Ex-Obama counsel charged with lying in lobbying probe

Nellie Chapman
April 14, 2019

Craig however is fighting the charges. The charge pertains to the legal services Craig performed on behalf of the Ukrainian government in 2012, two years after he left the White House.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in USA politics is over, but prosecutors are investigating two prominent Washington lobbyists for their work for the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine, according to three sources close to the probe. Charges were filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington.

Craig's work for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice came when he was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the law firm he joined after serving a year in the White House in 2009.

It was not clear why Mueller - who prosecuted other Trump officials, including Manafort, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos for making false statements - did not handle the Craig case himself, and opted instead to farm it out to prosecutors in NY.

On the same day Sam Patten, another Manafort-linked lobbyist, was sentenced to probation in court, the Craig arraignment highlights a recent push by the Justice Department to root out illegal lobbying.

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They allege Craig did so to avoid registering as a foreign agent, which would undermine the perception of independence of both the report and Craig and "impair the ability of Craig and others at the law firm to later return to government positions". John Edwards and James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was investigated and charged for leaking classified information.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich hired Craig's firm to provide a report justifying his imprisonment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival. Manafort, meanwhile worked as a consultant to Yanukovych.

The report was billed as independent, and while critical in some ways of Tymoshenko's trial, critics have said it whitewashed a politically motivated prosecution.

Weber disclosed his work for a Ukrainian think tank, but he did not register as a foreign agent for the government of Ukraine under a the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which would have required him to spell out his activity in detail, according to a Reuters review of lobbying records.

Skadden reached a settlement with the Justice Department in January in which it agreed it should have registered as a foreign agent and paid a fine in lieu of prosecution. In an email titled "FARA", Craig wrote that the firm did not proactively disseminate the report to the media and instead provided it upon request to three media outlets that asked for it. The law, enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the United States, requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they advocate, lobby or perform public relations work in the US on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.

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