Morning breaks over the White House and the offices of the West Wing (R) in Washington January 20, 2015.
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The trouble with the White House’s pitch on Greg Craig’s indictment

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/11/19, 9:45 PM ET

Former Democratic W.H. counsel indicted in Manafort case fallout

Rachel Maddow reports on the indictment of Greg Craig, prominent Washington lawyer who served as White House counsel in the Obama administration, on charges related to Ukrainian business that came under scrutiny in connection to the prosecution of former
Donald Trump and his team appear awfully interested in Greg Craig’s indictment, though their promotional efforts are a bit flawed.

Former White House counsel Greg Craig was indicted by a grand jury Thursday for allegedly making false statements to the Justice Department about work performed for Ukraine in 2012.

Craig, 74, who was charged with concealing material information from the Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit, or FARA Unit, and making false statements, failed to disclose work he performed for Ukraine because he believed it would prevent him from assuming future roles within the federal government, according to the indictment, which stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

For the right, Craig’s indictment is important because he served as White House counsel during the first couple of years of Barack Obama’s presidency. It creates a headline that Trump World wants the public to see: Lawyer from Obama White House faces criminal charges.

Except, that paints a misleading picture. Did Greg Craig’s alleged crimes happen during his White House tenure? No. Did he work for Obama in any way at the time of the alleged misdeeds? No. Did any of this have anything to do with Obama or Trump’s conspiracy theories involving his predecessor? No.

In fact, as Rachel noted on the show last night, Craig was indicted over his alleged role in an illegal foreign lobbying scheme coordinated by Paul Manafort – the convicted felon who oversaw Donald Trump’s political operation in 2016.

And yet, there was Kellyanne Conway yesterday, publishing a tweet that read, “BREAKING NEWS! FINALLY! WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL INDICTED in connection with MUELLER investigation!”

Perhaps this was intended to be funny, but (a) Craig’s alleged crimes happened long after he was a White House official; and (b) I seem to recall Donald Trump’s White House national security advisor getting busted as part of the Mueller investigation, as part of crimes committed while under Trump’s employ.

Conway’s boss went even further.

“President Obama’s top White House lawyer, Gregory B. Craig, was indicted yesterday on very serious charges,” Donald Trump wrote. “This is a really big story, but the Fake News New York Times didn’t even put it on page one, rather page 16. [The Washington Post] not much better, ‘tiny’ page one. Corrupt News!”

Let’s put aside the fact that the president used to believe crimes related to FARA weren’t especially important. And let’s also put aside the fact that Trump doesn’t seem to know what “corrupt” means. While we’re at it, let’s also put aside the fact that Craig’s alleged crimes were part of his work with Trump’s own former campaign manager.

Instead, let’s consider a legal question. If Greg Craig’s defense attorneys argue that this prosecution is politically motivated, and Trump’s Justice Department filed these charges simply because Craig is a Democrat who used to work for Obama, won’t Trump’s tweet make it easier for them to say the indictment is little more than a political game for the Republican administration?

Donald Trump, Justice System and White House

The trouble with the White House's pitch on Greg Craig's indictment

Updated