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Greg Craig, Obama White House counsel, pleads not guilty to false statements charges

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Greg Craig, Obama White House counsel, pleads not guilty to false statements charges

Greg Craig, former White House counsel for former President Barack Obama, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday to charges of making false and misleading statements to federal prosecutors related to his work on behalf of Russian-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

A status hearing for his case has been set for April 15 before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the District of Columbia.

Craig, in an indictment a day earlier, was accused of making false and misleading statements to investigators including those on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Craig is the first prominent Democrat to be indicted in a case that stemmed from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

GREG CRAIG, EX-OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL, INDICTED FOR ALLEGED FALSE STATEMENTS

Mueller referred the Craig case to prosecutors in New York last year, after uncovering alleged misconduct while investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s unregistered lobbying work on behalf of Ukraine.

Craig was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for allegedly falsifying and concealing “material facts” and making false statements to both Mueller and investigators in the Justice Department’s National Security Division’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit.

The FARA Unit is responsible for enforcing foreign lobbying laws that require the disclosure of certain overseas activity, including public relations work for foreign entities. At issue were Craig’s 2012 lobbying and media contacts on behalf of Yanukovych, while Craig was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Specifically, Craig and the law firm were commissioned by Yanukovych and Ukraine’s government to write a report to assess whether the government’s prosecution of dissident Yulia Tymoshenko — a criminal case that was criticized widely as an abuse of power — was a “fair trial.”

In a videotaped statement uploaded to YouTube on Thursday, Craig asserted that the report was “independent,” and denied helping Ukraine spin the information it contained. He also strongly denied the charges against him, saying he was “always honest” about his activities.

Craig, speaking directly to the camera, also slammed the prosecution as “unprecedented and unjustified.”

OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FACES POSSIBLE PROSECUTION IN MUELLER-INITIATED PROBE

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 New York.

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

Craig faces up to 10 years in prison in all — up to five years and a possible $250,000 fine for allegedly willfully falsifying and concealing material facts from the FARA Unit and another five years and $10,000 fine for making false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit.

GREG CRAIG’S RISE AND FALL: FROM JOHN HINCKLEY’S LAWYER TO OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL –TO INDICTED POWER PLAYER

Craig’s attorneys on Wednesday night told The Associated Press in a statement that the “government’s stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

On Thursday, the attorneys, William Taylor and William Murphy, told reporters: “This indictment accuses Mr. Craig of misleading the FARA Unit of the Department of Justice in order to avoid registration. It is itself unfair and misleading. It ignores uncontroverted evidence to the contrary. Mr. Craig had 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.”

Fox News’ Jake Gibson, Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Trump’s written — at times snarky — answers to Mueller’s questions revealed

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Why the Mueller report could turn into a never-ending story on the Hill

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump communicated directly at one point during the long-running investigation into Russian election interference, when the president’s legal team submitted written testimony in response to Mueller’s questions on a variety of topics in November 2018.

And in some cases, Trump and his attorneys brought the sass.

One of Mueller’s questions referred to a July 2016 campaign rally, when Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

That was a reference to the slew of documents deleted from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server — one that prompted numerous accusations that Trump was improperly sending a signal to Russian hackers. Mueller’s report noted that hours after Trump’s remarks, a Russian-led attempt to access some Clinton-linked email accounts was launched, although there was no evidence Trump or his team directed or coordinated with that effort.

“Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity or individual?” Mueller’s prosecutors asked.

Mueller’s report noted that after Trump’s statement, future National Security Adviser Flynn contacted operatives in hopes of uncovering the documents, and another GOP consultant started a company to look for the emails.

“I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer,” Trump’s attorneys shot back. “The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016, press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference.”

Separately, Mueller asked Trump why he previewed a speech in June 2016 by promising to discuss “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” and what specifically he’d planned to talk about.

Trump didn’t hold back.

“In general, l expected to give a speech referencing the publicly available, negative information about the Clintons, including, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s failed policies, the Clintons’ use of the State Department to further their interests and the interests of the Clinton Foundation, Mrs. Clinton’s improper use of a private server for State Department business, the destruction of 33,000 emails on that server, and Mrs. Clinton’s temperamental unsuitability for the office of the president,” Trump responded.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ‘BOMBSHELLS’ THAT FIZZLED? BUZZFEED’S COHEN TESTIMONY SCOOP, THE GOP PLATFORM SWITCH, ETC?

After discussing other events, Trump concluded his reply: “I continued to speak about Mrs. Clinton’s failings throughout the campaign, using the information prepared for inclusion in the speech to which I referred on June 7, 2016.”

In all, Mueller’s 448-page report included 23 unredacted pages of Mueller’s written questions and Trump’s written responses. The special counsel’s team wrote that it tried to interview the president for more than a year before relenting and permitting the written responses alone.

An introductory note included in the report said the special counsel’s office found the responses indicative of “the inadequacy of the written format,” especially given the office’s inability to ask follow-up questions.

Click here for the full exchange between Mueller’s team and Trump.

Citing dozens of answers that Mueller’s team considered incomplete, imprecise or not provided because of the president’s lack of recollection — for instance, the president gave no response at all to the final set of questions — the special counsel’s office again sought an in-person interview with Trump, and he once again declined.

Mueller’s team said it considered seeking a subpoena to compel Trump’s in-person testimony, but decided the legally aggressive move would only serve to delay the investigation.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mueller report has held America ‘hostage’ for 2 years, Federalist editor says

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Mueller report has held America 'hostage' for 2 years, Federalist editor says

While many analysts are advising Democrats to move on from Mueller report and the issue of collusion, The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway said Thursday it will be hard for America to move on because it’s been “held hostage” by the idea of President Trump colluding with Russia.

“The country was basically held hostage by a collusion theory, a theory that the president of the United States was a foreign agent. This undermined the administration of our government. It totally sidelined the Department of Justice, it hampered our ability to do foreign policy. It was a very negative thing,” Hemingway told “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

MUELLER REPORT SHOWS PROBE DID NOT FIND COLLUSION EVIDENCE, REVEALS TRUMP EFFORTS TO SIDELINE KEY PLAYERS

“There needs to be accountability. We are being given indications there will be accountability for this.”

After two years, a redacted version of Mueller’s report was released Thursday showing investigators did not find proof of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia but revealed an array of controversial actions by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction probe.

Democrats criticized Barr and demanded an unredacted version of the report while Republicans demanded an investigation into how the Russia collusion narrative began.

RUDY GIULIANI ON THE RELEASE OF THE MUELLER REPORT: ‘THIS PRESIDENT HAS BEEN TREATED TOTALLY UNFAIRLY’

Hemingway said the idea that people would just “move on” was “absurd.”

“The American people tolerated this investigation because they were told there was reason to believe the president was a traitor. The idea that we are just going to quickly move on from this like ‘OK, I guess it was our bad, there was no collusion,’ but now we’re trying to go on obstruction is patently absurd,” Hemingway said.

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James Comey tweets he has 'so many answers' after release of Mueller report

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Former FBI Director James Comey had “so many answers” on Thursday following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, after he initially tweeted he had “so many questions.”

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