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Ex-Obama lawyer Craig charged in Mueller spin-off probe for lying about Ukraine work

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Ex-Obama lawyer Craig charged in Mueller spin-off probe for lying about Ukraine work

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Greg Craig, who served as former President Barack Obama’s top White House lawyer, was charged on Thursday with lying about work he performed in 2012 for Ukraine in a case that grew out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

FILE PHOTO: Attorney Greg Craig speaks to reporters on the outcome of the courts’ decision regarding Elian Gonzalez, in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2000. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Craig, 74, faces up to 10 years in prison for charges of making false statements and violating a lobbying law.

He is accused of lying to the Justice Department about his work after he left the White House on a legal review that largely vindicated the prosecution of a political enemy of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian-aligned president of Ukraine at the time.

Craig’s lawyers called the indictment “unfair and misleading” and indicated that he will plead not guilty.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, the New York law firm that produced the report, agreed in January to turn over the $4.6 million it was paid and retroactively register as a foreign agent, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.

Skadden produced the 187-page report at the behest of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who is currently serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for lobbying violations and financial crimes.

Manafort was apparently happy with Craig’s work.

“You are ‘THE MAN,’” he wrote Craig in an email after the report received favorable media coverage, according to the indictment.

The report was meant to be an objective review of the Ukrainian government’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the country’s former prime minister who was convicted in 2011 on corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.

It criticized Tymoshenko’s behavior during the trial and concluded that her due-process rights had not been violated, but also said that she had been improperly imprisoned during the trial.

The report was used by Yanukovych’s government to justify Tymoshenko’s pretrial detention to the European Court of Human Rights and influence U.S. lawmakers.

Yanukovych was one of Manafort’s main lobbying clients.

FUNDED BY UKRAINIAN BILLIONAIRE

According to the indictment, Craig covered up aspects of his work in order to avoid registering as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a rarely enforced law that was enacted in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda.

Had Craig complied with the law, he would have been forced to reveal that funding for the report largely came from Viktor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire. Pinchuk paid the firm $4 million for its work, according to Skadden filings made as part of its settlement.

The Ukrainian government only paid Skadden $12,000 – an amount so low that it aroused suspicion in Ukrainian media.

Craig also failed to disclose that Skadden was simultaneously helping out with Tymoshenko’s prosecution on other charges, prosecutors say.

“That would do enormous damage to the credibility” of the report, Craig wrote in an email to other Skadden attorneys, according to the indictment.

Craig’s lawyers denied that he had lied about his activity.

“Mr. Craig has no interest in misleading the FARA Unit because he had not done anything that required his registration. That is what this trial will be all about,” attorneys William Taylor and William Murphy said in a statement.

Craig privately had reservations about Tymoshenko’s treatment but left them out of the report, the indictment said.

“Evidence of criminal intent – i.e., that she intended to commit a crime – is virtually non-existent,” he wrote in a memorandum that was not included in the report, according to the charges.

During his tenure as Obama’s White House counsel from January 2009 to January 2010, Craig led the administration’s unsuccessful effort to shut down the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also represented former President Bill Clinton during his 1998 Senate impeachment trial.

Another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty last year to lying to investigators about the report.

Craig’s case stems from Mueller’s 22-month investigation into whether Trump’s presidential campaign worked with Russia to influence 2016 election.

That probe led to charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former key Trump allies, but Attorney General William Barr said last month that Mueller did not find enough evidence to charge Trump or others with criminal conspiracy.

Barr also said that he decided there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. He is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s final report to Congress next week.

Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann and Nathan Layne; editing by Doina Chiacu, Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot

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Ex-Trump attorney Dowd disputes Mueller report, says president never tried to oust special counsel

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Ex-Trump attorney Dowd disputes Mueller report, says president never tried to oust special counsel

President Trump never said he wanted to “get rid” of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and instead cooperated fully with his investigation, according to one of the president’s former attorneys.

John Dowd, who served as a member of President Trump’s legal team from June 2017 until March 2018, discussed Trump’s approach to Mueller during an interview on “Fox & Friends” Monday.

Frequent media accounts prior to the release of the report suggested Trump tried to fire Mueller at times during the Russia investigation. The report itself said Trump told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to tell the acting attorney general that Mueller “must be removed.” McGahn refused.

But asked on Monday when Trump said to fire Mueller, Dowd said: “He never did. I was there at the same time that the report says McGahn mentioned this, and I was assigned to deal with Mueller and briefed the president every day.

CONTROVERSIAL STEELE DOSSIER BACK IN SPOTLIGHT AFTER MUELLER REPORT’S RELEASE

TOM PEREZ: NO ONE — NOT EVEN PRESIDENT TRUMP — IS ABOVE THE LAW FOLLOWING MUELLER REPORT REVELATIONS

“At no time did the president ever say, ‘you know, John, I’m going to get rid of him.’ It was the opposite.

“Here’s the message the president had for Bob Mueller, he told me to carry — number one, you tell him I respect what he is doing; number two, you tell him he has my full cooperation; number three, get it done as quickly as possible; and number four, whatever else you need, let me know.

“That was always the message and that is exactly what we did.”

Dowd continued, saying he spoke to Mueller about the president’s frequent public criticism of the investigation.

GIULIANI SLAMS ‘CONFLICTS OF INTEREST’ IN SPECIAL COUNSEL’S OFFICE: ‘WHEN DID MUELLER BECOME GOD?’

“I talked to Bob about that. I said, ‘do you understand what’s going on?’ and he said, ‘oh, it’s political, he has to do that for political reasons’.

“I said, ‘I tell you what, the president and I will make sure, we’ll say publicly cooperate with Bob Mueller’ and we did early on. So that was it.”

Host Steve Doocy then asked Dowd about “the suggestion from the report that Don McGahn, the president’s attorney, was told go out and fire him” Mueller.

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“I just I think there was a misunderstanding,” Dowd said.

“I just don’t believe it. I think the president simply wanted McGahn to call Rosenstein, have him vetted, because the president believed Mueller did have some conflicts.”

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Trump sues to block Democrats’ subpoena for financial information

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Republican convention set for August 2020 in Charlotte

Lawyers for President Trump on Monday sued to block a subpoena issued by members of Congress that sought the business magnate’s financial records.

The complaint named Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Peter Kenny, the chief investigative counsel of the House committee, as its plaintiffs.

“We will not allow Congressional Presidential harassment to go unanswered,” said Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

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Congressman Moulton enters Democratic 2020 presidential race

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Congressman Moulton enters Democratic 2020 presidential race

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Seth Moulton entered the 2020 Democratic presidential race on Monday as a long-shot contender in a contest that now includes almost 20 candidates.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) speaks at a Merrimack County Democrats Summer Social at the Swett home in Bow, New Hampshire, U.S., July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

A 40-year-old Iraq War veteran who represents a district in Massachusetts, Moulton enters the race as an underdog, with little national name recognition and a shorter track record than some rivals who have spent years in the U.S. Senate or as state governors.

Moulton has built a political career by challenging the party’s establishment. He entered Congress in 2015 after winning a Democratic primary challenge against John Tierney, who had held the seat for 18 years.

After Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Moulton helped organize opposition to Representative Nancy Pelosi’s bid to again become Speaker of the House.

He ended his opposition to Pelosi with a statement saying: “Tough conversations make us stronger, not weaker, and we need to keep having them if we’re going to deliver on the change that we’ve promised the American people.”

In a YouTube video announcing his presidential candidacy, he said: “Decades of division and corruption have broken our democracy and robbed Americans of their voice.”

“While our country marches forward, Washington is anchored in the past,” he said.

In the video, Moulton said he wants to tackle climate change and grow the U.S. economy by promoting green jobs as well as high tech and advanced manufacturing.

Moulton served in the Marines from 2001 to 2008. During his 2014 congressional bid, he became a vocal critic of the Iraq War in which he served, saying no more troops should be deployed to the country.

He has advocated stricter gun laws, saying military-style weapons should not be owned by civilians.

Moulton supports the legalization of marijuana and told Boston public radio station WGBH in 2016 that he had smoked pot while in college.

He graduated from Harvard University with an undergraduate degree in physics in 2001 and returned to receive a master’s degree in business and public policy in 2011.

For a graphic of the 2020 presidential candidates, see: tmsnrt.rs/2Ff62ZC

Reporting by Ginger Gibson; additional reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio

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