craig repeatedly refused requests that he participate in Ukraine's media and lobbying campaign to promote the Tymoshenko Report", they wrote.

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

Craig privately had reservations about Tymoshenko's treatment but left them out of the report, the indictment said.

The New York Times reported the project was directed to the firm by Manafort, who was a political consultant in the region at the time.

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

Though the investigation into Craig began with Mueller, he handed it off to Manhattan federal prosecutors. He was sentenced to a combined prison term of just more than seven years last month following financial fraud convictions in Virginia and Washington, all related to his work in Ukraine.

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