“The purpose of the scheme was for Craig to avoid registration as an agent of Ukraine.”
Greg Craig, former White House counsel for President Barack Obama, was indicted Thursday on two counts of making false and misleading statements to investigators about his work on behalf of Russian-backed former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
Craig becomes the first Democrat to be indicted in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. Mueller’s team handed off the Craig case to prosecutors in New York last year, having discovered his potential wrongdoing while investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine.
Craig was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for allegedly concealing information and making false statements to the DOJ National Security Division’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit, the division in charge of enforcing foreign lobbying laws.
As a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Craig performed lobbying work on behalf of Yanukovych in 2012.
The firm was hired by Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government to assess merits of the government’s prosecution of dissident Yulia Tymoshenk, a move regarded by critics as an unjust abuse of power by Ukraine.
While Ukraine claimed to have only paid $12,000 for the report, prosecutors charged Manafort with illegally using an offshore account to pay the firm $4 million for the service.
Yanukovych was eventually overthrown after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, and now lives in exile in Russia. Tymoshenko, a leader of the revolution, was convicted of embezzlement charges in 2011 but later released after Yanukovych was ousted.
Prosecutors allege in the indictment that Craig made false statements to investigators who were probing whether he was a properly registered foreign agent, which is required for lobbyists who represent foreign governments or leaders.
“The purpose of the scheme was for Craig to avoid registration as an agent of Ukraine,” the indictment says. “Registration would require disclosure of the fact that Private Ukrainian had paid Craig and the Law Firm more than $4 million and undermine the Report and Craig’s perceived independence; and impair the ability of Craig and others at the Law Firm to later return to government positions.”
Another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, has already plead guilty to lying to investigators about the report.
Craig could face up to 10 years in prison – five for falsifying and concealing material facts and another five for making false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit. He also faces up to $250,000 in fines.
The violation is similar to that of accusations against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was investigated by Mueller’s team for his lobbying in Ukraine. Manafort would eventually be convicted of bank and tax fraud charges.
Mueller recently wrapped up his nearly two-year investigation, which President Donald Trump repeatedly characterized as a politically motivated witch hunt.
Ultimately, Mueller’s report concluded that neither Trump or his campaign were guilty of colluding with Russian operatives to swing the 2016 election according to Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of the report.
Barr is set to release a redacted version of the Mueller report to the public within a week.