The defense lawyers for Gregory Craig, a former Obama White House counsel and Big Law partner in Washington, are pushing back against prosecutors and demanding the government provide more details about allegations that he lied about his advocacy for the government of Ukraine.
Craig, a former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner in Washington, has pleaded not guilty to charges he misled the Justice Department to avoid registering as a foreign agent in connection with his past work for Ukraine. He is represented by a team from Zuckerman Spaeder. Craig retired from Skadden last year as the criminal investigation was unfolding.
Central to the government’s case is Craig’s role in the preparation of a report, in 2012, on the Ukrainian government’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and political rival of the country’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.
Tuesday’s court filing asks U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia to force the government to provide with greater particularity details about the indictment. The filing marked the first significant glimpse of how Craig plans to challenge prosecutors. Craig’s lawyers also said they planned soon to file papers asking Jackson to dismiss the indictment.
“When it comes time to identifying the actual false or misleading statements, the indictment is vague, cryptic, and confusing,” Craig’s lawyers, including William Taylor III and William Murphy, said in the new filing.
Craig’s lawyers contend he was not required to disclose that work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, an 80-year-old law requiring the disclosure of lobbying work carried out in the United States for foreign governments and other overseas interests. The law has played an outsized role in prosecutions stemming from the special counsel’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“Mr. Craig contends that neither he nor his law firm engaged in any conduct that required FARA registration, and that he did not mislead the FARA Unit in any way,” Craig’s lawyers wrote in a court filing Tuesday. “In fact, Mr. Craig and his law firm did not register under FARA because they believed, after careful consideration of the issue, that the firm’s work for Ukraine did not require registration.”
Prosecutors said in charging documents that the “purpose of FARA is to prevent covert influence by foreign principals. Proper registration under the statute allows the U.S. government and the American people to evaluate the statements and activities of individuals who are serving as agents of foreign principals.”
The defense team also hammered at the fact the government allegedly does not have recordings or other notes from key meetings involving Craig and lawyers from the Justice Department’s FARA unit.
“The indictment was prepared many years after the events in question, and memories have faded. The government has no written record to elucidate the allegations of false oral statements—or perhaps to dismantle them—and depends entirely upon the recollections of participants that are vague, incomplete and unreliable,” Craig’s lawyers said in the new court filing. “Despite the self-evident risk of mistake and misremembering, the government pursues criminal charges alleging that Mr. Craig lied to the FARA unit.”
Craig’s lawyers said the indictment “jumbles allegations about written statements together with inferences about oral representations. There is no itemization of what statements are alleged to be false as opposed to those alleged to be misleading.”
Craig’s indictment came just months after Skadden reached a $4.6 million settlement with the Justice Department resolving claims that the firm failed to register under FARA. As part of the settlement, Skadden registered retroactively as a foreign agent.
Last week, federal prosecutors revealed that they had agreed to not offer Skadden’s settlement as evidence at Craig’s trial.
Mike Scarcella contributed reporting from Washington.