Former President Barack Obama’s White House counsel went to trial on Monday, Aug. 12, accused of lying to and misleading Justice Department officials about his work with President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Craig was indicted in April on two counts of giving false statements to DOJ officials related to his public relations work in Ukraine. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, threw out one of the counts Craig is facing Aug. 6—he still faces one count.
The case stems from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which uncovered evidence of alleged wrongdoing by Craig, but referred the material to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for prosecution. He is alleged to have violated a core component of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
FARA requires people who work in public relations on behalf of a foreign entity to disclose that fact. It is illegal to not register or to provide misleading information to the Justice Department’s FARA unit.
Manafort, who was advising the government in Kiev in 2012, helped hire Craig and his law firm—Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & FlomSkadden—to draw up a report on the government’s prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Manafort became Trump’s campaign chairman four years later, in 2016, before quitting the post amid questions about his Ukraine work. He was later convicted in a bank and tax fraud trial in Virginia. Skadden crafted a report validating the Tymoshenko prosecution.
Craig then distributed the contents of the report to journalists. U.S. prosecutors say Craig reached out to New York Times correspondent David Sanger to kick off a choreographed public relations plan designed to maximize the political benefit of the report. Craig’s defense attorneys argue he was trying to protect himself.
Craig’s lawyers said Manafort and others close to Yanukovych made plain before the report’s publication that they were wanting to spin the review as a vindication for the Ukrainian government. Prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told reporters Friday this notion was contradicated by Manafort’s reaction after Craig spoke to reporters.
“Well done,” Manafort wrote to Craig in a message. “The pro has emerged again. … The initial rollout has been very effective and your backgrounding has been key to it all.” Manafort added: “People in Kiev are very happy. You are ‘THE MAN.’”
By Chris White
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