WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Obama administration White House counsel Greg Craig expects to be charged in a foreign lobbying investigation spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, his lawyers said Wednesday.
"Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge and the government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion," the attorneys, William Taylor and William Murphy, said in a statement.
The investigation into Craig comes as the Justice Department steps up efforts to crack down on unregistered foreign lobbying and consulting. Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating two prominent Washington lobbying firms in a similar probe, and Justice Department officials in Washington have signaled an increased willingness to prosecute people who they believe intentionally conceal their lobbying work from the federal government.
The scrutiny of Craig stems from an investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. If filed, the charges would come about three months after Craig’s former law firm agreed to pay more than $4.6 million and publicly acknowledge that it failed to report its work for the Ukrainian government. The civil settlement with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP laid much of the blame for the firm’s conduct on Craig, who was a senior partner.
Craig's lawyers did not say why they expect him to be charged. They said federal prosecutors in New York had declined charges, but they expected an indictment to be brought by the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington at the request of the Justice Department's national security division.
Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act, the statute at issue in the settlement, is a decades-old law meant to allow Americans to know when foreign entities are trying to influence public opinion or policymakers. The law, enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the United States, requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they advocate, lobby or perform public relations work in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.
The Justice Department has stepped up criminal enforcement of the law, bringing several high-profile prosecutions in the last year, including several related to Mueller's probe. That includes a case against Manafort, who was recently sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Craig is a prominent Washington attorney and was the first White House counsel to former President Barack Obama. In private practice, his clients have included former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and James Cartwright, the former vice chairman to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was charged in a leaks investigation.
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