Will a former Obama adviser get indicted in Manafort case?

Gregory Craig’s lawyers certainly think so. Late yesterday, they announced the expectation of an indictment for the former White House counsel to Barack Obama as part of the legal fallout from Paul Manafort’s work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia regime. The indictment won’t come from special counsel Robert Mueller, however, even though Mueller indicted another attorney from the same firm in his investigation:

Attorneys for former White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig said Wednesday that he expects to face federal charges in the coming days in relationship to legal work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012.

The expected indictment — which his attorneys called “a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion” — stems from work Craig did with GOP lobbyist Paul Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice in 2012. …

In a statement, attorneys William W. Taylor III and William Murphy said they expect Craig, 74, will be indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington at the request of the Justice Department’s national security division.

The DoJ had nothing to say last night, but Craig’s attorneys clearly think charges are forthcoming. The charges will likely include violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), a rarely prosecuted crime prior to Mueller’s probe, and lying to cover it up. His former law firm (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom) already settled a civil judgment with the DoJ for failing to register under FARA when Craig performed work for Ukraine, work that included blowing some smoke under American media skirts about the regime’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko. Skadden coughed up all the fees they earned from Ukraine — $4.6 million in total — in return for not getting criminally prosecuted.

That deal didn’t include Craig. It didn’t cover Alex van der Zwaan either, another Skadden associate who got indicted fourteen months ago by Mueller directly for lying and destroying evidence. Van der Zwaan had interesting connections, readers might recall; his father-in-law is Russian oligarch German Khan, a billionaire owner of Alfa Bank, which got involved in a lawsuit against Buzzfeed over the Christopher Steele dossier. At the time, it looked like the Mueller probe might be connecting some dots in that direction, but it turned out that they were only interested in Manafort and corruption in the Viktor Yanukovych government in Kyiv.

The announcement from Craig’s attorneys leaves one curious question, however: why didn’t Mueller indict Craig himself? True, Craig would have been a bit far afield of his mandate in the special counsel probe, but so was Manafort once it became clear that there wasn’t any Russia collusion. Mueller could have turned that case over entirely to the DoJ too but chose to prosecute some of the Manafort charges himself, as well as van der Zwaan. Why not Craig, whose case he turned over to the DoJ last September while the special counsel office was still in full operation?

One can ask why the DoJ has taken an interest in criminal prosecutions for FARA too, but that’s more easily answered. Mueller’s push to prosecute multiple figures for FARA violations made the corruption of that system too obvious to ignore from now on. Craig’s not the only potential defendant expecting to hear from the DoJ on indictments, either; the Post reminds us that Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and GOP lobbyist Vin Weber might be next on the hit parade. Having belatedly discovered all the corruption stewing under the FARA lid, the DoJ is now belatedly making examples of violators in order to get stricter compliance in the future. That’s a solid win for Mueller regardless of what people think about other parts of his probe.