Former Obama counsel Gregory Craig indicted for lying to special counsel

A former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama Greg Craig leaves the U.S. District Court in Washington U.S

Craig's indictment is part of a Justice Department crackdown on unregistered foreign lobbying and consulting.

Craig maintains that he never concealed information or misled the Justice Department, and he is confident he'll beat the charges.

A prominent Washington attorney who worked in Barack Obama's White House on Thursday became the first Democrat to face charges from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling.

The charges against Craig stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Craig left the courtroom without comment for booking by the U.S. Marshals Service and later, D.C. Police, as required for federal defendants.

A Washington-based lawyer, Craig allegedly lied to Mueller's office during an interview a year ago about work that his law firm did for the Ukrainian government in 2012 and 2013.

The New York Times reported the project was directed to the firm by Manafort, who was a political consultant in the region at the time. The case was investigated by the FBI's NY field office and is being prosecuted by the US attorney's office in Washington, D.C.

The scrutiny of Craig stems from an investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his work on behalf of a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Manafort, who served as a political adviser to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, helped arranged for Craig and Skadden to be hired in 2012 to write a report reviewing the jailing of Yanukovych's political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko.

"President Obama's top White House lawyer, Gregory B. Craig, was indicted yesterday on very serious charges", Mr Trump tweeted, going on to dub the story "really big" and knock "the Fake News New York Times" over not putting it on the front page, but "rather page 16". The law firm that he is associated with paid a fine of $4.6 million dollars, which was essentially what they got paid for the report.

In 2012 and 2013, the firm's work attracted the attention of the Justice Department, which sought to determine whether the firm should register under FARA.

In a videotaped statement uploaded to YouTube on Thursday, Craig asserted that the report was "independent", and denied helping Ukraine spin the information it contained.

"I don't want to register as a foreign agent under FARA", Craig allegedly wrote to a fellow partner.

"There is no crime in being someone who is good at what you do - lawyer or otherwise - and working for a foreign government". Mueller had referred the case to the Southern District of NY, but that office has not brought these charges.

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