A federal grand jury on Thursday charged Greg Craig with conspiring to hide his paid collusion with a foreign government and lying about that work to federal officials. Craig, a high-powered Beltway lawyer, served as President Barack Obama’s top White House lawyer during the former president’s first year in office.
According to the formal indictment of Craig, which the Department of Justice released Thursday afternoon, the Democrat superlawyer “did unlawfully, knowingly, and willfully falsify, conceal, and cover up” his work on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
“The purpose of the scheme was for CRAIG to avoid registration as an agent of Ukraine,” the indictment alleges. “Registration would require disclosure of the fact that” an unnamed Ukrainian had “paid CRAIG and the Law Firm more than $4 million[.]”
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. In exchange for $4 million, Greg was expected to produce a report showing that the prosecution accorded with Western legal standards and was not tainted by corruption, the indictment alleges.
Instead of properly disclosing the amount of the payment and the terms of the contract, Craig allegedly drew up paperwork that falsely claimed his compensation would only be $12,000.
“The engagement letter omitted any mention of the amount of money CRAIG would be paid or the source of that money,” the indictment claims. “CRAIG’s letter did not disclose that he and the Law Firm would be paid more than $4 million for their services and that the money would be paid by the Private Ukrainian.”
Craig deliberately hid the true nature and compensation of his work for Ukraine in order to maximize the public relations value of the report he wrote for the Eastern European government, according to the indictment.
The FARA law requires disclosure and registration of work done on behalf of foreign governments or principals by anyone who “acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal[.]” The law further defines a “public relations counsel” as “any person who engages directly or indirectly in informing, advising, or in any way representing a principal in any public relations matter pertaining to political or public interests, policies, or relations” on behalf of a foreign government or principal.
The indictment alleges that, in addition to concealing his foreign agent work from the government, Craig also lied to his law firm about it and falsely claimed that he had no contact with the media about the report he had prepared. Based on his statements, the law firm filed false statements about its public relations contacts to the Department of Justice.
Craig “knowingly and willfully caused to be made false statements of material fact in documents filed with and furnished to the Attorney General,” the indictment alleges. “[D]uring an interview conducted by the Special Counsel’s office, CRAIG repeated certain of the false and misleading statements he made to the FARA Unit concerning the timing and nature of his contacts with journalists about the Report.”
The case against Craig stemmed from the wide-ranging probe overseen by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The indictment even alleges that several of Craig’s false statements were made during interviews conducted by Mueller’s investigative team. While Mueller charged multiple Trump affiliates — such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn — with false statements charges, he chose not to charge a prominent Democrat attorney who worked in the Obama White House with any wrongdoing. It is not clear why Mueller prosecuted alleged violations by Trump associates but not of a former high-ranking Obama administration official.
Instead, the charges were announced by federal prosecutors within the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Craig is the first former Democrat official to be charged in connection with the Mueller probe.
If convicted, Craig could face up to ten years in prison. The full indictment can be read here.