Gregory Craig, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama, was indicted Thursday on charges of lying and hiding information related to his work for Ukraine.
Craig, a 74-year-old lawyer based in Washington, D.C., was charged by the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, unit. Craig faces up to five years in prison for each of the two counts.
The charges stem from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which came to a formal end last month.
Anticipating the DOJ's announcement, Craig's attorneys said in a statement to news outlets that their client's case had already been referred to federal authorities in the Southern District of New York who did not bring charges.
After the indictment was announced, Craig's lawyers said "it is itself unfair and misleading" and "ignores uncontroverted evidence to the contrary."
"Mr. Craig had no interest in misleading the FARA Unit because he had not done anything that required his registration. That is what this trial will be all about," his representatives said.
Craig is charged with lying during an Oct. 19, 2017, interview with the special counsel's office about the nature of work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012 and 2013, while he was a senior partner at the law firm Skadden Arps. Craig left the firm in April of 2018.
Skadden was originally hired in 2012 by the government of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a Kremlin ally, to prepare a formal report effectively justifying Yanukovich's decision to prosecute and imprison his political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister.
The prosecution of Tymoshenko caused international outrage at the time, and the Yanukovich government was eager for a Western law firm with a sterling reputation like Skadden to produce a report which it could share internationally, in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure it had come under from human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations.
In 2012 and 2013, while Skadden was working for the Yanukovich government, the Justice Department approached the firm to inquire whether the work constituted foreign lobbying, which would require that Skadden register as an agent of the Ukrainian government under FARA.
According to the indictment, in February 2012 Craig emailed a law firm partner and said, "I don't want to register as a foreign agent under FARA. I think we don't have to with this assignment, yes?"
In a settlement reached between Skadden and the Justice Department earlier this year, the firm revealed that a senior partner who fit Craig's description responded to the DOJ inquiry. That partner allegedly made "false and misleading" statements about the nature of the firm's work for Yanukovich, which were intended to avoid having to register the firm as a foreign agent.
Craig has reportedly been interviewed multiple times by Mueller's team as part of its 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling, possible Kremlin collusion with the Trump campaign and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump himself.
While the special counsel delivered the nearly 400-page report to the DOJ on March 22, some criminal cases lodged by the investigative team are still ongoing. Trump's longtime confidant and ally Roger Stone, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges including lying to Congress and witness tampering, is currently awaiting the start of his trial on Nov. 5.