Greg Craig Greg Craig. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ NLJ

A federal judge in Washington indicated Monday she would set an August trial date for Greg Craig, the former Obama White House counsel charged last week with misleading the U.S. Justice Department about his work for Ukraine as a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed to hold Craig’s trial in August after his lead defense lawyer, Zuckerman Spaeder partner William Taylor III, suggested scheduling it for that month.

“Your honor,” Taylor said, “to cut to the chase, we’d like this case to be resolved as soon as possible.”

A date as early as Aug. 5 was discussed but drew resistance from federal prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, who said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington was “hoping to get a little more time than that.” The brief hearing, held just days after Craig pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to the Justice Department, ended without Jackson setting a firm start date for the trial, which is expected to take up to two weeks.

At one point, as the lawyers and judge conferred about late summer travel schedules and other scheduling conflicts, Taylor told Jackson that his co-counsel William Murphy had plans to travel to Cooperstown, New York, home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, over Labor Day weekend. Murphy stood up to say the trip was an “annual pilgrimage.”

“Alright,” Jackson replied, “baseball’s important.” She added: “I’d hope by then the jury has the case.”

Craig made an initial appearance before a magistrate judge last week after being charged with making false and misleading statements to the Justice Department concerning his past work for the Russia-aligned government of Ukraine.

Prosecutors have alleged that, in response to inquiries from the Justice Department, Craig lied and omitted information about his work in 2012 preparing a report on the prosecution of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival of the country’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.

According to prosecutors, Craig made false and misleading statements about his interactions with the media in the rollout of the report, in part to avoid registering as an agent for Ukraine under a U.S. lobbying disclosure law.

Craig has adamantly denied for months that he misled U.S. authorities and has argued that his work did not fall under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an 80-year-old law requiring the disclosure of U.S.-based lobbying for foreign governments and other overseas interests.

“This prosecution is unprecedented and unjustified. I am confident that both the judge and the jury will agree with me,” Craig said in a video that he posted last week on YouTube.

On Monday, in his first appearance before Jackson since the indictment, Taylor reiterated his contention that Craig is “entirely innocent.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

At the conclusion of Monday’s hearing, Jackson relaxed travel restrictions on Craig, allowing him to venture beyond the Washington metro area after providing pretrial services with at least two days’ notice. Jackson also ordered Craig to surrender his passport but left open the possibility that she would approve international travel.

Taylor, citing Craig’s past service in the Clinton and Obama administrations, said travel restrictions were unnecessary, telling Jackson there was “no possibility that Greg Craig is not going to appear for trial in this case.” Craig has plans to travel abroad on Sept. 9, lawyers said Monday.

“That’s reason to make sure we get started in mid-August,” Jackson said.

 

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