US & Canada

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

Former chief White House counsel Greg Craig Image copyright Getty Images

A former Obama White House counsel has been found not guilty of lying to officials and concealing information about his lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

The case against Gregory Craig arose from the US investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors said his 2012 lobbying was linked to ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's political work in Ukraine.

Mr Craig was the only appointee of a Democratic administration charged as a result of Robert Mueller's inquiry.

Jurors deliberated for less than a day before choosing to acquit the 74-year-old lobbyist, who also had served as impeachment counsel to former President Bill Clinton.

Mr Craig had been accused of falsifying and concealing work for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and was facing up to five years in prison.

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Americans are required to register with the US Department of Justice if they do any advocacy work on behalf of a foreign government.

"The jury reached the only verdict it could possibly reach," his lawyer William Taylor told reporters after the trial.

"It's a tragedy. It's a disgrace. We're glad it's over," he continued.

Lobbyists may now rest easier

Analysis by Tara McKelvey, BBC Washington

Many lobbyists who work for foreign governments in Washington feel as though they have dodged a bullet.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara), a law that dates back to 1938 and was designed to ferret out pro-Nazi propaganda, they are required to disclose work they do on behalf of foreign governments.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller revived the law through his investigation, and several of President Trump's former associates were prosecuted under it.

Mr Craig was accused not of violating the law but of deceiving federal officials who enforce it. The law itself has been criticised for its ambiguous language, and led jurors to acquit him.

The government lawyers failed to make a convincing argument in his case, and the verdict makes one thing clear: it's tough to prosecute individuals under the act or for related violations.

Lobbyists who earn money from foreign governments are still required to file the paperwork, but now they will rest a bit easier.

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