Former Obama WH counsel indicted in Mueller probe

WASHINGTON- JANUARY 21 U.S. President Barack Obama greets White House counsel Gregory Craig during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House

Craig is the first prominent Democrat to be caught in the dragnet cast by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian Federation interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The charges center on work Craig performed in 2012 on behalf of a pro-Russian political faction in Ukraine, part of an illicit lobbying effort by Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump's campaign. Check back for updates.

Craig wanted to avoid registering as a foreign agent in order to protect his ability to work in the U.S. government in the future, according to the indictment, and so Skadden could avoid disclosing the $4m it was secretly receiving for its work from a wealthy Yanukovych backer.

Craig served under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2010 and is a prominent Democratic attorney.

The indictment alleges that Craig cooked up a scheme to avoid registering as a foreign agent, as required by the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), after he was hired to run interference on behalf of the controversial politically charged prosecution of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenka.

After the FARA unit then concluded that the firm needed to register as an agent of Ukraine, Craig and other Skadden attorneys met with members of the FARA unit in October 2013, and Craig "made false and misleading statements", particularly that "his media contacts were exclusively reactive and for the goal of correcting misinformation".

In the statement, his attorneys, William Taylor and William Murphy, said, "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".

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Prosecutors say Craig lied to both his law firm and government investigators about the extent and nature of his contacts with the media in connection to a report he prepared on Ukraine.

The New York Times reported the project was directed to the firm by Manafort, who was a political consultant in the region at the time.

Prosecutors said on Thursday that, if convicted, Craig faced sentences of up to five years' imprisonment for each charge.

Some accused Skadden's report of whitewashing Ms. Tymoshenko's prosecution. Ukraine sought the report as part of a lobbying campaign to improve its worldwide image. Federal prosecutors in NY have been investigating two prominent Washington lobbying firms in a similar probe, and Justice Department officials in Washington have been increasingly willing to prosecute people who they believe intentionally hide their lobbying work from the government.

The case, which is being handled by the US Attorney's office for the District of Columbia in association with the Justice Department's national security division, is likely to bring renewed attention to the Justice Department's application of a once-obscure law applying to unregistered foreign agents, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

"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. Mr Craig was not named in the settlement.

A second attorney at the firm pleaded guilty past year to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his role in the Ukraine report, saying he gave an early copy to Manafort and deleted related emails.

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