WASHINGTON (AP) — Prominent Washington lawyer Greg Craig was found not guilty Wednesday of lying to the Justice Department about work he did for the government of Ukraine in a case that arose from the special counsel’s Russia investigation and that centered on the lucrative world of foreign lobbying.
The jury deliberated for less than a day before clearing Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration, of a single count of making false statements.
The swift verdict was a blow for the Justice Department’s crackdown on Americans who do unregistered lobbying work for foreign governments and entities. The department has been ramping up its enforcement of a decades-old law requiring foreign agents to register with the Justice Department, with prosecutors hoping a conviction would show a zero-tolerance approach to lobbyists who are looking to avoid registering.
But the jury rejected the theory of the case, and one juror told reporters that the panel agreed Craig hadn’t broken the law.
Craig hugged his attorneys after the verdict was read and later, outside the courthouse, thanked the jury for “doing justice in this case.”
“The question that you need to ask isn’t why this jury acquitted Greg Craig, but why the Department of Justice brought this case against an innocent man in the first place,” said his attorney William Taylor.
The trial focused on the multimillion-dollar project Craig and his then-law firm did for Ukraine in 2012 and featured testimony about his professional connections with some of the same figures who years later became entangled in the special counsel’s investigation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates.
Prosecutors charged Craig with giving Justice Department lawyers false information about his work in order to avoid having to register as a foreign agent.
The Justice Department alleged that Craig did not want to register in part because he feared harming his future employment chances with the federal government. But Craig, who testified in his own defense, was adamant that he never lied to anyone and that he did not register for the simple reason that he was not required to.
At issue was a report that Craig and his then-law firm were hired to produce for the Ukrainian government on the prosecution of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. The purpose of the project was to evaluate the fairness of Tymoshenko’s trial and to produce a report that Ukraine hoped could burnish its standing in the international community.
Craig testified that the sole purpose of conversations he had with reporters was to correct mischaracterizations of the report and spin coming from Ukraine about its conclusions.
Craig, who is now retired, has represented many powerful political figures in his decades-long legal career. He worked on President Bill Clinton’s defense during impeachment proceedings, and represented former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and James Cartwright, a retired general and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Craig also served as an adviser to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.