Prominent Lawyer’s Trial Will Test Crackdown on Unregistered Foreign Agents

Mr. Craig’s trial will focus on a now familiar narrative of how Mr. Manafort led a far-flung effort to burnish the reputation of Viktor F. Yanukovych, who served as Ukraine’s president from 2010 to 2014. Mr. Manafort is now serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term for conspiracy and financial crimes, including some stemming from that work.

Seeking to shore up Mr. Yanukovych’s image in the West, Mr. Manafort recruited Mr. Craig’s law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, to produce a report on the corruption case against a political rival of Mr. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

According to the indictment charging Mr. Craig, he wrote a memo for his own files stating that the evidence of Ms. Tymoshenko’s criminal intent was “virtually nonexistent.” But the report he spearheaded found that the evidence presented at her trial supported the conviction that led to her imprisonment.

The reaction of American journalists to the Skadden Arps report was of intense interest to Mr. Manafort, to public relations officials hired to spin the report’s conclusions, and to Mr. Craig, prosecutors say. Following a carefully calculated news media strategy, Mr. Craig delivered an advance copy to The New York Times and volunteered to be interviewed by Times reporters, court filings show.

After the report’s publication in December 2012, Justice officials asked Mr. Craig a series of questions, including how much the law firm had been paid and whether the firm’s lawyers had discussed it with journalists.

Mr. Craig insisted that he had discussed the document with journalists only after it had become public and purely to “correct misinformation,” according to court filings. He did not indicate that the law firm had been paid more than $4 million by a Ukrainian oligarch, whose funds were routed through offshore accounts, disclosing only a fraction of the firm’s payments, prosecutors claim.

Although Mr. Craig was well aware of FARA’s requirements, prosecutors say, he misled the Justice Department officials because he did not want to limit his future career prospects by registering as a foreign agent. They claim he repeated some of his misleading statements to the special counsel’s team, as well.

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