Defense lawyers for former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig urged a federal judge Friday to bar prosecutors from telling jurors he played a role in convincing his former law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, to hire the daughter of Paul Manafort to land future business from the longtime Republican political consultant.
In a court filing, the defense lawyers dismissed Craig’s favor to Manafort as “spurious evidence,” and they said it would create a “massive distraction” for jurors as they consider whether Craig, a former Skadden partner in Washington, misled the government about his past work for the Russia-aligned government of Ukraine to avoid disclosing his work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
In 2012, Manafort arranged for Skadden to prepare a report on the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister and political rival of the country’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort, who would later serve as the Trump campaign’s chairman, was convicted last year on several charges related to his past foreign lobbying work and is now serving more than seven years in prison.
The new court filings, which include email correspondence and memos, offered a peek inside the hiring practices of one of the country’s highest-grossing law firms.
Craig proposed bringing Manafort’s daughter into Skadden for interviews, and he advocated for her employment in communication with partners in Washington and in New York. Manafort’s daughter had initially received an offer from Dewey & LeBoeuf, but it “evaporated” after the firm collapsed, Craig’s defense lawyers said Friday.
“The favor that Mr. Craig performed was the type of action that any partner at any law firm might have taken on behalf of a client or a professional colleague,” Craig’s defense team at Zuckerman Spaeder said. “With this evidence, however, the government implies that, to curry favor with Mr. Manafort and thereby potentially bring in new business for Skadden, Mr. Craig was willing to cross some line—ethical, moral, procedural—to assist Mr. Manafort.”
The defense lawyers added: “The government hopes that jurors, who are not familiar with law firm hiring practices and protocols, will find something improper or tawdry in Mr. Craig’s acts, and thereby be more apt to find that he did something unlawful in his interaction with FARA.”
Craig was a partner at Skadden from 2010 to April 2018, when he retired amid a criminal investigation into his advocacy for Ukraine. Craig was charged in Washington’s federal trial court in April with making false statements to the Justice Department about his lobbying for Ukraine. Craig has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin in August.
Craig’s bid to shut out evidence tied to his relationship with Manafort comes a week after federal prosecutors in Washington detailed the steps he’d taken in 2012 to arrange for Manafort’s daughter, Andrea Shand, to be hired as a Skadden associate. Shand left Skadden in October 2016.
“Just as Craig had a motive to persuade Skadden to hire Manafort’s relative in order to satisfy Manafort and continue to bring in his high-paying business, Craig had a motive to curry Manafort’s favor by reaching out to reporters as Manafort, Ukraine and Ukraine’s public relations firm had requested,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
Prosecutors said Manafort “was exceedingly upset” when his daughter was notified she would not receive a position at the firm “and emailed Craig angrily, accusing Skadden of a failure to ‘show appreciation for a $4MILLION gift account.’” It was an apparent reference to the firm’s work on the Tymoshenko report. (Skadden agreed in January to pay $4.6 million to resolve allegations that it violated FARA by failing to register as a foreign agency in connection with the preparation and rollout of the Tymoshenko report.)
After receiving the email, Craig drafted a memo outlining the strengths of Manafort’s daughter and noted that “perhaps one of the most important” reasons for hiring her was the “potential for significant future business.” In June 2012, Craig wrote a memo to Mitchell Ettinger, head of Skadden’s litigation group in Washington, in support of the firm’s hiring of Manafort’s daughter.
“I guess the final factor here involves future business. Her father, Paul Manafort, is thrilled with the firm’s performance for him and his clients, and he will likely refer significant business to us in the future,” Craig wrote in his memo to Ettinger. “That likelihood becomes a certainty if we have Andrea working here.”
Ettinger worked with Craig to draft the memo, which was then presented to other Skadden attorneys. Ettinger, for instance, urged Craig to emphasize the benefits Manafort’s daughter would bring on the “business front, which is the only factor that will matter to New York under these circumstances.”
“What matters, how much has been billed, what is the expected duration of the matters and what is the likelihood of future business and what kind,” Ettinger wrote in an email to Craig.
Later, Ettinger said in an email to Howard Ellin, a mergers and acquisitions partner in New York: “Her father, Paul Manafort, has direct business ties to the firm through Greg Craig. As you will see from the attached memo from Greg, he (and we) believe that extending an offer to Andrea is a win-win.” Ettinger also said in the email that Shand’s “presence increases our chances of securing additional business through Mr. Manafort. He has expressed gratitude to Greg for entertaining Andrea’s application.”
In their filing Friday, Craig’s lawyers broadly defended his advocacy for the hiring of Manafort’s daughter, who left Skadden in 2016.
“No one can dispute that, by introducing Andrea Manafort to his law firm’s management, Mr. Craig performed a favor for Mr. Manafort. But in performing that favor, Mr. Craig was not acting alone or in secret, nor did he violate some firm policy or practice,” the defense lawyers said. “The law firm as a whole became engaged in reviewing Ms. Manafort’s credentials and her prospects for success as an associate. The favor performed by Mr. Craig was unremarkable and benign; he crossed no lines in taking actions that benefitted not only Ms. Manafort but the law firm as well.”
Greg Craig’s new court filing is posted below: