At every turn, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team have undercut Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian operatives is some type of Democratic conspiracy against the Trump administration.
With the latest news that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and conspiracy against the United States and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation come additional revelations of possible illegal lobbying by a powerhouse lobbying firm and a prominent law firm. Caught up in that probe is former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig.
Craig served as White House counsel during the first year of President Obama’s administration.
According to CNN, federal prosecutors in New York are contemplating charges against Craig over whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, along with the law firm where he formerly served as a partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Mueller referred an investigation of Craig and Skadden to federal prosecutors earlier this year, CNN reported.
The report describes Skadden as “one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the country.”
CNN’s reporting, which described superseding criminal charges filed Friday against Manafort, said:
According to the filing, which charged only Manafort, in 2012 Manafort “solicited” a law firm on behalf of the then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and the Ukranian government’s Ministry of Justice. The firm, which was Skadden, according to people familiar with the matter, was hired to write a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine and political rival of Yanukovych.
Craig was the person at the firm who worked on that report, which was to be distributed to U.S. government officials. He also helped promote it to members of Congress and the media, according to CNN and The New York Times. That would have required him to register as a foreign lobbyist, prosecutors argue.
The law firm was paid $4.6 million for its work, according to charges filed against Manafort on Friday. The ongoing investigation of the matter may result in a civil settlement with Skadden or a deferred prosecution agreement, CNN said.
Also ensnared in the probe is the lobbying firm Mercury LLC. According to the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff, describing a statement by Mercury partner Mike McKeon that the firm “never worked or did PR for Yanukovich”:
Court filings released Friday indicate Special Counsel Robert Mueller would not believe that statement. Communications between lobbyists revealed in those filings indicate employees at Mercury LLC understood they were working on behalf of Yanukovych, who had jailed his political opponent and drawn condemnation throughout the Western world. And those lobbyists appear to have known they weren’t complying with federal disclosure law.
The revelation means lobbyists at the firm could face legal jeopardy, according to former federal prosecutors.
In 2012, Mercury and lobbying firm the Podesta Group agreed to work for a bogus nongovernmental organization set up by Manafort to represent Yanukovych. Because it was an NGO, the firms didn’t register with the Justice Department per requirements set out by the Foreign Agents Registration Act. When Manafort was indicted last year, the news about the lobbying firms’ work became public, and the Podesta Group’s principal, Tony Podesta, was forced to step down, and the firm later dissolved, Woodruff noted.
Mercury continued to operate.
All of this confirms that both Democrats and Republicans are involved in the dark world of foreign lobbying. And Mueller, for his part, seems to be abiding by his mandate to pursue any possible crimes his team may come across in the course of their investigation. It quashes any attempt by the Trump camp to paint the probe as merely a Democratic “witch hunt,” an argument that was preposterous from the outset.