2019-01-18 22:14:051 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Paul Manafort (Image source: Public domain)
Yet another entity has admitted guilt in reference to connections with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Paul Manafort previously took a plea deal and was then outed for not being truthful. Next, he was called out for sharing polling info with a Russian with the ultimate goal for it to land in the hands of two Ukrainian oligarchs.
Now a New York law firm is admitting that it mislead the Justice Department about work it did with Manafort on behalf of the Ukrainian government. They agreed to pay $4.7 million in a settlement.
Manafort helped the Ukrainian government hire the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom back in 2012. They created a report on the prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. When she was sent to prison, it led to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort did work for, being condemned.
According to the settlement, once the report was finished, a partner of the law firm reached out to a "national newspaper" to set up a call with a lobbyist for Ukraine.
When the Justice Department tried to find out if the firm needed to register as a foreign agent under U.S. law, the firm misled the Justice Department about a partner's contract with the media and submitted false documents.
The assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, said via statement that the law firm's failure to register with the DOJ "hid from the public that its report was part of a Ukrainian foreign influence campaign."
The partner isn't named in the statement, but POLITICO believes it's former White House counsel for the Obama administration, Greg Craig, who led the work for Ukraine.
The partner was quoted in the newspaper talking about the report on December 12, 2012, according to the settlement. Craig happens to have been quoted in The New York Times on that date.
As part of the settlement, the law firm agreed to register as a foreign agent retroactively. "We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again," they said in a statement.
The law firm had already been inserted into Mueller's probe. Attorney Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about the work the law firm did for Ukraine and spent almost a month in prison.
The investigation seems to have reminded everyone about the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This requires lobbying and public relations firms that are working for foreign governments and political parties to register with the DOJ. Previously, it hadn't always been enforced.
While another partner warned Craig about PR advice for Ukraine, he helped promote the report, even offering to drop off a copy of the report as an exclusive to a New York Times reporter's home before it was released publicly.
The firm told the DOJ that Craig only "provided brief clarifying statements about the report" to the Times reporter and others after the department started asking questions.
The DOJ showed evidence that Craig disseminated the report to the media. "At no time did [the law firm] attorneys 'contact the media,' " Craig wrote.
"Quite the contrary, we were approached by the media — asked for interviews, asked for background commentary, etc. — and we did not respond. The only time we responded was to correct misinformation."
While it's evident the firm tried to avoid registering as a foreign agent, it's not clear why, but the settlement hints that it's because it would have required them to disclose the compensation it received for preparing the report and the identity of the businessman who paid for it.
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