Greg Craig was so worried about protecting his reputation that he broke the law to try to preserve it, the government said Tuesday as it wrapped up its prosecution of the one-time top White House lawyer for President Obama.
A jury heard closing arguments in the three-week trial in which Mr. Craig faces one count of lying to Justice Department investigators about his activities as he tried to avoid registering as a foreign agent for Ukraine in 2012.
Mr. Craig, who had left the Obama administration and was working in private practice for Skadden Arps at the time, feared disclosing his role in preparing a report on Ukraine’s controversial prosecution of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko would taint his prospects for future government work, the prosecution says.
Prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez told the courtroom Tuesday that Mr. Craig sought to conceal he was paid at least $4 million by a Ukrainian oligarch for his work, and that he played a role in crafting the report’s media rollout.
“His reputation would have been tarnished by it,” the prosecutor said. “So what did he do? He took a gamble. He gambled that no one would ever learn what he had done. He gambled that the folks in the [Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Act] unit would take his word for it. And they did.”
Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez also accused Mr. Craig of lying when he took the stand in his own defense last week.
During his testimony, Mr. Craig denied the accusation that he promoted the report to journalists, insisting his outreach to the press was only to counter misreporting about the findings. He said he was worried the report was being spun by the Ukraine government and its lobbyist Paul Manafort, who would later go on to become candidate Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.
“He tried to tell you when he was on the stand … he was so uncomfortable with the idea of backgrounding journalists that he decided to reverse course,” Mr. Campoamor-Sanchez said. “That is not true.”
Defense attorney William Murphy said Mr. Craig did not fear the truth about his involvement. He suggested Justice’s FARA unit didn’t ask many questions about the Ukraine project, and Mr. Craig had no obligation to provide more details on his own.
“He did not have a duty to volunteer information that was not asked for and that’s important in this case,” Mr. Murphy said. “He did not lie to the FARA unit. He did not conceal facts from the FARA unit.”
If Mr. Craig had been asked to disclose such information to the Justice Department, he would have done so, Mr. Murphy contended.
“Mr. Craig is not the kind of person who would lie to a government institution,” he said. “Not after a 50-year career built on honesty and trust.”
The defense lawyer also urged the jury not to be swayed by the intervening years, which saw Manafort land in prison for his own illicit foreign activities.
“When you think about all these motivations the government ascribes to Mr. Craig, think about the scene in 2013, not today,” Mr. Murphy said during a nearly two-hour closing argument.
The case now rests in the hands of nine men and three women, chosen three weeks after an initial jury selection hiccup that saw the trial delayed by three days.
During the past three weeks, jurors heard from 16 government witnesses, including longtime Manafort associate Rick Gates. The defense called Mr. Craig and four character witnesses.
If convicted, Mr. Craig could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but Judge Amy Berman Jackson would likely impose a more lenient penalty.
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