US & Canada

Ex-Obama aide Greg Craig charged in Mueller-related investigation

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets White House counsel Gregory Craig (L) during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House January 21, 2009 in Washington. Image copyright Alex Wong/Getty Images

A former Obama White House counsel has been charged by a grand jury with lying to officials and concealing information about his lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

The case against Gregory Craig, 74, arose from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

His lobbying was allegedly linked to ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's political efforts in Ukraine.

Lawyers for Mr Craig denied the charges before they were filed.

The charges against Mr Craig claim he lied to federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice about his foreign lobbying efforts and concealed information about his private work in Ukraine for the Russian-backed government.

If convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in jail for each count along with over $250,000 (£191,000) in fines.

Under US law, all lobbyists for foreign governments must register with the department.

Mr Craig's work in the Ukraine happened after his year-long tenure with the Obama administration, while he was a senior partner at the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm.

His 2012 project in Ukraine was allegedly a part of Manafort's illegal lobbying efforts.

The New York Times reported the project was directed to the firm by Manafort, who was a political consultant in the region at the time.

Manafort was the first former Trump aide to be arrested in the special counsel's investigation, though his charges related only to his consulting in Ukraine. In March, he was jailed on counts of fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The US attorney's office in Washington DC has charged Mr Craig. The case was referred to Department of Justice officials by the special counsel.

Mr Craig has not been charged with violating foreign lobbying laws, only for making false and misleading statements, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that despite knowing federal requirements, Mr Craig did not want to register as a lobbyist for Ukraine "because he believed doing so could prevent him or others at the Law Firm from taking positions in the federal government in the future".

According to the indictment, Mr Craig withheld information regarding his media contacts and made false statements in documents given to the attorney general with regards to US foreign lobbying law.

In January, the Skadden firm paid the Department of Justice $4.6m as a part of a settlement after admitting to misleading federal officials about work in Ukraine. Mr Craig was not named in the settlement.

Ahead of the charges being announced, Mr Craig's lawyers insisted he was not guilty.

"The government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion," the attorneys said in a statement to US media.

Mr Craig's team has also noted that his work had been investigated before by the Southern District of New York, but no charges came out of the inquiry.

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