Who Is Greg Craig? Former Obama White House Counsel Set to Be First Democratic Figure Indicted in Mueller Probe

Attorney Greg Craig of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom speaks to a crowd of reporters on June 3, 2011, in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Steve Exum/Getty Image

President Barack Obama's former White House counsel was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements and concealing information regarding his work for Ukraine.

Greg Craig, 74, was accused on Thursday of lying to the National Security Division's Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit of the Justice Department. Craig had conducted work for the Ukrainian government in 2012 and previously corresponded with federal authorities about his actions. He became the first prominent Democrat to be indicted in relation to the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Attorneys for Craig had told The Wall Street Journal they expected the powerful lawyer to be indicted. They did not, however, say why he would be charged. The federal scrutiny of Craig reportedly derived from the government's investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to charges related to his lobbying for Ukraine.

"This case was thoroughly investigated by the SDNY and that office decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Craig. We expect an indictment by the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office at the request of the National Security Division," Craig's lawyers said in a statement. "Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge and the government's stubborn insistence on prosecuting Mr. Craig is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion."

Craig served as White House counsel during the first year of the Obama presidency. Before working for the 44th president, he had been a senior legal adviser to the President Bill Clinton during his time in the Oval Office.

Craig has privately represented prominent political figures, including former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and is regarded within the legal world as a powerhouse. He has also worked for the Washington-based law firm Williams & Connolly.

The charges relate to work that Craig conducted when his former law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, was hired in 2012 on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. Manafort helped create the relationship between Craig and the foreign government, according to the Justice Department.

Attorney Greg Craig speaks to a crowd of reporters on June 3, 2011, in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Steve Exum/Getty Image

In 2012, Craig and the firm produced a report about the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 but freed in 2014 when the president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted. (The European Court of Human Rights said that her imprisonment was politically motivated.)

Manafort said the report, which was criticized as promoting the interests of Yanukovych's government, was intended to strengthen the Ukrainian leader's ties to Western countries.

In 2012, Craig spoke to reporters about their coverage of the report. He said he talked with the journalists because of inaccuracies and not to lobby on behalf of the Ukrainian government.

The Justice Department later communicated with Craig about whether the members of the firm should have registered as foreign lobbyists, according to The Washington Post, which reviewed the correspondence.

In a settlement announced in January, the law firm agreed to pay the Justice Department $4.6 million and said it should have registered as a foreign agent. The Justice Department said its 2014 decision that the firm didn't need to register as a foreign agent had been based on "false and misleading oral and written statements" provided by Craig. The firm agreed with this finding in the settlement earlier this year.

Craig's lawyers challenged claims that he had lied to the government and said that he had not participated in a public relations effort.

"Mr. Craig repeatedly refused requests that he participate in Ukraine's media and lobbying campaign to promote the Tymoshenko Report," they said.

Mueller's team began the investigation into Craig but subsequently sent the matter to the Southern District of New York and then the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for further consideration.

Update: This article was updated after the Department of Justice announced it had indicted Craig.