For lawyers at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, one paragraph undoubtedly stood out in Monday’s blockbuster 31-page indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his protege Rick Gates.
In paragraph 22, prosecutors allege that Manafort and Gates used offshore accounts to pay $4 million for a government-commissioned report about the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The indictment doesn’t include the law firm’s name, but Skadden has previously been identified as the firm that produced the report, which critics have described as justifying the jailing of Tymoshenko by her political rival and Manafort’s then-client, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The New York Times reported last month that Skadden’s work was one part of Manafort’s strategy to shield Yanukovych from international condemnation. And the indictment’s reference to the Tymoshenko report and Skadden didn’t go unnoticed on Twitter on Monday.
Skadden Arps, huge DC law firm, could face hard questions given news that it appears to have secretly taken $4 mil from Manafort pic.twitter.com/iekmFt59F2
— Sarah Westwood (@sarahcwestwood) October 30, 2017
A spokeswoman for Skadden did not return a call for this story.
In a statement to the Times in September, Skadden said it was retained by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice as an independent consultant on the rule of law, to write a report about whether the prosecution, trial, conviction and sentencing of Tymoshenko applied Western standards of due process.
Skadden also defended its report, saying it concluded that Tymoshenko was denied basic rights under Western legal standards and that, in the West, she would receive a new trial.
Jim Slattery, strategic counsel at Washington, D.C.-based Wiley Rein, who worked in Washington to secure the release of Tymoshenko in Ukraine, acknowledged that work by Skadden and others tied to Manafort has now turned toxic. ”I don’t like to pile on people when they are down, but all of these people probably wish [they'd] never touched these things.” Slattery noted that news accounts identified Tony Podesta, the founder of the Podesta Group whose firm had also worked on the Yanukovych lobbying spearheaded by Manafort, was under investigation too and had stepped down from his firm Monday.
The Skadden connection in the Manafort indictment has an upside for President Donald Trump boosters in a bad day generally for his administration, because it also points to ties between Manafort and the Obama administration. According to the Times, Ukrainian prosecutors have requested that the U.S. Department of Justice question Manafort and a Skadden lawyer involved in the Tymoshenko report, Gregory Craig, who had served as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel.
Craig did not respond to a request for comment.