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Ex-Obama Counsel Expects to Be Charged Soon in Mueller-Related Case

Mark Wilson/Getty Images WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Gregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration, expect him to be indicted in the coming days on charges related to his work for the Russia-aligned government of Ukraine. The case against Mr. Craig, 74, stemmed from an investigation initiated by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. In a summary of the inquiry, Attorney General William P. Barr said that the special counsel’s team had concluded that there was no evidence that President Trump or his aides “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The case against Mr. Craig is related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which the Justice Department is prioritizing in part because of scrutiny related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Mr. Manafort, who went on to become Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016, was sentenced last month to seven and a half years in prison on charges brought by Mr. Mueller’s team related to obstruction of justice and violations of FARA, as well as banking and tax laws stemming from his work in Ukraine. After the report was released, and Mr. Craig was quoted discussing it in an article in The New York Times, the Justice Department unit that oversees FARA reached out to Skadden Arps to ask why the firm and its lawyers had not registered as foreign agents for the Ukrainian government. Prosecutors cast doubt on Mr. Craig’s claim in a settlement reached in January between the Justice Department and Skadden Arps. Under that settlement, the firm avoided prosecution in the matter in exchange for an agreement to pay $4.6 million, to retroactively register its Ukraine work under FARA, to beef up its compliance processes and to cooperate with government investigations of the work on behalf of Ukraine. Neither Mr. Craig nor the journalist are identified by name in the settlement. Mr. Craig’s lawyers have argued that he was not required to register his work under FARA because he was not doing public relations for the Ukrainian government. In a statement on Wednesday, they said he “repeatedly refused requests that he participate in Ukraine’s media and lobbying campaign to promote the Tymoshenko Report.” Rather, they say he spoke to The Times to correct the Ukrainian Justice Ministry’s claims that the report cleared Mr. Yanukovych of accusations that he directed the prosecution of Ms. Tymoshenko for political purposes.

Lobbying Case Against Democrat With Ties to Manafort Reaches Key Stage

The previously undisclosed move was driven by Justice Department officials in Washington, and reflects an eagerness within the department to prosecute violations of lobbying laws after the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, focused on foreign influence in his investigations. The unit falls within the Justice Department’s national security division, which investigated Skadden Arps’s Ukraine work and must approve any charges against Mr. Craig. Mr. Craig and the other Skadden Arps lawyers who worked on the account did not register as foreign agents under FARA, despite inquiries from the Justice Department at the time about whether they should have. The department initially concluded in 2013 that Skadden Arps was obligated to register, but it reversed itself the following year after Mr. Craig made the case that the law did not apply to his work on behalf of Ukraine. The special counsel had subpoenaed or requested documents from Skadden Arps and two lobbying firms recruited by Mr. Manafort’s team to help build support for Mr. Yanukovych’s government, and Mr. Mueller’s investigators had interviewed people who worked with all three firms, including Mr. Craig. But last year, Mr. Mueller’s team referred the matters related to the three firms to federal prosecutors in Manhattan for potential prosecution as FARA violations. The settlement accused Mr. Craig of working with Mr. Manafort to hide the funding from the Ukrainian oligarch for Skadden Arps’s work, and of making “false and misleading” statements to other partners at the firm and the Justice Department about his interactions with a reporter for The New York Times related to the Tymoshenko report. Those representations led the Justice Department’s FARA unit to conclude in January 2014 that Skadden Arps was not required to disclose the work under FARA, according to the settlement. In announcing the settlement, John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said Skadden Arps’s failure to register under FARA “hid from the public that its report was part of a Ukrainian foreign influence campaign,” depriving Americans of the ability “to consider the identity of the speaker as they evaluate the substance of the speech.” Neither the settlement nor Mr. Demers named either Mr. Craig or The Times and its reporter, David E. Sanger, but their identities are clear from the context. In the summer of 2017, Adam Hickey, an official in the National Security Division, told lawmakers that FARA was designed to make foreign influence campaigns transparent, “not to discourage that conduct itself.” His description of FARA focused largely on transparency through voluntary registration and ongoing records keeping.