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Obama’s former White House counsel just got caught up in the Mueller probe

Before he wrapped up, Mueller referred some matters to other prosecutors — including the Craig case.

by Greg Walters
Apr 11 2019, 3:15pm

WASHINGTON — Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig expects to be indicted on charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Craig’s lawyers said in a statement distributed to media outlets late Wednesday.

The news marks the first indication that a high-ranking Democrat may be caught up in a case tied to Mueller, who spent 22 months examining President Trump’s ties to Russia and issued a final report in late March that remains secret.

Before he wrapped up, Mueller referred some matters to other prosecutors — including the Craig case.

The potential charges against Craig appear to have nothing to do with his stint in the Obama White House during 2009-2010, or directly with the 2016 election. Rather, they seem to be tied to work he did during the years in-between as a private lawyer in connection with the Ukrainian government and President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Craig’s attorneys told The New York Times that they expect him to be indicted for making false statements about whether he was required to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, for work he did in 2012.

“We expect an indictment by the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office at the request of the National Security Division,” Craig’s lawyers wrote in a statement sent to Times and other outlets. “Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge and the government’s stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

After leaving Obama’s White House, Craig joined a New York law firm called Skadden Arps, which drafted a controversial legal report in 2012 that was seen, upon its release, as helping to provide legal justification for the imprisonment of a political opponent of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

That report was arranged by Manafort, who was then working as an advisor to Yanukovych. Manafort would himself later be indicted by Mueller’s team for illegal lobbying inside the U.S. on Ukraine’s behalf.

When the Skadden report was arranged, Manafort was attempting to help his boss, Yanukovych, get over the reputational damage of having his former opponent in the country’s presidential election, Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed after the vote over accusations of corruption.

The Skadden document was seen as part of an attempt to demonstrate that Tymoshenko’s imprisonment was legitimate and not just a political move, according to evidence presented in Manafort’s trial last year. Manafort reportedly arranged for Skadden to be paid more than $5.2 million in 2012 and 2013 for its work.

Craig met with Mueller’s team twice, in both the fall of 2017 and in spring 2018, according to CNN. Mueller then reportedly referred the case against Craig out to other prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, who themselves passed it along to Washington DC.

Craig’s lawyers didn’t immediately return a request for comment from VICE News.

Cover: White House counsel Greg Craig listens as President Barack Obama makes a surprise appearance during the daily press briefing as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs looks on at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)