Former Trump campaign aide Rick GatesRick GatesTreasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence Trump Jr. was deposed in inauguration funds probe Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts MORE testified in federal court Thursday against Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig about the ex-counsel's Ukraine-related work for Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortYellen should utilize the resources available before pushing new regulations Huawei paid Tony Podesta 0K for White House lobbying FBI agents swarm Russian oligarch's DC home MORE, Politico reported.
Gates was a top lieutenant to Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, for approximately 10 years. During that time, Manafort supervised a 2012 review conducted by Craig of the abuse-of-power trial of ex-Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, according to Politico.
While the review was presented as an independent probe of the trial, it was commissioned by Manafort's primary client, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and bankrolled by Victor Pinchuk, a steel oligarch and Yanukovych backer.
Federal prosecutors have charged Craig with lying about the nature of the work and whether he was required to register as a foreign agent, though he has not been charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Prosecutors have argued Craig, who has pleaded not guilty, deliberately concealed the details of his work to avoid hurting his chances of appointment to a future Democratic president’s administration, according to Politico.
They have also argued that Craig deceived them regarding his involvement in the release of the review, which he provided an embargoed copy to a New York Times reporter.
“The overall strategy worked. … The article wasn’t the greatest, but at least it was viewed neutrally, so it did have an impact,” Gates testified on Thursday, according to Politico. “From our viewpoint, the success of it was very great.”
“Mr. Craig had named a reporter from the New York Times as somebody who ... he had a specific relationship with that could help with that effort,” Gates said, referring to David Sanger. “He said Mr. Sanger is a tough reporter but a fair reporter, and we wouldn’t necessarily get a good article, but he’s very credible in the space.”
Craig’s attorneys have argued that his interactions with the media in relation to the Ukraine project were only meant to distance him from Manafort’s team’s attempts to spin the report as a definitive exoneration of Tymoshenko’s conviction, according to Politico.
Gates, who was indicted along with Manafort in 2017 by now-former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE, pleaded guilty to making false statements and conspiracy in 2018.