The trial for Obama White House counsel Greg Craig , a case spun off by special counsel Robert Mueller, started in Washington, D.C. with jury selection Monday and opening statements Tuesday.
Craig was indicted in April on two felony charges related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act and connected to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s work in Ukraine.
The law requires anyone who is working on behalf of a foreign government — whether a lobbyist, a business, a K Street firm, or a media outlet — to disclose this relationship by registering with DOJ.
The Justice Department’s case against Craig focuses on the public relations work that the well-connected and high-powered Democratic attorney and the law firm he worked for — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom — did on behalf of the pro-Kremlin government in Ukraine in 2012. Manafort, who would go on to head Trump’s campaign in 2016 only to be found guilty of tax and bank fraud along with other violations during Mueller’s investigation, was working with the pro-Russian Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych at the time and facilitated the involvement of Skadden and Craig in the lobbying effort.
Prosecutors alleged in their complaint Craig was aware of FARA registration requirements but was worried that registering as an agent of Ukraine “could prevent him or others at the law firm from taking positions in the federal government in the future” and so he took actions to conceal his actions from the DOJ. Craig’s attorneys have steadfastly contended that their client wasn’t acting as an agent of Ukraine and didn’t mislead the DOJ.
Skadden settled with the DOJ in January following a FARA investigation and agreed to pay $4.6 million — the same amount it was paid to produce its Manafort-connected report.
Craig has a long history in Democratic politics and served two Democratic presidents. During the Clinton administration, he led the team defending the president against impeachment efforts. Craig served as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel from 2009 to 2011.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who previously handled Manafort’s case, presided over the jury selection process for the Craig case Monday and told potential jurors about the case’s connections to Mueller two different times and asking the dozens of members of the D.C. jury pool whether they had “any knowledge or connection” to Mueller, Manafort, or Gates, according to the Washington Times. Jackson stressed that she was looking for jury members who “do not already know anything about the case.”
Craig faces one count that he misled investigators about the role he played in promoting and spreading a report that was put together at the behest of the Kremlin-linked government in Ukraine at the time and that seemed to whitewash and justify the country’s controversial prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko over allegations of corruption. Craig allegedly worked to shape international media coverage of the prosecution and to push the pro-Yanukovych narrative presented in the report that Skadden put together. Prosecutors said Craig falsified, concealed, and covered up facts that were within the jurisdiction of the DOJ’s FARA Unit.
Jackson dismissed a second charge, which alleged Craig lied to the DOJ about the nature and extent of his media contacts in the October 2013 letter he provided under FARA.
Craig’s trial for the first count is expected to last two weeks. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
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