While the world gasps over the arrest of Julian Assange in London, another possible arrest closer to home could provide the first definitive link between the Mueller report and some of Obama’s inner circle. And contains an ironic twist that should keep media critics laughing pretty hard today.
The New York Times reported last night that Gregory B. Craig, a counsel in Obama’s White House, is expecting to be indicted in the near future on work he did on behalf of the Russian-aligned Ukrainian president and that’s linked to disgraced Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
This would mark the first indictment linking the Obama administration to the findings in the Mueller report.
In reporting on the expected indictment — which is reportedly based on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and whether Craig lied about needing to register under it for work he did in the Ukraine — the New York Times was quick to point out that Attorney General William Barr and more generally the Mueller report found no evidence that Trump or his associates conspired or colluded with Russia.
The case against Mr. Craig, 74, stemmed from an investigation initiated by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
An Ivy League-educated lawyer who held prominent positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations, Mr. Craig would become the first person who made his name in Democratic Party politics to be charged in a case linked to the special counsel’s investigation.
Mr. Craig would also become the first person to be charged in a case connected to the special counsel after Mr. Mueller finished his investigation into the 2016 presidential election. In a summary of the inquiry, Attorney General William P. Barr said that the special counsel’s team had concluded that there was no evidence that President Trump or his aides “conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The link between Manafort and Craig is related to a report Craig produced while a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom firm in 2012. Manafort at the time was a political consultant for the pro-Russia Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, and apparently commissioned a report from Skadden Arps for $5.2 million in 2012 and 2013 that would be used “to use to quell Western criticism of the prosecution and jailing by Mr. Yanukovych’s government of one of his rivals, the former prime minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, and to train Ukrainian prosecutors handling matters related to the case.”
Craig then, as ironically as possible, was quoted in The New York Times discussing the report and his firm was subsequently contacted by the DOJ and questioned as to why they had not registered under FARA. The crux of the potential indictment has to do with Craig insisting that he nor his firm proactively reached out to reporters to distribute the report. In a letter he sent to the DOJ he said that he only gave news outlets the report “in response to requests from the media.”
Prosecutors cast doubt on Mr. Craig’s claim in a settlement reached in January between the Justice Department and Skadden Arps. Under that settlement, the firm avoided prosecution in the matter in exchange for an agreement to pay $4.6 million, to retroactively register its Ukraine work under FARA, to beef up its compliance processes and to cooperate with government investigations of the work on behalf of Ukraine.
But the settlement did not exonerate Mr. Craig, and in fact it signaled that he was in prosecutors’ cross hairs. It quoted emails showing Mr. Craig reached out to a journalist to offer to provide the report and discuss it.
And here’s the hilarious punchline: while neither Craig or the journalist he spoke with are named in settlement related to the case, The New York Times includes this gem at the bottom of their inverted pyramid:
“The journalist, David E. Sanger of The New York Times, is an author of the article in which Mr. Craig is quoted.”
It’s never too early for popcorn.