Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Ex-Obama White House counsel caught in Mueller dragnet

Ex-Obama White House counsel caught in Mueller dragnet

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in USA politics is over, but prosecutors are investigating two prominent Washington lobbyists for their work for the former pro-Russian government of Ukraine, according to three sources close to the probe.

Putting the Manafort-Craig connection aside, it's worth noting that Alex van der Zwaan, another Skadden associate, pled guilty to lying to investigators a year ago about the nature of his talks with former Trump aide Rick Gates.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: Greg Craig, former White House counsel under former U.S. President Barack Obama, arrives at U.S. District Court for his arraignment April 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. Yesterday, federal prosecutors charged Craig with making false statements to the Department of Justice in connection with his work at Skadden.

If convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in jail for each count along with over $250,000 (£191,000) in fines. The special counsel interviewed Craig in 2017 about the kind of work he did when he was a senior partner at the law firm Skadden Arps, during which, he supposedly lied. Manafort is now facing several years in prison for obstructing justice and committing tax and bank fraud connected to his own undisclosed foreign lobbying. Tymoshenko was a political opponent of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was a longtime Manafort patron. Craig is the first prominent Democrat to be indicted in a case that stemmed from Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. In March, he was jailed on counts of fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. U.S. Attorney General William Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller's findings next week.

Patten's case has sparked interest in Washington amid a widening crackdown by the Justice Department on undisclosed lobbying.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in September to, among other charges, serving as an unregistered foreign agent and giving false and misleading statements under the FARA statute. The charges 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 register with the government for its work for the Ukraine.

Tony Podesta disclosed his lobbying work for a Brussels-based think tank, the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, to Congress. Mr Craig was not named in the settlement.

A spokesperson for Weber and for Mercury declined to comment. Federal prosecutors in NY have been investigating two prominent Washington lobbying firms in a similar probe, and Justice Department officials in Washington have been increasingly willing to prosecute people who they believe intentionally hide their lobbying work from the federal government.

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

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