Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig indicted

/ CBS/AP

Former Obama administration White House counsel Greg Craig has been indicted by the Department of Justice with making false statements and concealing material information about his activities on behalf of Ukraine. Lawyers for Craig expected their client to be charged in a foreign lobbying investigation spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, aruging in a statement that Craig "is not guilty of any charge and the government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion."

Craig, 74, was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for willfully falsifying and concealing material facts from the National Security Division's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit and for making false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit, according to a release by the DOJ. The maximum penalties for the charged offenses are, respectively, five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and five years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The investigation into Craig comes as the Justice Department is cracking 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 been increasingly willing to prosecute people who they believe intentionally conceal their lobbying work from the federal government.

Trending News

"This case was thoroughly investigated by the SDNY and that office decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Craig. We expect an indictment by the DC US Attorney's Office at the request of the National Security Division. 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 wrote.

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 register with the government for its work for the Ukraine.

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.

The lawyers' assertion could not be confirmed Wednesday evening. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment.

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 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was charged in a leaks investigation.

The work that drew the Justice Department's attention occurred in 2012 when Craig and Skadden were hired by the Ukrainian government to compile a report on the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister. Tymoshenko was a political opponent of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was a longtime Manafort patron.

The report was billed as independent, and while critical in some ways of Tymoshenko's trial, critics have said it whitewashed a politically motivated prosecution.

In its settlement earlier this year, Skadden acknowledged it participated in a public relations campaign for the report and should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, because of it. The firm also acknowledged it had been paid $4.6 million for the report and not just $12,000, as the Ukrainian government had said at the time.

The settlement painted an unflattering picture of Craig's conduct.

In 2012 and 2013, the firm's work attracted the attention of the Justice Department, which sought to determine whether the firm should register under FARA. But according to the settlement, a senior partner matching Craig's description made several "false and misleading" statements to the government, allowing the firm to avoid registration.

In the statement Wednesday, Craig's lawyers denied that he lied to the government or his firm. They acknowledged that Craig spoke to reporters about the report but denied it was part of a public relations campaign that would run afoul of FARA.

"Mr. Craig repeatedly refused requests that he participate in Ukraine's media and lobbying campaign to promote the Tymoshenko Report," they wrote.

They said he spoke to reporters at The New York Times about the report to "make certain that the Times would accurately summarize the report's criticisms of the Tymoshenko trial and not rely on misinformation from Ukraine and its representatives."

FARA 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.

In the last few years, the Justice Department has brought several high-profile prosecutions involving FARA. That includes a case against Manafort, who was recently sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

First published on April 11, 2019 / 6:54 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Trump greets veterans after meeting with South Korean president

President Trump told reporters he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again

1M ago

Senate panel examines how to crack down on robocalls

Committee chair John Thune said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws

updated 9M ago

Congress considers criminal penalties for robocalls

Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws on illegal spam calls.

updated 2M ago 01:41

Trump pounces on Barr's "spying" claim

Pouncing on comments made by Attorney General William Barr Wednesday, President Trump claimed that there was absolutely "illegal spying" on his 2016 presidential campaign. Politico White House reporer Gabby Orr spoke to CBSN about Barr's claims, which he said he has no evidence to back up.

updated 6M ago 06:06

American workers testing positive for drug use climbs to 14-year high

Illicit substance use is at its highest since 2004, with marijuana the most commonly detected drug, an analysis finds

50M ago

Trump greets veterans after meeting with South Korean president

President Trump told reporters he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again

1M ago

Senate panel examines how to crack down on robocalls

Committee chair John Thune said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws

updated 9M ago

Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg lead 2020 Democrats in Iowa poll

The former vice president leads Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg

1H ago

South Korean president visits White House

"I believe North Korea has tremendous potential," President Trump said in the Oval Office

1H ago

Jay Inslee on decriminalizing mushrooms, smoking pot in the 60's

"It's time for the nation to legalize marijuana," said Inslee

2H ago

Israeli spacecraft closes in on moon landing

Israel's privately-funded Beresheet lander is the first non-superpower spacecraft to fly to the moon

1H ago

Ex-pope on sex abuse scandal, "homosexual cliques" in seminaries

Retired Pope Benedict XVI also claims in essay "homosexual cliques" once existed in seminaries

1H ago

First phase of India's election begins

Phase one of India's general election begins today. Voters will choose a prime minister and parliamentary representatives. Former U.S. Ambassador to India Tim Roemer joins CBSN to tell us what is at stake.

1H ago 08:27

Pamela Anderson lashes out at "devils and liars" after Assange arrest

"I am in shock," she tweeted following the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder

2H ago

Russia lets U.S. fund manager out of prison, but business community rattled

American investment fund manager Michael Calvey moved to house arrest, but his trial goes on, and U.S. investors in a key market are in "shock"

3H ago

Dominic West on new "Les Mis" adaptation, equal pay and his Irish castle

"The Affair" star is taking on the role of Jean Valjean in a new adaptation of the classic novel "Les Misérables"

26M ago

Nipsey Hussle "Celebration of Life" memorial service – live updates

The late rapper and community figure is being honored at the Staples Center in Los Angeles

updated 8M ago

"Meghan and Harry Plus One" to look back on whirlwind year for royal couple

Gayle King to anchor one-hour special May 17 marking the one-year anniversary of the royal couple's marriage and the birth of their first child

17H ago

Full-length trailer for "The Lion King" is released

The trailer reveals the astonishing CGI remake of the classic 1994 Disney movie

21H ago

Memorial service for Nipsey Hussle to be held in L.A.

The Grammy-nominated rapper will be honored on Thursday in Los Angeles

2H ago

Senate panel examines how to crack down on robocalls

Committee chair John Thune said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws

updated 9M ago

Amazon workers are listening to what you tell Alexa

Thousands of the company's employees listen to customer voice recordings, ostensibly to build a better "smart" speaker

2H ago

Facebook to combat false and harmful info with new features

It's limiting visibility of links that are more prominent on Facebook than elsewhere and adding more expert fact checkers

23H ago

Ethical challenges of artificial intelligence

CNET senior producer Dan Patterson reports on some of the technological and ethical challenges facing the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence.

21H ago 03:08

New app aspires to be the Airbnb of parking

ParkStash connects drivers looking for a parking spot with homeowners and businesses with space for their wheels

Apr 10

Israeli spacecraft closes in on moon landing

Israel's privately-funded Beresheet lander is the first non-superpower spacecraft to fly to the moon

1H ago

First black hole image reveals cosmic place of no return: "Our jaws dropped"

Black holes are the universe's most powerful vacuum, inhaling everything

7H ago

Astronomers photograph black hole for first time

Two hundred researchers used a global network of telescopes to capture the iconic image of a black hole. CBSN spoke to physicist Dr. Michio Kaku about the significance of the photo which shows a black hole 55 million light-years away from Earth.

16H ago 04:36

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch back on tap

A year after its maiden flight, the Falcon Heavy aims to carry an Arabsat communications satelllite into orbit

5H ago

First black hole picture revealed

Scientists on Wednesday showed off the first picture of a black hole. Its gravity is so powerful, nothing escapes, not even light. Mark Strassmann explains.

16H ago 02:25

New York measles outbreak spreads to more counties

Measles has spread to two more counties following the spike in infections in Rockland County and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn

2H ago

Pregnancy apps may share intimate data

Drew Harwell, a national technology reporter for the Washington Post, joined CBSN to talk about privacy on pregnancy-tracking apps.

2H ago 04:33

Insulin makers grilled on price surges

Pressure from Congress appears to be spurring the pharmaceutical industry to lower prescription drug prices for some patients. One of the main producers of insulin, Sanofi, said it will cap the cost of the life-saving drug for diabetics. Some could save thousands of dollars a year. Anna Werner reports.

6H ago 03:24

Patients rationing insulin amid rising prices

Drug industry executives faced tough questions Wednesday from Congress over the rising cost of insulin. It's nearly doubled in the last five years, forcing some diabetics to ration the drug. Anna Werner reports.

18H ago 02:10

"People are dying": Insulin being rationed as drug prices rise

A recent study found one in four patients reported "cost-related underuse"

20H ago

Jeff Bezos to meet with feds over claims of National Enquirer blackmail

The billionaire will meet with prosecutors over his claim the tabloid tried to blackmail him over intimate texts, photos

13M ago

Senate panel examines how to crack down on robocalls

Committee chair John Thune said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws

updated 9M ago

American workers testing positive for drug use climbs to 14-year high

Illicit substance use is at its highest since 2004, with marijuana the most commonly detected drug, an analysis finds

50M ago

For small businesses, the right payroll system can deliver big benefits

Setting up a proper payroll system can spell the difference between success and failure for small business owners

2H ago

Russia lets U.S. fund manager out of prison, but business community rattled

American investment fund manager Michael Calvey moved to house arrest, but his trial goes on, and U.S. investors in a key market are in "shock"

3H ago

Crime

Arrest announced in Louisiana church arsons

Louisiana state Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning announced the arrest of Holden Matthews, 21, in the arson fires of three historically black churches.

1H ago 03:07

Authorities eyeing church fire suspect's interest in "black metal" music

Authorities said Thursday all three church fires were intentionally set, and all have been linked to one suspect

updated 18M ago

Deputy's son charged in connection with fires at black churches

Police arrested the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff in connection to fires at three historically black churches in one Louisiana Parish in just 10 days

3H ago

Arrest made in fires at three black churches in Louisiana

St. Mary's pastor Kyle Sylvester said "we can't let this setback stop us from doing what God initially called us to do"

15H ago

Man who found his long-missing mom's remains testifies

Aaron Fraser was 3 when his mother, Bonnie Haim, vanished in 1993; he told a detective, "Daddy hurt Mommy"

20H ago

Israeli spacecraft closes in on moon landing

Israel's privately-funded Beresheet lander is the first non-superpower spacecraft to fly to the moon

1H ago

First black hole image reveals cosmic place of no return: "Our jaws dropped"

Black holes are the universe's most powerful vacuum, inhaling everything

7H ago

Astronomers photograph black hole for first time

Two hundred researchers used a global network of telescopes to capture the iconic image of a black hole. CBSN spoke to physicist Dr. Michio Kaku about the significance of the photo which shows a black hole 55 million light-years away from Earth.

16H ago 04:36

SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch back on tap

A year after its maiden flight, the Falcon Heavy aims to carry an Arabsat communications satelllite into orbit

5H ago

Scientists unveil first image of black hole in all its dark glory

In an historic observation, a globe-spanning virtual telescope has directly imaged a black hole's shadow

17H ago

The folk art of Bill Traylor

Born into slavery, the self-taught painter who began his artistic life in his 80s is the focus of a retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Apr 7 24 photos

America's surprising food recalls

What's in your fridge? Just maybe salmonella, E. coli – and a dead bat?

Apr 5 36 photos

The highest-paid U.S. athletes in 2019, ranked

Here's the definitive list of the athletes who earn the most money in the NBA, NFL and MLB

Apr 2 49 photos

New on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

Shows and movies you'll want to stream soon

Mar 26 35 photos

Anti-Brexit march: Hundreds of thousands in London demand new vote

EU supporters hold a "People's Vote" march demanding a new referendum, as Prime Minister Theresa May faces increasing pressure to resign

Mar 23 22 photos

Popular

Payroll system can deliver big benefits

For a small business, payroll can be the biggest expense and also the greatest liability. IRC Wealth Strategies CEO David Ragland joined CBSN to discuss how to best set up payroll as well as how to classify employees and keep accurate financial records.

3H ago 04:07

Congress considers criminal penalties for robocalls

Senator John Thune, R-South Dakota, said enforcement and prosecution is "necessary and appropriate" for those who knowingly flout laws on illegal spam calls.

updated 2M ago 01:41

Trump pounces on Barr's "spying" claim

Pouncing on comments made by Attorney General William Barr Wednesday, President Trump claimed that there was absolutely "illegal spying" on his 2016 presidential campaign. Politico White House reporer Gabby Orr spoke to CBSN about Barr's claims, which he said he has no evidence to back up.

updated 6M ago 06:06

Border business: Inside immigration

CBSN Originals presents a documentary special about the cottage industry that's built up across Central America to get migrants to the U.S. border.

Mar 29 38:03

Trump talks Kim Jong Un, Assange arrest

"I believe North Korea has tremendous potential," President Trump said Thursday during a visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-In. He later said he "doesn't know anything about WikiLeaks in light of the arrest of its founder, Julian Assange. Watch his remarks.

updated 6M ago 12:00