Top Obama White House Lawyer Made False Statements To DOJ About Manafort-Related Work
- The Justice Department is alleging that the former Obama White House general counsel made ‘false and misleading’ statements regarding consulting work done for Ukraine.
- Greg Craig was lead partner for the law firm Skadden Arps on its Ukraine work, which was done in partnership with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.
- Skadden Arps agreed Thursday to settle with the Justice Department by registering as a foreign agent of Ukraine and paying a $4.6 million fine.
- Craig’s fate remains uncertain.
The former general counsel for President Obama made “false and misleading statements” to the Justice Department regarding work he did for the Ukrainian government that has come under scrutiny in the special counsel’s probe.
Greg Craig’s allegedly false statements were revealed in a settlement announced Thursday by the Justice Department. The agency announced it was settling with Craig’s former firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on behalf of Ukraine beginning in 2012.
Skadden Arps agreed to register retroactively with the Justice Department as a foreign agent of Ukraine and to pay a $4.6 million fine, the same amount that the firm was paid for its consulting work.
Craig, who left Skadden Arps in April 2018, is not identified by name in the Justice Department announcement, but he has previously been identified as the lead Skadden Arps partner who worked on its Ukraine account. Other clues from the Justice Department settlement point to Craig as the lead partner referenced in case.
As part of the settlement, Skadden Arps acknowledged that it acted on behalf of the Ukrainian government “by contributing to a public relations campaign directed at select members of the U.S. news media in 2012.” (RELATED: Russia Probe May Implicate One Of The Biggest Names In Law)
Craig and others at Skadden Arps helped promote a report that raised questions about Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minster, who was seen as a foe to Viktor Yanukovych, who served as prime minister through 2014.
The Justice Department says that it contacted Skadden Arps in 2012 and 2013 about registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) after the law firm released a report that defended Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.
But the firm ended up not registering under FARA based on false assurances provided by Skadden Arps’ partner.
“A partner then at Skadden made false and misleading statements to the FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act] Unit, which led it to conclude in 2013 that the firm was not obligated to register under FARA,” the Justice Department said.
“The facts, when uncovered, showed that Skadden was indeed required to register in 2012, and, under the Agreement, it will do so retroactively.”
The Skadden Arps media outreach centered mostly on a report about Tymoshenko that was finalized in December 2012. According to the Justice Department, the Skadden Arps lead partner, seemingly Craig, contacted a major national newspaper on Dec. 12, 2012, to provide a preview of the report as well as a quotation.
The news outlet appears to be The New York Times, which quoted Craig in an article laying out Skadden Arps’ report regarding Tymoshenko.
The Skadden Arps report determined that some of Tymoshenko’s legal rights were violated during her trial in Ukraine. But it ultimately sided against Tymoshenko and with Yanukovych’s administration.
Craig, who contacted the newspaper, is quoted in the article, saying that “We leave to others the question of whether this prosecution was politically motivated.”
“Our assignment was to look at the evidence in the record and determine whether the trial was fair.”
According to the Justice Department, the Skadden Arps partner provided misleading statements about the dissemination of the Tymoshenko report and the interactions with the media.
“In both written and oral responses to the FARA Unit between February 6, 2013, and October 11, 2013, Skadden, in reliance on the lead partner, made false and misleading statements including, among other things, that Skadden provided a copy of the Report only in response to requests from the media and spoke to the media to correct misinformation about the report that the media was already reporting,” the Justice Department said.
The agency also asserted that the Skadden Arps’ partner’s “pre-release outreach” to the journalist “was consistent with Ukraine’s media strategy for the Report.”
That strategy involved “leaking the Report prior to its official release so as to ‘effectively set the agenda for subsequent coverage,'” according to the DOJ.
It is unclear whether Craig faces any legal jeopardy in the case or whether he concurs with the Skadden Arps settlement. The government’s agreement with Skadden Arps explicitly states that the settlement does not protect “current or former partners” from criminal liability.
CNN reported on Sept. 15, 2018, that the Justice Department was weighing charges against Craig, who left the Obama White House on Jan. 3, 2010.
An attorney for Craig responded, “No comment,” to an inquiry by TheDCNF.
The settlement closes one chapter of the ongoing saga over the Ukraine lobbying effort. Two other lobbying firms, the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs, are also reportedly the subject of an investigation into the Ukraine work.
Manafort has pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s investigation to working as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukraine. He was convicted on Aug. 21, 2018, for money laundering and fraud related to money he made on the Ukrainian consulting gig.
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