Lawyer Blasts Charges on Tymoshenko Report as Flawed

Greg Craig, left, arrives ahead of his arraignment at federal court in Washington on April 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Arguing that his indictment on false statements is flawed, ex-Obama counsel Greg Craig pushed Monday for a speedy trial.

“We were hoping to get this case tried in August,” William Taylor III, an attorney for the 74-year-old Craig, said this morning in court.

Craig, who served as White House counsel from 2009 to 2010 to then-President Barack Obama, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of lying and conspiring to lie the federal government to avoid registering as a foreign agent.

The charges stem from Craig’s private-sector work in 2012 while he was employed at the law firm Skadden Arps.

According to the indictment, Craig tipped off reporters to a report intended to quell public backlash against the Ukraine over its jailing of Orange Revolution leader Tymoshenko.

Such promotion allegedly required Craig to register as an agent of Ukraine, but the statute of limitations for charges under the Foreign Agents Registration Act has expired. U.S. prosecutors contend that Skadden Arps was paid more than $4 million for the report, but that Craig lied to investigators here about it in 2013.

On Monday, attorney Taylor said Craig will move to dismiss on  multiple grounds, including that the government fails to “charge a crime.”

Estimating that the motion will come by May 15, Taylor said the government’s charging theory “has been rejected by this circuit.”

Craig resigned from his post as a Skadden Arps partner last April. Though his indictment does not specifically name Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman to President Donald Trump is the lobbyist believed to have hatched the idea for the Skadden Arps report on Tymoshenko.

Manafort was a lobbyist for a pro-Russia political party in the Ukraine and was convicted of multiple financial crimes tied to that work. 

While Craig’s prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, it was spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson — the same judge who handled Manafort’s prosecution in Washington, D.C. — declined to set an exact date but said Monday she could schedule an August trial.

The trial will likely take about two weeks, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez.

After Monday’s status conference, Jackson ordered Craig to surrender his passport to pretrial services. Craig must notify pretrial services two days before any domestic travel, and must file a motion with the court if he wants to travel internationally prior to his trial.

Jackson noted public interest in the case and instructed the parties to file briefs by April 23 on whether she should impose a gag order, like the one issued in Manafort’s case barring the parties from speaking publicly about it.

“I haven’t really thought through whether it’s necessary in this case,” she said.

Taylor meanwhile said his client understands and will comply with the local rules about extrajudicial statements.

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