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Former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig found not guilty of lying to Justice Department in case that stemmed from Mueller probe

Key Points
  • Gregory Craig, former Obama White House counsel, was found not guilty on Wednesday of lying to the Department of Justice in a case that stemmed from former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • Craig was charged with misleading federal investigators examining his obligation to register as a foreign agent in connection with a 2012 report he produced for the government of Ukraine. He had faced a maximum of five years in prison.
Gregory Craig, former White House lawyer, arrives to federal court in Washington, D.C., Aug. 12, 2019.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gregory Craig, former Obama White House counsel, was found not guilty on Wednesday of lying to the Department of Justice in a case that stemmed from former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Craig was charged with misleading federal investigators examining his obligation to register as a foreign agent in connection with a 2012 report he produced for the government of Ukraine. He had faced a maximum of five years in prison, though likely would have received a far more lenient sentence if convicted.

The jury in the case deliberated for about four hours before reaching the not guilty verdict, The Associated Press reported.

"I want to thank the jury for doing justice," Craig said in a statement after the verdict was announced. "I'm very fortunate to have the support of a loving family and many loyal friends who were steadfast during this ordeal. I will be forever indebted to the first-rate team of lawyers who represented me in this case."

The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Craig is one of the most high-profile figures, and the only major Democratic one, to face charges as a result of Mueller's investigation. He was indicted on two charges in April, one of which was dropped last month by the federal judge overseeing the case in Washington.

The not guilty verdict is a major victory for the 74-year-old veteran Washington attorney who was a partner in the corporate law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The charges were brought by the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act unit.

The DOJ alleged that Craig misled investigators about his work on the 2012 report commissioned by then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to legitimize the imprisonment of his political rival Yulia Tymoshenko. The multimillion-dollar report was arranged by Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

Prosecutors said that Craig feared that acknowledging he was required to register as a foreign agent would damage his reputation, and characterized communications between Craig and journalists about the report as public relations work, which would require registration.

Craig, who made the unusual decision of taking the stand in his own defense, argued in court that he was not required to register as a foreign agent and said he did not lie to the government. His communications with journalists, he said, were to ensure that the report was accurately described by the press.

"The jury made the only decision it could," Craig's attorney, William Taylor, said in a statement. "There was never a crime and never evidence of a crime. The only question is why after prosecutors at the Southern District of New York turned down this case did the [National Security Division] and DOJ bring this case and hound an innocent man? That is what must be asked today."

Skadden Arps agreed in January to a settlement that required the New York-based firm to forfeit $4.6 million and retroactively register as an agent for Ukraine. Alex van der Zwaan, a former Skadden Arps attorney who also worked on the Ukraine report, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators last year and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.