Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig pleads not guilty

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

Craig was charged with giving false information during an October 19, 2017, interview with the special counsel's office which regulates work in the USA by lobbyists, lawyers and other representatives of foreigners under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), according to CNBC.

Craig's lawyers rejected the charges.

The indictment was part of Special Counsel Robert S. Muller III's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Craig left the courtroom without comment for booking by the U.S. Marshals Service and later, D.C. Police, as required for federal defendants. At the time, Craig was a senior partner at the Skadden Arps law firm, which was hired in 2012 by the Ukrainian government to defend pro-Russia President Victor Yanukovich's decision to imprison his political rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

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It was not clear why Mueller - who prosecuted other Trump officials, including Manafort, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos for making false statements - did not handle the Craig case himself, and opted instead to farm it out to prosecutors in NY.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: Greg Craig, former White House counsel under former U.S. President Barack Obama, arrives at U.S. District Court for his arraignment April 12, 2019 in Washington, DC.

About three months ago, Craig's former law firm agreed to pay more than $4.6 million and publicly acknowledge that it failed to register with the government for its work for the Ukraine. John Edwards and James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was charged in a leaks investigation. Manafort supposedly planned on using this report to boost Yanukovych's worldwide reputation.

The report was billed as independent, and while critical in some ways of Tymoshenko's trial, critics have said it whitewashed a politically motivated prosecution.

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In a statement yesterday, Craig denied that he violated the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which had until recently been rarely used by prosecutors.

Under US law, all lobbyists for foreign governments must register with the department.

According to the indictment, Mr Craig withheld information regarding his media contacts and made false statements in documents given to the attorney general with regards to United States foreign lobbying law.

"There is no crime in being someone who is good at what you do - lawyer or otherwise - and working for a foreign government". The firm then wrote a letter to the department's FARA unit containing Craig's false and misleading statements, which ultimately allowed for him and the firm to avoid registering, the indictment said.

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Before Craig's indictment, the recent charges brought in cases initiated by Mueller had accused people of failing to disclose their lobbying work.

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