News & Politics

Clinton, Obama Attorney Greg Craig Snagged in Mueller Probe

Attorney Greg Craig is seen prior to a court appearance for former presidential candidate John Edwards in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, June 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Former Obama White House counsel and Clinton impeachment attorney Greg Craig may soon be indicted by the Justice Department for engaging in illegal unregistered overseas lobbying, Fox News reported Tuesday. Craig appears to have been caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

If charged, Craig would be the first Democrat to face prosecution in Mueller’s Russia probe, according to Fox.

The case centers on lobbying work that Craig performed in 2012 for the Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, while Craig was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Craig allegedly never registered as a foreign agent under a U.S. law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires lobbyists to declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders, governments or their political parties.

FARA violations were only rarely prosecuted until Mueller took aim at Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, for his lobbying work in Ukraine. Manafort, who connected Craig with Yanukovych, has been convicted on numerous bank and tax fraud charges, and was separately accused of FARA violations as well. He was sentenced earlier this month to approximately seven years in prison.

Craig left Skadden last April after Alex van der Zwaan, who had been a lawyer in the firm’s London office, pleaded guilty to lying to prosecutors and the FBI about communications involving Skadden’s work for Yanukovych, whose party was paying Paul Manafort and Rich Gates.

Skadden agreed to cooperate with the DOJ’s registration requirements in January, and paid $4.6 million in a settlement to avoid criminal prosecution.

“We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again,” the firm said in a statement.

As with Manafort’s case, there is no indication that Craig improperly colluded with a foreign government while he was serving in any official capacity. Craig worked as White House Counsel from 2009 to 2010, and previously worked in the Clinton administration on impeachment matters.

During the Clinton years, Craig was involved in a plethora of Clinton scandals, including the violent Florida government raid in 2000 that resulted in young Elian Gonzalez being sent back to Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

As the lawyer for Elian Gonzalez’s father, Craig worked with the communist Cuban government by killing an agreement “to transfer custody of Elian to his father, as long as [Elian’s family from Miami] could live with the boy and his father in an environment free of U.S. and Cuban officials.”

Pre-Clinton and Obama, Craig was involved in other notorious cases.

In the early 1980s, [Craig] was an attorney for John Hinckley, the man who shot President Reagan and three others. Craig helped put together an insanity defense that led to Hinckley’s acquittal. Nine years later, he advised Ted Kennedy in the Palm Beach rape case involving the senator and his nephew, William Kennedy Smith.

… Craig orchestrated a 1984 [Senate] hearing for Kennedy on alleged human-rights abuses committed by Nicaragua’s rebels, the Contras. He worked with groups closely tied to the Sandinista regime to find witnesses for the forum, which led to a round of anti-contra news coverage in the U.S.

Mueller referred the Craig case to New York federal prosecutors, as it fell outside his mandate. New York prosecutors subsequently forwarded the case to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., where a final decision on charges is reportedly imminent.

According to Fox, New York prosecutors are also mulling charges against another Clinton crony, Tony Podesta.

In September, Manafort admitted to directing two firms — Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group — to lobby in the U.S. on behalf of a Ukrainian political party and Ukraine’s government, then led by Yanukovych, Manafort’s longtime political patron.

Mercury and Podesta, which were paid a combined $2 million on the project, then registered under a less stringent lobbying law that doesn’t require as much public disclosure as FARA.

Both firms have said they registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, rather than FARA, on the advice of lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Craig’s former firm. But in court papers, Mueller’s prosecutors suggested the firms were aware they were working on Ukraine’s behalf.

The Podesta case has reportedly not yet been moved to the DOJ, but in January, there was “a flurry of new activity” as “federal prosecutors began systematically interviewing witnesses and contacting lawyers to schedule additional questioning related to the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs.”

Trump and his allies have frequently questioned why Tony Podesta, who was guilty of many of the same things as Manafort, was never arrested and charged.