DC Power Broker’s Acquittal Shows Partisan Zealotry At Trump ‘Justice’ Department


Last week's prompt acquittal by a federal jury of Democratic power broker Gregory Craig from a false statement charge shows the partisan decision-making under the corrupt Trump Attorney General William Barr.

The Washington, DC, jury acquitted Craig, shown at right, in just over four hours Wednesday following a three-week trial stemming from a seldom-enforced law requiring “foreign agents” to register.

greg craig smiling cropped headshot 9 4 19 IMG 6685In a prosecution launched on April 11 following the Republican Barr’s installation in February, the Attorney General’s team claimed Craig made a false statement to investigators probing his failure to register as a foreign lobbyist seven years ago for Ukrainian interests.

This discretionary prosecution reportedly raised internal questions at the time among Justice Department prosecutors on whether a conviction was possible. The Republican leadership proceeded anyway, with the effect of tainting a prominent Democrat in special counsel investigations that previously had implicated only Republican officials and former officials.

Such internal decisions have career-ending and personal consequences for the targets, even experienced and eminent ones.

As Craig, a former top legal advisor to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, stood up to hear the jury verdict on Sept. 4, his thick white hair contrasted sharply with his reddened face. If convicted he faced a potential prison sentence of five years.

When the "not guilty" verdict was announced, the veteran litigator appeared near tears and he audibly sniffled. That illustrated once again to this observer the tension and drama inherent in a major criminal trial. Craig then hugged members of his defense team and such friends as former law partner David Kendall, Craig’s co-counsel in defending Clinton from impeachment charges two decades ago.

As shown by the Justice Integrity Project photos for this column, Craig was smiling by the time of his brief news conference outside the court. He thanked jurors for their service and his lawyers, friends and family for their support.

Moments earlier, defense counsel William Taylor Jr. had said Craig had been hounded by prosecutors. “The question that you need to ask,” Taylor told reporters, “is not why this jury acquitted Mr. Craig but why the Department of Justice brought this case against an innocent man in the first place.”

“Why, after the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York rejected this prosecution, did this Department of Justice decide it had to hound this man and his family without any evidence and without any purpose,” the defense lawyer asked. “It’s a tragedy. It’s a disgrace. I’m glad it’s over.”

greg craig lawyers 9 4 19 cropped IMG 6681

Washington attorney Gregory Craig, center, holds a brief news conference surrounded by his lawyers on Sept. 4 following his acquittal on a false statement charge in the federal district court in Washington, DC (Justice Integrity Project photo).

A juror made similar comments to reporters at an impromptu press conference shortly after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson thanked the jurors and dismissed them.

“I just could not understand why so many resources of the government were put into this when, in fact, actually the republic itself is at risk,” said the juror, who described himself as age 60 and his profession as working in the health field.

The juror gave his name but we refrain from using it in this column. In our view, the stakes have become too high to subject an ordinary American citizen without a full briefing as warning to the risks involved in reporting criticism of Trump, Barr and their out-of-control Justice Department and cult-like supporters, some of them angry, armed and supportive of police state tactics.

Horrifying Background

Another facet of the juror’s question about how such a prosecution could occur is that arch-conservative Barr has spent much of his public career since the mid-1970s — first as a CIA officer and then as a top federal lawyer in the Reagan-Bush administrations — covering up the horrid crimes of his GOP political patrons, their henchmen and their corrupt cronies.

The flip side of such partisanship is undertaking dubious prosecutions against Democrats and other perceived opponents of Barr’s patrons in patterns of gross misconduct by the so-called “Justice Department” that we’ve been documenting ever since the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project was founded nearly a decade ago.

Since then, we have documented highly unfair federal political prosecutions against such political leaders as former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (a Democrat later represented by Craig pro bono) and Republicans Ted Stevens, the late Alaskan U.S. senator, and former Bush Homeland Security Department cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik, who had been New York City police chief during the 9/11 attack. We also opposed the confirmation of Democrat Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, based on concerns about her civil rights record at the Justice Department.

djt william barr doj photo march 2019We reported that continuing pattern here last May in Trump Found His Roy Cohn In Deep State Fixer Bill Barr. That in-depth profile of Barr, shown with Trump, began:

In protecting President Trump, Attorney General William Barr is meeting the president’s demand for a loyal legal fixer in the radical right mold of the canny, connected and immoral Roy Cohn.

That is the not-so-hidden backstory of the radical gutting of American constitutional government now underway to expand and cover up the Team Trump's corruption.

The column reported how Barr helped his superiors at the Justice Department during the 1980s cover up massive illegal narcotics and arms smuggling and hundreds of billions of dollars of financial frauds during the Iran-Contra crime spree.

That crime wave had been organized by then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and his national security team led by Col. Oliver North. Many historians believe that President Reagan had only a modest understanding of the crimes involved.

About half of the proceeds were reportedly siphoned off for CIA black budget operations hidden from congressional review and for Republican advocacy groups that used the dark money to foster Republican election victories. Some funds were also used to entice greedy Democrats, who could then be intimidated into silence from effective oversight.

President Ronald Reagan, right, and Attorney General Edwin Meese, left, greeted in a White House 1983 meeting future Attorney General William P. Barr, a former CIA staffer who was then deputy assistant director of legal police at the Justice Department (Reagan Library photo)In the 1983 photo at left from the Reagan Library, Barr, center, is shown being welcomed to the White House by President Reagan at right and Attorney General Edwin Meese. Barr was then deputy assistant  director for legal policy at the Justice Department. In 1991, Bush promoted Barr from Deputy Attorney General to the top job.

As lame duck president in late 1992, Bush pardoned six of the top Iran-Contra masterminds, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, with the cooperation of Barr, a zealous advocate throughout his career for near-unchecked presidential powers.

Barr’s reappointment by Trump this year to lead the Justice Department – along presidential appointments to the federal bench of several prominent Republican lawyers who helped thwart Iran-Contra investigations – illustrates a major ongoing tension in “law enforcement.”

At the federal level, the ostensible fair-enforcement mission at the Justice Department often conflicts with the political reality that the president can boost the careers of opportunists motivated by ideology and personal ambition, who can then selectively enforce law to help a president and his allies against their political opponents.

harvey silverglate cover 3feloniesThe 2009 book Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by longtime Boston litigator and CATO Institute fellow Harvey Silverglate documented case histories of how ordinary Americans, particularly white-collar professionals subject to regulation for their work, of commit “felonies” (often unwittingly) on a near-daily basis – and thus face career annihilation and imprisonment if prosecutors and their superiors so desire.

The topic of political prosecution tends to be complex and controversial, in part because it runs so counter to the conventional wisdom that federal prosecutors (like judges) act with political independence after being appointed. For judges and the top ranks of the Justice Department, that process begins with presidential nomination and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, below at left, the top administrator of the entire federal court system, made an extraordinary show of independence from President Trump last November in rebuking the president for deriding one federal jurist as an “Obama judge.”

john roberts O HRThere’s no such thing, Roberts claimed. As reported by the Associated Press, Roberts said, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

Trump defended his own comment, replying by tweet “Sorry Justice Roberts.”

But Trump may have identified a larger reality that Roberts was trying to obscure, especially in the wake of nasty confirmation hearings for Republican appointee Brett Kavanaugh last fall after authorities largely failed to examine in any depth allegations that his job was made available via a secret deal with retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy and that Kavanaugh himself had been a perjurer (in denying use of stolen Democratic Senate documents), an attempted rapist in high school, and a longtime partisan Republican operative and dirty tricks artist spanning many years, including his work for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigating the Clintons.

All chief justices have been Republicans during the past six decades. There has been only one Democratic chief justice during the 98 years, Frederick Vinson, from 1946 to 1953, despite four straight presidential elections won by Democrats beginning in 1932.

So the Republican Party is the one that achieves a partisan advantage by arguing that federal judges are impervious to political pressures and keeping public attention focused elsewhere despite such outrages as the unsigned and unprecedented opinion in 2000 awarding the presidency to GOP candidate George W. Bush on a 5-4 party line Supreme Court vote.

sheldon whitehouseThe issue of partisanship on the federal bench has become increasingly prominent. In a highly unusual “warning” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican majority, five Democratic U.S. Senators suggested last month in a friend-of-the-court brief in a gun case that the court’s 5-4 decisions helping the Republican Party are becoming too blatant to ignore.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), right, a former presidential appointee as U.S. attorney in charge of federal prosecutions in Rhode Island, published an op-ed in the Washington Post in the Sept. 8 print edition summarizing the filing’s importance. His column was headlined, The Supreme Court has become just another arm of the GOP. He had been joined in the filing to the Supreme Court by Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois (the party's second-ranking Senate leader), Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut (a former U.S. attorney and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk), then-presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

Craig Case Revisited

Former Obama Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller, now a frequent legal commentator on MSNBC, last week cited the Craig juror's comment about the verdict to raise this issue:

“If the DC US attorney’s office is thinking rationally, and not just operating under pressure from Trump and Barr, this is the sort of juror quote that would really worry them about indicting [Andrew] McCabe.”

andrew mcCabe oMcCabe, shown at left, is the former FBI deputy director whom Trump fired just before his pension vested. Trump has often threatened to indict McCabe for alleged misleading statements to colleagues.

Miller, below right, thus raised the issue last week of how selective or otherwise political prosecution endangers democracy — an issue seldom matthew miller twitterdiscussed by such supposed watchdogs as Congress, the courts, academics or the news media.

To redress that omission in 2009, the Justice Integrity Project convened victims and other experts at the National Press Club for a rare Prosecutorial Misconduct Forum, which was cablecast by C-SPAN for its three-hour duration.

More recently, the jury verdict in the Craig case illustrates that Barr-Trump Justice Department went out of its way to bring a shaky case against the Democrat Craig while remaining largely silent (at least so far) about a host of other serious matters disclosed by the investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Among notable aspects of the Craig case:

  • A former high-ranking legal aide to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Craig has been the only former Democratic official charged in the investigations growing out of Mueller’s probe of illicit Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election;
  • Craig, 74, has been a high-ranking lawyer in the capital for decades, including as a protégé and future law partner of Edward Bennett Williams, founder of the powerhouse firm Williams and Connolly, whose clients included the Washington Post, the Roman Catholic Church, multiple Mafia leaders and CIA Director Richard Helms; and
  • Craig’s prosecution grew out of the Mueller team’s convictions of longtime GOP operative and 2016 Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, now serving a 7 1/2–year prison term for multi-million-dollar income tax evasion, money laundering, bank fraud and related crimes primarily stemming from his work representing former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his political party.

The Manafort prosecution revealed that Manafort and his patrons had recruited Craig and his recent law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to work with U.S. yulia tymoshenko 2008public relations operatives to assert that Yanukovych’s presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, had been legitimately imprisoned for crime and not as a political vendetta. Tymoshenko (shown in a file photo at right), was a political rival to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort was helping.

The involvement of Craig and his then-law firm in justifying the imprisonment of Tymoshenko helps reveal a seldom understood conflict inherent in big time lawyering paul manafort mugwhen "justice" might differ from the rewards of power politics: Manafort and his team, including Craig, appeared  willing to pooh-pooh, for a price, the Ukrainian's claim of a political prosecution.

But later the tables were turned.

Manafort, shown in a prison photo, has voiced with his lawyers repeated claims that he has been treated unfairly. 

Obama DOJ Questions Craig

Beginning in 2012 and extending to 2014, Obama Administration Justice Department officials responsible for compliance under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) questioned Craig — despite his status as former Obama White House Counsel — about whether his Ukrainian work required registration with FARA.

The FARA registration requirement, enacted in 1938 as a precaution against foreign agents lobbying against preparations for what became World War II, has obtained registrations from only a tiny fraction of those who likely should register.

As of Sept. 7, only 451 registrations show up on the Justice Department’s site. Enforcement has been extremely selective, with only a few prosecutions. A high proportion stemmed from disclosures in the recent Mueller probe.

In that period seven years ago, Craig and Skadden sidestepped registration and complete answers. They sometimes providing half-truths at best during a Justice Department initiated by the Obama administration's Justice Department in 2012, according to trial testimony.

The Manafort evidence revealed, for example, that Viktor Pinchuk, a rich Ukrainian businessman, secretly paid Skadden $4.15 million, and not the $12,000 that Craig and Skadden had originally reported. Also, Craig and his firm undertook a number of steps close to or arguably over the line of public relations contacts in support of their legal advocacy.

amy berman jacksonCraig’s response, during his testimony and team’s closing arguments, was that he neither lied nor had an obligation to provide exhaustive details to authorities.

In August, the trial judge, shown at left, issued a 57-page ruling dismissing one of the two felony counts against Craig because the statute of limitations expired for relevant actions.

Federal prosecutors constantly weigh such legal obstacles in assessing whether bringing charges is worthwhile and it is notable that they did not anticipate a statute of limitations problem.

Juror View, Revisited

It was that background that prompted the juror who gave the courthouse interview to provide extended comments to reporters about the acquittal.

The juror said his colleagues on the panel expressed scant doubt that they would agree on acquittal after they organized themselves and asked for a clarification from the judge about a legal question.

Given that their focus was exclusively on Craig’s conduct after September, 2013, the juror said that all in the jury room readily agreed to acquit on the sole charge before them, false statement, although some expressed distaste for some of Craig’s actions before that date.

The juror then expressed his frustration with the prosecution in several ways, although he stressed that neither he nor other jurors expressed personal views on larger issues in their discussions.

Regarding solely his own view, the juror said that the prosecution’s immersion in details on FARA compliance reminded him of the Biblical story where Jesus admonishes the Pharisees for “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Scholars interpret that passage from Matthew 23:23-24 as condemnation by Jesus of pedants for neglecting “the weightier matters of law, justice, mercy and faith.”

More generally, the juror said of the special counsel Mueller that the country’s current crisis required “a Marine willing to take a bullet” for the country in his investigation. “Instead, we got a Boy Scout hoping for a merit badge.”

There’s much more that can be said about the case, the Craig career and their larger context.

Yet even important aspects are far beyond the scope of a column of any reasonable length. So we provide links below to news reports about key junctures in his case this year, as well as a more philosophical overview about life in the law.

Craig’s Career Arc

Greg Craig had been a volunteer civil rights worker in Mississippi and then a federal public defender in Hartford, Connecticut, following graduation from Yale Law School in 1972 before moving to Williams & Connolly. Among his major cases there was helping that firm defend former CIA Director Richard Helms from perjury allegations to protect agency secrets from congressional investigations of shocking crimes by the agency.

Craig’s high-profile career oscillated between what seemed, at least from a distance, to be the big progressive crusades and the grubby compromises that encourage big business and unaccountability for miscreants.

greg craig barack obamaFor example, Craig reportedly left the Obama White House counsel post after just a year in 2009 because he failed to win approval for a phase-down of the U.S. Guantanamo Bay military prison camp in Cuba, where most defendants were being held with scant compelling evidence or meaningful chance for a fair trial.

Craig is shown with Obama in the Oval office in a 2009 White House photo.

Yet Craig and his former firm Skadden, Arps (which agreed this year to disgorge $4.2 million to settle its FARA scandal) were raking in millions to help Manafort and his pro-Russian Ukrainian clients whitewash the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister.

Closer to home, Craig encountered strong criticism during his White House service because of his contacts with figures on multiple sides of the federal prosecution on corruption charges of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat and friend of Craig. The Bush Justice Department brought the original charges in 2006.

Alabama whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson said the charges had been trumped up by fellow Republicans to destroy Siegelman's political career. She said also that Bush advisor Karl Rove and others steered the case to a corrupt federal judge, Chief U.S. Middle District Judge Mark Fuller. Fuller secretly controlled Dos Aviation, a defense contractor that received a $300 million no-bid contract from the Bush administration, as we reported in 2009 via a front-page investigative story in the Huffington Post: Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company. Fuller later lost his lifetime appointment after an arrest for beating his wife.

jill simpson 60minutesSimpson, shown at right on a CBS 60 Minutes segment in 2008, had tried to bring forward her evidence to Craig, Congress, and reporters but met numerous obstacles.

Regarding Craig, she said that she confided in him as a potential attorney on Siegelman's recommendation in 2007 after an assailant forced her car into a ditch but came to believe after she told Craig particulars of her revelations that he was heavily conflicted because of his purported friendship with Rove and legal ties to others involved in the judge's businesses, including U.S. Sen. Dick Shelby, a powerful Republican representing Alabama. Investigative editor Wayne Madsen reported the allegations in two columns in 2009, White House Counsel Greg Craig should resign over conflicts-of-interest and Simpson lawyer's letter to Greg Craig, White House Counsel on Rove matter

We heard the specifics of those allegations also in early 2009. Although the Justice Integrity Project did not re-report and otherwise mark fuller 2 cropelenakagan forbiddenverify those made against Craig, we did ascertain via extensive reporting that prosecutors had framed Siegelman and that his trial judge Fuller, right, ruled repeatedly to assist prosecutors in framing the former governor, who had tried to expose the judge's own corruption years previously.

More generally, the weight of evidence persuaded us that U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, shown at left, never should have been appointed to the Supreme Court despite her stellar academic and other professional record overall.

Why? Her track record and that of the rest of the Obama administration proved to be craven and deferential to Alabama's Republican power structure, including Shelby and his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions, in opposing Supreme Court review of the horrors that the Justice Department and courts had visited upon Siegelman and his equally innocent co-defendant, Republican businessman Richard Scrushy. Both defendants served seven years in prison. Two co-defendants were acquitted but their careers and families also were ruined via the Justice Department vendatta enabled by both major U.S. parties. 

Politics of Prosecuting Craig

If the Barr Justice Department was reckless in pursuing a weak case against Craig surely one of the rationales to such a partisan leadership must have been to balance the Mueller-initiated convictions of Republicans such as Manafort with the scalp of a former aide to Obama, a longtime target of Trump.

Yet there was no reasonable equivalence between Craig's excuses in failing to register under FARA and the monumental crimes of Manafort — a lawyer who, for example, avoided income taxes on tens of millions of dollars and defrauded one bank alone of $16 million, in part by promising its CEO, Stephen Calk, a top job in the Trump administration for a loan that was based on a grossly fraudulent application overstating Manafort's assets.

The Barr Justice Department has moved slowly against most of those identified as wrongdoers in the Mueller Report, helping underscore suspicion that Craig was targeted last spring because of his political affiliation and not the seriousness of his alleged crime.

As for the trial evidence, some of Craig's conduct appeared unseemly, as the juror noted, but appeared to fall outside the statute of limitations barring consideration of actions after October 2013.

The Wall Street Journal published a post-verdict editorial last week Greg Craig Gets His Reputation Back: The Democrat was unjustly caught up in the Mueller mania. It reported that the Justice Department brought only seven criminal FARA cases and won three convictions in the 50 years prior to 2016.

‘Power and Majesty’

I, like Craig, began my professional career in Hartford, where my reporting for the Hartford Courant focused from 1976 to 1981 exclusively on covering federal courts and other federal government operations.

One particularly memorable conversation for me was with a federal judicial legal clerk who privately told me in the context of a potential prosecution that the federal government should never simply indict suspects and thereby destroy lives in the mere hope that some charge will stick even in low-probability cases.

“The power and majesty of the United States government needs to be applied to much worthier goals than that,” said the clerk, who proceeded to an illustrious career as a federal prosecutor and longtime justice on Connecticut’s Supreme Court.

The Craig juror who spoke with us might be pleased to know that some in government have worked for decades following such precepts even if others match only the rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the exonerated defendant Craig provided a fitting final visual scene from his case as he walked away from the district courthouse up a long flight of stairs. In shirtsleeves, he was nearly alone and apparently headed to a public transportation subway stop near the top of the staircase. The courthouse for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals framed him in the background.

greg craig staircase cropped sept 4 2019 IMG 6689

This column was updated after initial publication.


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Sept. 5

greg craig lawyers 9 4 19 cropped IMG 6681

Washington attorney Gregory Craig, center, holds a brief news conference surrounded by his lawyers on Sept. 4 following his acquittal on a false statement charge in the federal district court in Washington, DC (Justice Integrity Project photo).

Wall Street Journal, Opinion: Greg Craig Gets His Reputation Back, Editorial Board, Sept. 5, 2019. The Democrat was unjustly caught up in the Mueller mania. A federal jury acquitted Greg Craig this week on charges related to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in what ought to prompt some soul-searching at the Department of Justice. This is another example of a special counsel run amuck.

FARA is a musty 1938 law that was rarely prosecuted until it was resurrected by special counsel Robert Mueller to pry information out of Donald Trump’s associates. In the 50 years through 2016, the Justice Department brought only seven criminal FARA cases and won three convictions.

Above the Law, Analysis: Greg Craig Wasn’t Guilty. The American Lobbying Industry On The Other Hand…, Joe Patrice, Sept. 5, 2019. Why are anti-corruption laws something so easily sidestepped?

Put aside that Greg Craig’s whole prosecution felt a bit off. The SDNY took a pass on the case before the DOJ picked it up — seemingly just to make sure someone attached to the Obama administration managed to get tagged in the Russian profiteering kerfuffle. Regardless, Craig is a free man after the jury took all of four hours to acquit him of lying to the government about whether or not he acted as a foreign agent of the government of Ukraine when he wrote a report at the behest of the country’s then-pro-Russian government whitewashing the arrest of opposition party leaders.

According to a couple of jurors, Craig’s vindication may have had more to do with technicalities.

Because of the statute of limitations applicable in the case, the judge told jurors that they could only find Craig guilty if prosecutors showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Craig concealed a material fact about his Ukraine work after Oct. 3, 2013. At least some jurors believed Craig had lied before that date, but they found a lack of proof he did so after that point, the two jurors said.

Skadden and Craig were trying not to become “foreign agents” of the Ukrainian government, something that would require them to register as such per America’s lobbying laws. Basic agency theory would say that someone hired to write a report for another country is, indeed, an agent of that country and writing a report for the purpose of convincing government officials not to sanction that country would seem like lobbying. But that’s not how America’s anti-corruption rules work because that would make far too much sense. For Craig, the firm could avoid registering if they never put forward the report themselves for public relations purposes. It’s not “lobbying” if you give the lobbying material to someone else… even if that person is then going to use your name and reputation as the selling point for the argument.

Craig gave his work product to a reporter, but claims — at least as of the relevant date — he only did so when affirmatively asked for it, meaning he wasn’t promoting the work and therefore not a foreign agent lobbying the government. Weak tea to be sure, but good enough.

Craig’s story though is indicative of a much more pervasive problem. There are firms with departments explicitly described as “Lobbying” shops that get very snippy if you call the people at the top of their promotional materials “lobbyists.” One law firm representative once scolded me for calling an employee a lobbyist, explaining that I could describe their job as lobbying as long as I never used the word “lobbying.” Orwell imagined that doublespeak would conceal big lies — in reality it conceals billions of dollars of small lies.

Washington operates on posting firm rules regulating the seedy world of lobbying and then everyone just consents to this collective delusion that lobbying isn’t lobbying if we don’t call it that. It’s the only way a former official can really make a living! An academic once estimated that the lobbying industry is at least double what we see based on official registrations.

Sept. 4

Politico, Greg Craig found not guilty in Ukraine lobbying case, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 4, 2019. Craig is the only Democratic appointee to be charged in a series of cases stemming from the Mueller probe.

A jury acquitted former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig Wednesday on a felony charge of intentionally misleading the Justice Department about his lobbying work related to Ukraine, but Craig’s defense team complained bitterly that the prosecution was a “disgrace.”

Nine men and three women took less than five hours to reach a verdict following a three-week trial in federal court in Washington, where witnesses detailed the activities of Craig and others promoting a report he prepared in 2012 on the prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Craig, 74, is the only Democratic appointee to be charged in a series of cases stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Shortly after the verdict, Craig’s defense team denounced the decision to prosecute the veteran Washington lawyer and suggested some impropriety.

“The question that you need to ask is not why this jury acquitted Greg Craig, but why the Department of Justice brought this case against an innocent man in the first place,” defense attorney William Taylor Jr. told reporters gathered outside the courthouse.

Taylor declined to say why he thinks the prosecution went forward, but Craig’s allies have grumbled for months that he was targeted in an effort to even the scales politically and to push back against perceptions that Mueller’s operation was solely focused on allies of President Donald Trump.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Taylor’s statements.

A key piece of evidence in the case was an Oct. 10, 2013, letter Craig wrote. Prosecutors said it contained at least two flat-out lies, but the defense argued the statements were technically true.

For instance, Craig said he’d only delivered the report to journalists who requested it. An email shown to the jury Sanger had asked for it, but only after Craig offered it to him.

Craig grew red and appeared on the verge of tears moments after the court clerk read the “not guilty” verdict around 3 p.m. Wednesday. As the jurors entered the courtroom, only one seemed to look at Craig, but as the verdict was about to be read, nearly all of them turned to focus on him.

Prosecutors showed no evident reaction to the jury’s quick verdict. Outside the courthouse, Craig made only a brief statement.

“I’d like to thank the jury for their service and for justice in this case. I’m grateful to them in so many ways,” Craig said, before thanking his friends and supporters as well as his defense team from law firm Zuckerman Spaeder. “I want to thank my lawyers who made it all possible.”

Craig took the stand in his own defense, insisting that he never lied to or sought to mislead the government and that he genuinely did not believe he needed to register as a foreign agent. His argument was based in part on what Craig contended was an acrimonious and distrustful relationship with Manafort and with a firm Ukraine hired to publicize the report, FTI Consulting.

Craig’s defense alleged that the relationship grew so strained that in dealing with Sanger and other journalists, he was trying to counteract or preempt an aggressive spin job Manafort was overseeing to make the report sound like a ringing endorsement of the controversial prosecution of Tymoshenko.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gregory Craig found not guilty of lying to investigators probing work to aid Ukraine president, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 4, 2019. A federal jury found Gregory B. Craig not guilty of lying to the Justice Department, acquitting the Democratic former White House counsel on Wednesday of concealing media contacts in 2012 related to his work for the Ukrainian government.

greg craig smiling cropped headshot 9 4 19 IMG 6685Jurors deliberated less than a day before vindicating Craig, 74, right (shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo at a press conference after the verdict), a former top legal adviser to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Craig’s defense urged them to weigh his towering reputation in Washington and decades in government and private practice before passing judgment after a three-week trial.

The acquittal marks a high-profile setback for a Justice Department crackdown on foreign lobbying in the United States, exposing flaws in a difficult prosecution that was handed off among several offices before Craig’s April indictment. Before the trial began, a judge dismissed a count against Craig directly involving the registration requirements, saying the rules seemed vague as applied to Craig’s circumstances.

The verdict is likely to stir debate over whether to clarify or strengthen provisions of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires Americans paid by foreign governments or politicians to influence U.S. policy or opinion to register with the Justice Department.

Craig began his career as a civil rights worker in Mississippi and tutor in Harlem, before going to law school and joining the Williams & Connolly law firm as a protege of founder Edward Bennett Williams. He was close to the Clintons, worked for the late senator Edward M. Kennedy and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, and represented such global figures as Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan. After leaving the Obama administration, he joined Skadden in January 2010 and retired last year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gregory Craig Acquitted on Charge of Lying to Justice Department, Sharon LaFraniere, Sept. 4, 2019. Gregory B. Craig, one of Washington’s most prominent Democratic lawyers, was acquitted on Wednesday of a felony charge that he lied about work he did seven years ago for the Ukrainian government.

The jury returned the verdict after just hours of deliberation. It was a blow to the Justice Department’s effort to more aggressively crack down on foreign influence in Washington and a vindication of Mr. Craig’s high-risk strategy of taking the case to trial.

The trial exposed in detail how a foreign government was able to harness Washington’s industry of lawyers, lobbyist and public relations experts, an unflattering portrait that included at least four million dollars in secret offshore bank transfers from a Ukrainian oligarch to Mr. Craig’s law firm.

Prosecutors said Mr. Craig gave in to hubris and self-interest, hiding the truth of his interactions with Mr. Sanger, not only from the Justice Department, but from his own firm’s general counsel. Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, one of the prosecutors, described Mr. Craig’s final letter to the Justice Department on the matter as a “masterpiece” of lies and half-truths.

“If you read the letter, you will find contempt for the FARA unit,” coupled with a sense of “entitlement” and self-importance, he argued. He noted Mr. Craig proposed complaining to the attorney general himself if FARA officials did not accept his viewpoint.

Vox, Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig found not guilty in Mueller spinoff case, Andrew Prokop, Sept. 4, 2019. The case was about whether he made false statements to investigators about years-old work for Ukraine’s government. Greg Craig, who served as White House counsel early in President Barack Obama’s administration, was found not guilty by a Washington, DC, jury Wednesday after a trial stemming from the Mueller investigation.

Craig had been charged with making false statements in a Justice Department inquiry into whether his law firm Skadden Arps should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of its work for the Ukrainian government.

His prosecution was spun off from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s extensive investigation of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair who came under scrutiny in the Russia investigation.

Craig’s trial, which lasted about three weeks, boiled down to the question of whether, back in 2013 and 2014, he tried to mislead the Justice Department about what, exactly, he did for Ukraine, in hopes that DOJ would conclude he didn’t have to register as a foreign agent.

Prosecutors argued that Craig tried to mislead the government about his contacts with journalists regarding a report that his firm had put together for the Ukrainian government. Their theory was that, because admitting to doing “public relations work” — rather than just legal work — could have led to a finding that he had to register under FARA, Craig misled DOJ about his contacts with the press.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Well that just blew up in Bill Barr’s face, Bill Palmer, Sept. 4, 2019. Shortly after Donald Trump’s corrupt Attorney General Bill Barr brought an end to Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation and then tried to bury Mueller’s findings, Barr’s Department of Justice brought criminal charges against bill palmer report logo headerGregory Craig.

The reason why was obvious enough.

Of all the numerous people who got caught up in Paul Manafort’s international web of criminal deceit, one of them was Greg Craig, who had previously served in the Obama administration. Bill Barr rather obviously had the DOJ target Craig for prosecution, despite the sketchy william barr new onature of the criminal case against him, so that Trump and Barr could then claim the Trump-Russia scandal was actually an Obama scandal.

Today, however, a jury rather quickly acquitted Greg Craig. To date it’s the only criminal case resulting from the Mueller probe which hasn’t resulted in a conviction and/or guilty plea, which tells you just how weak of a case this was.

So now Bill Barr, shown in an official photo, is stuck with the reality that the one and only person acquitted in the Trump-Russia scandal is the one and only Obama Democrat who had been charged in the Trump-Russia scandal. If the charges against Greg Craig were supposed to be some kind of 2020 campaign slogan for Donald Trump, it’s ended up being the opposite.

Sept. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Closing arguments in Democratic power lawyer Gregory Craig’s trial focus jurors on alleged lies about Ukraine work with Paul Manafort, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 3, 2019. Prominent Democratic attorney Gregory B. Craig blackened his own reputation by scheming with Paul Manafort to work for the Ukrainian government without registering with the Justice Department as a foreign agent and lied to investigators to conceal contacts with the New York Times meant to benefit their client, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

In closing arguments at Craig’s federal trial in Washington, prosecutors hammered the former White House counsel as motivated by greed and self-protection, spurred by Manafort’s promise of seven-figure annual billings.

Ukraine hired Craig for his “sterling reputation” to bolster its battered image in the West, and Craig lied to Justice officials about the nature of his work because “his reputation would have been tarnished if the truth that had come out,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told jurors. “But now the truth has come out.”

“No matter how many great things he has done in this country, no one is above the law in this country,” he went on. “The truth matters. Facts matter. And now that you have heard the evidence, it is time for you to hold this man accountable for that scheme, and that truth, and find him guilty as charged.”

In the defense’s closing, Craig attorney William J. Murphy implored jurors to scrutinize the law and a 2013 letter from Craig to the Justice Department explaining to investigators that Craig had his own reasons to speak to the Times, namely to defend himself, his firm’s and his colleagues’ work, and that he was not paid for his media outreach.

Government allegations that Craig was part of Ukraine’s media rollout of the report relied on the words of a “congenital liar,” Murphy said, naming Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who testified and awaits sentencing after cooperating in Mueller’s probe and as a witness against Craig and Manafort.

Murphy said Craig was truthful in saying that in responding to the Times, Craig did not inform or consult with Ukraine or act as its agent.

Murphy spoke of the reputation Craig had built over 50 years and urged jurors to “salvage” it for him, saying, “We ask you to apply the evidence with the law and find him not guilty and prevent this prosecution from sounding a horrible, false note at the end of an incredible career of honor, service and integrity.”

Aug. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I did not lie’: Democratic power lawyer Gregory Craig takes stand in foreign lobbying trial, Spencer S. Hsu, Aug. 28, 2019. Facing a felony count of lying to the Justice Department, former Obama White House counsel Gregory B. Craig on Wednesday testified that his legal work for the Ukrainian government never “crossed the line” into advocacy and that he never misled U.S. officials about whether his contacts with journalists required him to register as a foreign agent.

“I did not lie,” Craig told a federal jury in Washington. “I did not withhold or conceal any information.”

Craig’s day-long testimony in his own defense marked the dramatic climax of his three-week trial over whether he made false statements to officials investigating whether he and his law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, should have registered as foreign lobbyists for legal and public relations work he did with GOP power broker Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry in 2012.

Aug. 6

Politico, Judge dismisses 1 of 2 charges against Greg Craig, Josh Gerstein and Theodoric Meyer, Aug. 6, 2019. Greg Craig, who served as the first White House counsel in the Obama administration, scored a pretrial win Tuesday as a judge threw out one of two charges in a false-statement case against him stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed one of the two felony counts against Craig, concluding that a 2013 letter he sent to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act office was not part of any formal FARA filing, so could not be the basis for a charge under a law barring false FARA submissions.
Jackson called the question a close one, and she described as “strained” many of the arguments by Craig’s defense. She concluded, however, that the history of the statute suggested Craig’s narrower interpretation might be correct and that exposing Craig to criminal prosecution given the ambiguity would be unfair under a legal doctrine that gives defendants the benefit of the doubt in such situations.

"Since the Court can read the language either way, this points in the direction of the 'rule of lenity,'” Jackson wrote in a 57-page ruling on the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges. "The rule is a tool of last resort and a court is supposed to exhaust all other means of statutory construction before throwing up its hands.… Given all [the] circumstances, the Court cannot overlook the fact that the Supreme Court has been steadfast in insisting upon clarity in the language of criminal statutes.”

May 27

Justice Integrity Project, Trump Found His Roy Cohn In Deep State Fixer Bill Barr, Andrew Kreig, May 27, 2019. In protecting President Trump, Attorney General William Barr is meeting the president’s demand for a loyal legal fixer in the radical right mold of the canny, connected and immoral Roy Cohn.

That is the not-so-hidden backstory of the radical gutting of American constitutional government now underway to expand and cover up the Team Trump's corruption.

April 11

Fox News, Greg Craig, ex-Obama White House counsel, indicted for alleged false statements, Gregg Re, April 11, 2019 (4:21 min. video). Fox News Contributor Andy McCarthy weighs in with Dana Perino on former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig's indictment for making false statements to the Department of Justice.

Greg Craig, former White House counsel for then-President Barack Obama, was indicted Thursday on two counts of making false and misleading statements to investigators -- including Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team -- in connection with his work on behalf of Russia-backed former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.

Craig is the first prominent Democrat to be indicted in a case arising from Mueller's now-completed probe into Russian election interference. Mueller referred the Craig case to prosecutors in New York last year after uncovering possible wrongdoing while he investigated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's Ukraine lobbying work.

The Washington-based lawyer was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for allegedly falsifying and concealing “material facts” and making false statements both to Mueller and to the DOJ National Security Division's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit.