FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2019, file photo, Greg Craig, right, former White House counsel to former President Barack Obama, walks into a federal courthouse for his trial, in Washington. Craig was found not guilty 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. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Greg Craig is a prominent Democrat and Washington lawyer who served as White House counsel during the Obama administration © AP

Greg Craig, a prominent Washington attorney and former White House counsel for Barack Obama, was found not guilty on Wednesday of making false statements to federal officials, in a case that stemmed from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The charges related to disclosures about a 2012 report Mr Craig was hired to write by the Ukrainian government, which was at the time waging an influence campaign in the west led by Paul Manafort. Manafort, who later went on to serve as a campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, was convicted last year on tax and bank fraud and sentenced to 47 months in prison.

Prosecutors in Mr Craig’s case had claimed that the former Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner had lied to the justice department about his role in the 2012 report in order to avoid having to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registrations Act, or Fara. They said this was “at least in part because he believed doing so could prevent him or others at the law firm from taking positions in the federal government in the future”.

In their arguments during the trial, Mr Craig and his defence team told a federal jury that he contacted reporters to ensure that the independent report was accurately portrayed in the media.

The jury acquitted Mr Craig on Wednesday after deliberating for less than five hours.

After the decision was announced, William Taylor, one of Mr Craig’s lawyers, said: “The jury made the only decision it could. There was never a crime and never evidence of a crime.”

He added: “The only question is why after prosecutors at the Southern District of New York turned down this case did the . . . DoJ bring this case and hound an innocent man?”

Mr Craig has been a well-known attorney in Washington for decades, holding posts in Mr Obama’s administration and Bill Clinton’s White House. His clients in private practice have included Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, and Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama.

Mr Obama appointed Mr Craig as White House counsel in 2009, but he left the government the following year to join Skadden, a “white-shoe” firm that he left in 2018 after Manafort was indicted in the special counsel’s investigation, in part for Fara violations related to the 2012 report.

In a statement released after the decision on Wednesday, Mr Craig thanked the jury “for doing justice”, adding: “I’m very fortunate to have the support of a loving family and many loyal friends who were steadfast during this ordeal.”

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