Former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig faces trial Monday on suspicion of lying to the Justice Department in a prosecution that has shaken up the capital’s billion-dollar foreign influence industry.
In charging Craig — one of Washington’s most prominent attorneys, in connection with his work for the Ukraine government at a leading law firm — the Justice Department signaled a new era for the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a once nearly dormant law that since 2017 has been invoked in more than 20 federal prosecutions aimed at combating foreign interference in U.S. politics.
Craig has pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington. The charge against him stems from alleged public relations work, rather than lobbying, while with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. He is accused not of failing to register as a foreign agent under the law, but with lying and withholding information from Justice officials seeking to determine whether he was required to register.
Still, Washington attorneys representing foreign governments have already drawn their own lessons from his proceedings.
“It’s rare when you see a case like this, where someone who is extremely experienced, savvy and considered a wise person in Washington, is charged with violating a law that most would assume that he or she knows a lot about,” said Thomas Spulak, a partner at the King & Spalding law firm who advises on lobbying compliance.
Craig was the first prominent Democratic figure to be charged in a case spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.