The case against former White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, charged in connection with the special counsel’s Russia probe, will proceed to trial this month on a single count, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed a second charge against the Washington lawyer, who pleaded not guilty to charges that he made false statements to Justice Department officials examining whether he needed to register as a foreign lobbyist for work he and his law firm did on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
The work was done, according to court filings, at the request of Paul Manafort, a former chairman of President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Craig, who was President Barack Obama’s first White House counsel and a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, was indicted in April on suspicion of lying in connection with Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
Craig’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss the two felony charges, saying they were based on the untenable position that any omission a witness makes to investigators is a lie. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
In her 57-page opinion Tuesday, the judge struck the charge alleging that Craig made false statements in a letter submitted to Justice Department officials who monitor foreign lobbying activity because of a lack of clarity in the law.
“Given this ambiguity concerning the breadth of the provision and the documents to which it was intended to apply, the rule of lenity requires the dismissal of the count,” Jackson wrote.
The judge, however, retained the charge alleging that Craig tried to conceal his potential status as a foreign agent through false or misleading statements. The law, she said, clearly puts foreign agents on notice to report their activities and who paid for them.