Greg Craig, a former lawyer for former White House president Barack Obama, pleaded not guilty in Federal Court Friday for making false and misleading statements to federal prosecutors about his work on behalf of Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, supported by Russia.
A review hearing was scheduled for April 15, before US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the District of Columbia.
Craig, in an indictment a day earlier, was charged with making false and misleading statements to the investigators, including the team of the special advocate Robert Mueller. Craig is the first prominent Democrat to be indicted in a case that stems from Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference and potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign in the 2016 elections.
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Mueller referred the Craig case to prosecutors in New York last year after discovering an alleged misconduct during his investigation into the unregistered lobbying work of former Trump campaign chairman , Paul Manafort, in favor of Ukraine.
Craig was indicted by a grand jury in the District of Columbia federal court for allegedly falsifying and concealing "essential facts" and making false statements to Mueller and the investigators of the FARA unit (Foreign Agents Registration Act) of the Department of Justice. .
The FARA Unit is responsible for enforcing foreign lobbying laws that require the disclosure of certain activities abroad, including public relations for foreign entities. The litigation involved Craig's lobbying in 2012 and Yanukovych's media contacts, while Craig was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Specifically, Craig and the law firm were mandated by Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government to write a report to determine whether the prosecution initiated by the government against the dissident Yulia Tymoshenko – a criminal case widely criticized for abuse of power – constituted a "fair trial". "
In a videotaped statement Thursday on YouTube, Craig claimed that the report was "independent" and denied helping Ukraine to transform the information that it contained. He also strongly denied the charges against him, saying he was "always honest" about his activities.
Craig, speaking directly to the camera, also described the suit as "unprecedented and unjustified".
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It was unclear why Mueller – who was prosecuting other Trump officials, including Manafort, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos for making false statements – had not dealt with the Craig case himself and had chosen the entrust to the prosecutors of New York.
Alex van der Zwaan, another former Skadden lawyer, pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators about the report.
Craig incurs up to 10 years in prison, up to five years and a potential fine of $ 250,000 for allegedly falsifying and concealing material facts of the FARA unit, and an additional fine of five years and $ 10,000 for making false and misleading statements to the FARA unit. .
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Craig's lawyers on Wednesday night told the Associated Press in a statement that "the government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion."
On Thursday, lawyers William Taylor and William Murphy told reporters, "This indictment accuses Mr. Craig of misleading the FARA unit of the Department of Justice in order to 39. To avoid registration, it is itself unjust and misleading, On the contrary, Mr. Craig had no interest in misleading the FARA unit because he had nothing to do with it. fact that required its registration.It is the purpose of this lawsuit. "
Jake Gibson, Mike Emanuel and Fox News Associated Press contributed to this report.