Gregory Craig, a prominent corporate lawyer and former adviser to Democratic presidents, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in Washington, accused of making false statements and concealing information about his firm’s work on behalf of Ukraine.
Craig’s former firm, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, in January paid $4.6 million and agreed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government after admitting that it should have done so earlier for work it did with Paul Manafort to benefit Ukraine.
The charges are the first against a high-profile Democrat to emerge from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Craig defended President Bill Clinton against impeachment and was the first White House counsel under President Barack Obama.
Craig made his false statements to a Justice Department unit investigating lobbyists’ work for foreign governments, prosecutors said. He faces as long as five years in prison for each of the two counts against him.
Late Thursday, after reports that Craig would be charged, his lawyer released a statement saying that U.S. prosecutors in New York had looked at Craig’s overseas work and “that office decided not to pursue charges.”
Craig, 74 years old, may be the most well-known white-collar professional to be charged under a lobbying disclosure law that was used heavily by Mueller’s team, but he’s unlikely to be the last.
At the time of Skadden’s settlement, prosecutors said Skadden’s partner on the project made false and misleading statements to the Justice Department. The partner was separately identified as Craig, leaving the prospect of charges against him. Craig left the firm in April 2018.
Mueller’s investigation turned a spotlight on the Foreign Agent Registration Act, known as FARA, a law that previously had been lightly enforced.
As part of his probe, Mueller brought FARA charges against Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, for his work on behalf of President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine and his pro-Russia Party of Regions. Mueller also brought FARA charges against former Manafort deputy Rick Gates as he sought to turn investigative targets into cooperators.
The Justice Department has signaled its intention to push ahead with similar cases. Before Mueller wrapped up his investigation, a prosecutor from his team, Brandon Van Grack, shifted to a unit that’s pursuing FARA matters, people familiar with the situation said at the time.
Mueller has completed his 22-month investigation, but the full extent of his findings aren’t publicly known. A summary of his report by the attorney general said that Mueller had concluded that interactions between Trump campaign staffers and Russians didn’t amount to a conspiracy. Attorney General William Barr told Congress that a more complete summary would come next week.
Manafort arranged for the Ukrainian government to hire Skadden Arps to produce a report in 2012 examining the legitimacy of the prosecution of a Yanukovych rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, according to a court filing.
Craig oversaw Skadden’s review, which largely defended the prosecution and conviction of Tymoshenko, contradicting the view held by the U.S. and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated.
The law firm’s $12,000 fee for the report was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding under Ukrainian law. But according to U.S. prosecutors, Skadden was paid more than $4.6 million for the work, largely through third-party payments.
Details about the Skadden report emerged as part of the investigation of Manafort. Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer who worked at Skadden, admitted that he lied to prosecutors about his conversations with Gates. Van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 30 days in prison.