D.C. federal prosecutors on Thursday indicted lawyer Greg Craig on two charges of making false statements to the Justice Department about his work for Ukraine and Paul Manafort, in a spin-off from a case that began during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Craig, a former White House counsel for President Obama, is accused of concealing information from and making false statements to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit, which enforces the country’s foreign lobbying law.
Though the investigation into Craig began with Mueller, he handed it off to Manhattan federal prosecutors. They then transferred the case to prosecutors in D.C.
Craig’s legal team has signaled in recent days that the former White House counsel was anticipating an indictment over his work for the government of overthrown Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
In a statement, Craig’s attorneys suggested that he is prepared to see the case through to trial.
“This indictment accuses Mr. Craig of misleading the FARA Unit of the Department of Justice in order to avoid registration,” the attorneys said. “Mr. Craig had no interest in misleading the FARA Unit because he had not done anything that required his registration.”
They add: “That is what this trial will be all about.”
Craig himself responded to the indictment in a video statement Thursday night, arguing that he did not try to mislead the FARA unit.
The indictment cites Craig as emailing another attorney in February 2012 with the statement: “I don’t want to register as a foreign agent under FARA. I think we don’t have to with this assignment, yes?” From there, the filing reads, Craig began to negotiate with a Ukrainian oligarch representing the country’s government for his fee – agreeing that his former law firm Skadden Arps be paid $4 million for the work on top of a $150,000 retainer for the former White House counsel.
The stated amount that Skadden and Craig were hired for was $12,000, according to an April 2012 agreement.
Craig worked in Ukraine with Manafort in 2012 on a project to determine whether the prosecution of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko met international standards set by the European Court of Human Rights. Craig — while on the payroll of the Yanukovych government — found that the Yanukovych government’s prosecution of its opponent met international standards, in a report that was widely dismissed as a whitewash.
Craig allegedly expressed concern multiple times — including to Manafort — that information about his work would become public. “I have been clear that we cannot run close to the FARA line and if we were seen as hiring and directing [PR firm] we would be doing much more than just lawyering,” he allegedly wrote in one May 2012 email.
The indictment states that Craig worked with Manafort to create a false, backdated invoice for his and Skadden’s work in Ukraine as part of an attempt to obscure the record of who funded the work.
“A truthful and complete FARA registration by CRAIG would have made a public record of the Private Ukrainian’s role in funding the report, and the amounts he paid to the Law Firm,” the indictment reads.
The report on Tymoshenko’s prosecution was released in December 2012. Prosecutors alleged that Craig leaked a copy to the New York Times beforehand and spoke to U.S. journalists about the report, a supposed fact pattern that the indictment says was “in furtherance of Ukraine’s public relations strategy regarding the report,” creating an obligation to register as a foreign agent under FARA.
After the report’s rollout, Manafort allegedly sent Craig a compilation of media coverage around the report. “You are back in the headlines internationally…People in Kiev are very happy. You are ‘THE MAN,’” the lobbyist allegedly wrote.
The FARA unit began to ask Skadden in 2013 whether it had an obligation to register as a foreign agent for its work in Ukraine. Prosecutors accuse Craig of lying about his work during this process, citing an email in which he allegedly told Skadden’s general counsel that he did not disseminate the report, and that he did not “contact the media.”
Prosecutors also allege that Craig lied to the special counsel during an October 2017 interview, saying that he “repeated certain of the false and misleading statements he had made to the FARA Unit concerning the timing and nature of his contacts with journalists about the Report.”
In a separate $4.6 million civil settlement with Southern District of New York federal law enforcement, Craig’s former law firm, Skadden Arps, said that an unnamed “senior partner” at the firm lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government in distributing the report.
An appendix attached to Skadden’s settlement agreement went on to detail how the “senior partner” — matching Craig’s description — arranged the firm’s shifting response to the Justice Department’s FARA unit, with the firm saying that he made “false and misleading statements” to the Justice Department.
The prosecution comes amid signaling from the Justice Department that it will ramp up FARA enforcement. The law, long considered a paper tiger, has gained new prominence and teeth with the Mueller investigation and Skadden’s non-prosecution agreement with the Justice Department.
Read the indictment here: