The last time reporters and photographers scrambled after the Washington power lawyer Greg Craig as he entered the federal courthouse blocks from the Capitol, he was shepherding a high-profile defendant — Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright — to face charges of lying in a leak investigation.
On Monday, the press scrum will again descend on the former Obama White House counsel as he makes his way into U.S. District Court, but the cameras will be pointed squarely at him. This time, Craig’s the one in the defendant’s chair, set to face trial on a felony charge of lying to and misleading Justice Department officials about his work with Paul Manafort for Ukraine’s government.
Craig, 74, isn’t the only veteran of the Washington establishment to play a starring role in the two cases. Key to both narratives is a prominent and well-connected journalist: New York Times correspondent David Sanger.
The centerpiece of the government’s case against Craig involves his delivery to Sanger on Dec. 11, 2012, of a 186-page report that Craig and other lawyers at Skadden Arps had worked on for months examining Ukraine’s prosecution and conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on corruption charges.
U.S. prosecutors say that when Craig reached out to Sanger, the longtime D.C. lawyer was using his personal connections to kick off a carefully choreographed public relations plan designed to maximize the political benefit of the report for Ukraine’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych. In doing so, Craig was violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act because he had never registered as an agent for Ukraine, prosecutors allege.
Craig’s defense contends that in his dealings with Sanger, Craig wasn’t really acting for his client, but was trying to protect himself and his law firm. Craig’s lawyers and allies say that in the months leading up to release of the report, Manafort and others close to Yanukovych made plain that they were planning to spin the review as a vindication for the Ukrainian government and an endorsement of the fairness of Tymoshenko’s trial.
Craig’s prosecution comes amid a broad effort by the Justice Department to step up enforcement of FARA, but his allies suggest that he’s being singled out because of the case’s connections to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and to Manafort.
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