Ex-Obama White House Counsel Expects To Be Charged In Relation To Work With Manafort

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Attorneys for former White House counsel Gregory Craig said Wednesday that he expects to face federal charges in the coming days in regard to legal work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012.

The expected indictment – which his attorneys called “a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion” – stems from work Craig did with GOP lobbyist Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice in 2012.

At the time, Craig was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the law firm he joined after ending his tenure as counsel to President Barack Obama. Manafort, the former campaign chairman to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty last year to charges related to his Ukraine lobbying.

In a statement, attorneys William Taylor and William Murphy said they expect Craig, 74, will be indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington at the request of the Justice Department’s national security division. That could not be independently corroborated. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge,” Craig’s attorneys said in their statement.

Craig resigned from Skadden in April 2018 amid a building investigation into whether the firm’s lawyers didn’t register as foreign lobbyists for their Ukraine engagement.

He would be the first prominent Democratic figure to be charged as a result of a foreign lobbying investigation spun out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

His indictment would represent a dramatic turn for a member of the country’s most elite legal circles. Craig attended Yale University’s law school with Bill and Hillary Clinton and later worked in the State Department and White House during Bill Clinton’s presidency. An early Obama supporter, he served for a year as his first White House counsel. He is also a veteran of the Washington-based law firm Williams and Connolly.

Last year, Mueller’s team prosecuted Manafort, who admitted that he hadn’t properly registered as a foreign lobbyist while working as a political consultant for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose 2010 campaign Manafort helped advise. Last month, Manafort was sentenced to a total of 7 1/2 years in prison for lobbying violations and financial crimes.

Craig’s firm was hired in 2012 by Yanukovych’s Justice Ministry to conduct a review of the prosecution of one of Yanukovych’s leading political rivals, Yulia Tymoshenko. The agreement included providing advice on improving prosecutions by the ministry, according to court filings.

Skadden produced a 187-page white paper that offered a mixed review of the trial and imprisonment of Tymoshenko, saying the analysis it conducted of the case was independent.

But human rights advocates said that the report had been engineered by Yanukovych’s government and that it whitewashed the jailing of his political opponent.

And Manafort eventually admitted that he and other lobbyists used the Skadden report as part of a broad effort to improve Yanukovych’s reputation in the West after the widely condemned jailing of Tymoshenko. Manafort agreed that they didn’t disclose their lobbying effort, which included disseminating the Skadden report to U.S. government officials.

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.

After Skadden was mentioned in news coverage, the Justice Department sought information from the law firm about whether its work, including the media contacts, required the lawyers to have registered as foreign lobbyists.

In a letter sent to the Justice Department in October 2013 and obtained by The Washington Post, Craig wrote that his media contacts came in response “to inaccuracies in U.S. news reports” and that he was “in no way serving as an agent for Ukraine.”

In response, a Justice Department official sent Craig a letter in January 2014, indicating that the government agency found the firm had “no present obligation to register under FARA.”

But subsequently, as prosecutors began scrutinizing the work of Manafort and his associates in Ukraine, they reexamined the role of Craig’s firm, including whether Craig was honest during his interactions with the Justice Department over his registration requirements in 2013.

Skadden in January reached a settlement with the Justice Department, admitting it should have registered for its work in 2012 and 2013, and agreed to turn over the $4.6 million in fees it made for the report in exchange for facing no criminal charges. In its settlement, Skadden agreed that the Justice Department’s 2014 finding that the firm did not need to register came after the agency relied on “false and misleading oral and written statements” made by Craig.

In their statement Wednesday, Craig’s attorneys said that his work on the Tymoshenko case came “as an independent expert on the rule of law, not as an advocate for the client” and that he refused requests to participate in Ukraine’s lobbying around the report.

They said that Craig “did not lie to his former firm or the government” and that his contact with The New York Times was intended to ensure that the newspaper accurately summarized the way the report criticized Tymoshenko’s trial.

The Ukrainian government reported that Skadden was paid $12,000 for the report, but prosecutors have said Manafort used an offshore account to help route more than $4 million to the law firm to pay for the work.

Another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to the FBI 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 that he later deleted emails related to the effort. He served 30 days in prison.

Mueller’s office, which prosecuted Manafort, referred Craig’s case last year to prosecutors in Manhattan as Mueller worked to bring his investigation to a close, people familiar with the matter have said. The case was then transferred back to prosecutors in Washington.

Separately, prosecutors in New York have been investigating whether FARA rules were violated by two other prominent Washington figures: Tony Podesta, a Democratic lobbyist who once owned one of Washington’s leading firms, and Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman, who helps lead the Washington office of Mercury.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger ·  

{Matzav.com}

2 COMMENTS

  1. (Tea Party PAC) – Attorney General Bill Barr has assembled a team to investigate the decisions made by the Obama FBI and DOJ to spy on the Trump campaign as far back as the summer of 2016, a source has told Bloomberg.
    It would seem that Barr is investigating what the right has been shouting from the rooftops for over two years: that the Trump Russian investigation was a complete sham right from the start and was headed off by a corrupt, deep state FBI and DOJ who weaponized our nation’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take down a political opponent.
    So this is excellent news!
    “I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr told the House Appropriations Committee in a testimony Tuesday.
    Barr’s internal investigation by the DOJ is separate from the ongoing investigation by the Inspector General into the same goings on.
    During his testimony Tuesday, Barr told Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) that Inspector General Horowitz is investigating FISA abuse during the Obama administration that led to warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. Barr said he has heard that the IG report will be completed in May or June.
    Aderholt also asked Barr if his department is investigating how officials at the DOJ and the FBI used a “salacious and unverified dossier as a predicate for a FISA order on a US citizen.”
    The Gateway Pundit has more:
    Barr will also be investigating the criminal probe that corrupt FBI agents opened into former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 for his ‘contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak’ when he was a Senator — Sessions did nothing wrong, but he recused himself like a coward in March of 2017 after he was pressured to step down from his post.
    Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham previously called on Bill Barr to appoint a new special counsel to investigate Russiagate.
    “Once we put the Mueller report to bed, once Barr comes to the committee and takes questions about his findings and his actions, and we get to see the Mueller report, consistent with law, then we are going to turn to finding out how this got off the rails,” Graham said a couple weeks ago in a presser.
    Barr is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on May 1st.
    According to previous reports, AG Barr was reportedly against the idea of special counsel to investigate Russiagate and the coup plotters — this report by Bloomberg and Barr’s comments to the House Panel earlier Tuesday appear to confirm reports he wants to spearhead the investigation with his own team.

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