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Westlake Legal Group > Lobbying and Lobbyists

IBM, Marriott and Mickey Mouse Take On Tech’s Favorite Law

Westlake Legal Group 00antitrust1-facebookJumbo IBM, Marriott and Mickey Mouse Take On Tech’s Favorite Law Walt Disney Company News Media Alliance Motion Picture Assn of America Marriott International Inc Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation Hotels and Travel Lodgings Google Inc Facebook Inc Computers and the Internet airbnb

WASHINGTON — Disney and its powerful trade association have fought to stop the law’s spread abroad.

Marriott has asked Congress to amend the law.

IBM has a plan to slim it down.

An unusual constellation of powerful companies and industries are fighting to weaken Big Tech by limiting the reach of one of its most sacred laws. The law, known as Section 230, makes it nearly impossible to sue platforms like Facebook or Google for the words, images and videos posted by their users.

The companies’ motivations vary somewhat. Hollywood is concerned about copyright abuse, especially abroad, while Marriott would like to make it harder for Airbnb to fight local hotel laws. IBM wants consumer online services to be more responsible for the content on their sites.

But they all see an opening as both Democrats and Republicans increasingly raise their own concerns about the power of the tech industry and the law. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 has helped Facebook, Google and YouTube grow into giants by holding only the people who post the billions of pieces of content on their services responsible for libel or other legal issues.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a recent interview that Section 230 should be immediately “revoked.” Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, are drafting bills that could increase the tech companies’ liability. The Justice Department is conducting a review of the law.

“People are either mad at tech companies and, legitimately in some cases, want to constrain their power for a lot of reasons,” said Daphne Keller, a professor at Stanford Law School who used to be a lawyer for Google. “Or companies are competing with tech companies and want to constrain their power for competitive reasons.

“And a lot of those reasons are really complicated, but the easiest lever to hurt tech companies that a lot of people see is 230.”

So far, the companies critical of the law have had mixed success with their lobbying. In 2018, Congress gave victims and prosecutors more power to sue websites that knowingly aided sex trafficking. The law passed with support from companies like Disney, Oracle and IBM.

But the recent trade pact with Canada and Mexico contained Section 230-like protections, potentially locking in tech-friendly rules abroad.

Now critics of Section 230 are focused on pushing to keep similar language out of future trade pacts. A handout distributed by Disney’s lobbyists last year warned Congress that trade deals with the provision would make it difficult for Congress to change the law in a way that improved the internet.

“On an almost weekly basis,” the handout said, “additional concerns are being raised: illegal opioid sales, spread of terrorist propaganda, foreign government election meddling, spread of material and tools that help pedophiles connect.”

Companies like Google and Facebook say that without Section 230 protections, building a business that gives individuals a platform for their content online would be impossible. They say it also shields online platforms from lawsuits when they police criminal or distasteful content.

Silicon Valley can employ significant resources to make its case. Google and Facebook spend millions a year on federal lobbying and are regular donors to outside policy groups. Their allies on Capitol Hill, like Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, have defended the law.

Michael Beckerman, the president of the Internet Association, an industry group whose members include Google and Facebook, said Section 230 was “foundational to almost everything people do online.”

“It enables products and services that consumers love and rely upon every day,” Mr. Beckerman said in a statement.

While criticism of Section 230 had mounted for years, the coalition of corporate interests questioning the value of the protections took root in late 2017 when Disney and 21st Century Fox backed the bill allowing lawsuits against web platforms for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

“I had never seen them getting involved in any Section 230 issues before,” said Jeff Kosseff, a lawyer who wrote a book about the law.

Now, hotel companies worry about Airbnb’s use of Section 230 in lawsuits seeking to block local ordinances regulating home-sharing platforms. Judges have ruled against the company in many of those cases.

The Washington lobbying group that represents companies like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt has backed a bill that would amend Section 230 so it didn’t apply to home-rental services in many cases.

Airbnb declined to comment.

IBM, which like other enterprise software providers is trying to distance itself from businesses like Facebook, has supported adjusting Section 230 so that companies must take “reasonable care” to keep unlawful uses of their platforms in check. The proposal would apply to companies that not only hosted information but also made it available to the public. That means it would cover a consumer service like Instagram but not to a cloud computing provider like IBM.

The Motion Picture Association and the News Media Alliance, a group that lobbies for news organizations, have urged the Trump administration not to allow the protections in a future trade deal with Britain. The film group’s concern is that it could make copyright enforcement more difficult. (The New York Times is a member of the News Media Alliance.)

Many of the consumer groups that have been critical of Section 230 don’t share the companies’ motivations. But they welcome the help from the companies, which have vast lobbying networks and the ability to get a meeting with the right aide at just the right time.

Gretchen Peters, who leads the Alliance to Counter Crime Online, a group critical of Section 230, said her small organization was spread thin. If “somebody else, like the Disney folks or the hotel folks,” set up a meeting, she said, “I’ll come along.”

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Top Antitrust Official Is Said to Recuse Himself From Google Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 03dojgoogle-1-facebookJumbo Top Antitrust Official Is Said to Recuse Himself From Google Inquiry United States Politics and Government Lobbying and Lobbyists Justice Department Google Inc Ethics and Official Misconduct DoubleClick Inc Delrahim, Makan Conflicts of Interest Computers and the Internet Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues

WASHINGTON — Makan Delrahim, the head of the antitrust division at the Department of Justice, has recused himself from investigating Google, even as the agency’s examination of the largest tech companies ramps up.

Mr. Delrahim, 50, recently removed himself from looking into allegations of anticompetitive practices at Google because of a potential conflict of interest related to his past work for the internet search company, two people with knowledge of the decision said.

In 2007, Mr. Delrahim, who was in private law practice at the time, had a contract to lobby for Google’s acquisition of the ad-technology company DoubleClick, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details are confidential.

“As the technology review progressed, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim revisited potential conflicts with previous work with the Department of Justice’s ethics office,” said a Justice Department spokesman. “He and the ethics office have decided that he should now recuse himself from a matter within the tech review in an abundance of caution.”

Mr. Delrahim is recusing himself as the Justice Department has embarked on the most high-profile antitrust investigations of technology companies in years. The agency opened investigations into Google, Amazon and Facebook last summer as questions over the dominance of the tech giants increased. The Justice Department has since called in dozens of rivals across media, retail and tech to gather evidence of anticompetitive business practices by the tech companies.

The Federal Trade Commission and dozens of state attorneys general have also started antitrust investigations into Facebook, Amazon and Google. A congressional committee has also opened a similar investigation into big tech companies.

It was unclear why Mr. Delrahim’s recusal was taking place now, given that the Justice Department’s investigation into Google has been in process for months.

But he has faced increased criticism for potential conflicts of interest. Last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Mr. Delrahim should recuse himself from tech investigations because of his history of consulting for Google and Apple while he was an attorney last decade.

Calling his lobbying work for Google and Apple “extensive and lucrative,” Ms. Warren said in a letter to Mr. Delrahim last June that “any reasonable person would surely question your impartiality in antitrust matters involving Google.”

In December, text messages between Mr. Delrahim and the top executives involved in a blockbuster wireless merger of T-Mobile and Sprint emerged in court after state attorneys general had challenged the deal. In the text messages, Mr. Delrahim appeared to facilitate negotiations between the companies and to help the deal get approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

Mr. Delrahim’s recusal raises questions about the Justice Department’s oversight of the Google investigation. In a statement, the agency said Ryan Shores, an associate deputy attorney general, and Alex Okuliar, a deputy assistant attorney general who joined the Justice Department last week, would oversee the tech review.

The tech investigations have drawn unusual interest from Attorney General William P. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Mr. Barr, a former official for Verizon, and Mr. Rosen, a former antitrust attorney, have given public speeches on their concerns about the power of big tech firms and their interest in examining whether the companies have broken antitrust laws.

Mr. Delrahim has been a divisive figure in antitrust circles. He opposed the merger of AT&T with Time Warner in November 2017 but the deal eventually went ahead. Months later, he approved the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Katie Benner contributed reporting.

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N.A.A.C.P. Tells Local Chapters: Don’t Let Energy Industry Manipulate You

Westlake Legal Group 00naacp1-facebookJumbo N.A.A.C.P. Tells Local Chapters: Don’t Let Energy Industry Manipulate You Politics and Government Philanthropy National Assn for the Advancement of Colored People Lobbying and Lobbyists Florida Power&Light Co Florida Electric Light and Power Blacks Alternative and Renewable Energy

When utilities around the country have wanted to build fossil-fuel plants, defeat energy-efficiency proposals or slow the growth of rooftop solar power, they have often turned for support to a surprisingly reliable ally: a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 2014, the top officials of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida division threw their organization’s weight behind an effort to stymie the spread of solar panels on residential rooftops and cut energy efficiency standards at the behest of the energy industry. The group’s Illinois chapter joined a similar industry effort in 2017. And in January 2018, the N.A.A.C.P.’s top executive in California signed a letter opposing a government program that encourages the use of renewable energy.

Most Americans know the N.A.A.C.P. as a storied civil rights organization that has fought for equal access to public facilities, fairness in housing and equality in education. But on energy policy, many of its chapters have for years advanced the interests of energy companies that are big donors to their programs. Often this advocacy has come at the expense of the black neighborhoods, which are more likely to have polluting power plants and are less able to adapt to climate change.

The activities of the N.A.A.C.P. chapters, which operate with significant autonomy, have so unnerved the group’s national office that it published a report titled the “Top 10 Manipulation Tactics of the Fossil Fuel Industry” in April. It is also sending its staff to state and local chapters to persuade them to fight for policies that reduce pollution and improve public health even at the risk of losing donations from utilities and fossil fuel companies.

From New Orleans to San Diego, consumer and environmental groups have criticized power companies for using their largess in minority communities to get church pastors, nonprofit groups and organizations like the N.A.A.C.P. to back industry objectives.

“The utilities have essentially asked communities of color to be props for them,” said William Funderburk Jr., an environmental lawyer and former board member of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. “It appears utilities are turning back the clock a hundred years.”

From 2013 to 2017, 10 of the country’s largest utilities gave about $1 billion in donations. Those contributions often went to groups representing minority communities, and many of the recipients promoted the interests of utilities in front of government regulators, according to the Energy Policy Institute, an environmental group.

The N.A.A.C.P. has a long record on environmental issues, including fighting to reduce the health threats posed by lead paint and asbestos. But its national office has been slower to stake a clear position on climate change and the pollution caused by power plants. It established a group dedicated to environmental justice only a decade ago.

Derrick Johnson, the N.A.A.C.P.’s president, said the group had established a department dedicated to that work that is larger than any of its other programs, with 11 full-time staff members and three consultants.

“We care about the education of our children,” Mr. Johnson said. “But if the children are in unhealthy environments, we know that it impedes their learning. We care about health and access to health care, so we must care about the decisions that create mega health impacts.”

As solar panels and other renewable energy sources tumbled in price in recent years, making them attractive alternatives to coal and natural gas in power plants, electric utilities in Florida began pressing regulators and lawmakers to limit their growth.

Rooftop solar in particular posed a threat to the utilities. When the electric grid was designed, engineers did not foresee that consumers would generate their own power and even sell it to the utilities. That could reduce revenue for the companies.

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and other utilities argued that as more affluent homeowners installed solar panels and reduced their reliance on the electric grid, lower-income residents would be forced to pay higher rates to maintain power lines. Many energy experts have disputed that argument, saying energy-efficiency programs and increasingly affordable solar panels can reduce electricity costs for low-income households. But utilities have successfully made their case around the country, often with the help of the N.A.A.C.P. and other nonprofit groups that are advocates for communities of color.

In Florida, utilities found a ready partner — for a time — in Adora Nweze, the president of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference. She and her staff repeated industry talking points in newspaper opinion articles, written comments to state regulators and testimony in public hearings.

Utilities often sought the group’s support around the time that the state conference was in the middle of raising money for programs and its annual gathering, held in September, Ms. Nweze said.

Invoices obtained by The New York Times show that Florida Power & Light gave the N.A.A.C.P. at least $225,000 from 2013 to 2017 and that Duke Energy gave $25,000. Florida Power & Light’s annual donations doubled in 2014 just as the utility was pressing state regulators to restrict rooftop solar power and weaken the state’s energy efficiency goals.

For example, the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference issued a $50,000 invoice to the utility on Sept. 11, 2014, a couple of months after Ms. Nweze wrote an essay in The Tallahassee Democrat opposing a solar-energy rebate program and in support of a utility-backed change to state efficiency goals.

“In many cases, nonparticipants tend to be the poor, creating a shockingly inequitable situation in which high-income households capture all of the benefits while low-income households shoulder all of the costs,” the essay said. Ms. Nweze said her staff wrote that article and similar ones, often copying verbatim from text sent by Florida Power & Light and other utilities.

In addition to the article, the conference filed comments with the state Public Service Commission. The commission later cited those comments in ruling for the utilities. The commission reduced the state’s energy-efficiency goals by about 90 percent.

The utilities’ policy victory in the 2014 case has had a lasting impact.

Florida utilities have some of the country’s least ambitious energy-efficiency goals. The Sunshine State also trails several states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, in how much electricity it gets from solar panels.

Florida Power & Light declined to answer questions about its work with the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and other civil rights organizations. The utility said its primary focus had been to keep electricity rates as low as possible.

“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the N.A.A.C.P. and of our ability to constructively work together on issues that benefit customers,” said Alys Daly, a company spokeswoman.

In an interview, Ms. Nweze said she had signed on because of the utilities’ financial support to her group, and because she believed what executives had told her about solar panels and energy efficiency.

“I felt that if we wanted the money, we had to do it,” she said. “The shortcoming on my part was that I didn’t have the necessary knowledge to know that it was a problem.”

Ms. Nweze, 77, said she decided about two years ago that her advocacy for the utilities was wrong. That was when the N.A.A.C.P.’s national office worked with her conference on a report about the impact that climate change and pollution have on low-income families. The report concluded that seven power plants had a disproportionate impact on people of color. It also found that Latino adults in Florida had the highest prevalence of asthma at some time in their lives and that African-American adolescents were the most likely to have ongoing asthma.

Jacqueline Patterson played an important role in Ms. Nweze’s conversion. Once focused on becoming a teacher, Ms. Patterson, 51, became interested in environmental issues while in Jamaica as a Peace Corps volunteer, in New Orleans as a relief worker after Hurricane Katrina and in sub-Saharan Africa as an official of a nonprofit group that works on health issues.

She often found that local residents were not involved in the discussions when officials debated and decided environmental and energy policy — white men frequently had the final say.

“What struck me after all of that was the number of rooms I went into where I was the only person of color,” Ms. Patterson said. “Too often, we’re just completely not there.”

As Ms. Patterson began recognizing the need for more African-Americans in the climate-change debate, so did the N.A.A.C.P.

The organization saw a growing need to address climate change and clean energy when it was drawn into a debate over a climate bill in Congress in 2009.

A lobbying firm working for the coal industry, Bonner & Associates, had sent out letters opposing the measure that seemed to be from the N.A.A.C.P.’s chapter in Charlottesville, Va. The group’s national office, in Baltimore, felt it had to make clear that it supported the legislation, which would have established a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Jack Bonner, the founder of Bonner & Associates, declined to comment.

Then the organization began digging deeper, creating an environmental justice program and appointing Ms. Patterson to lead it.

Under her leadership, the group began connecting the dots between climate change and the impact of disasters like Katrina on African-American communities. The group also took a closer look at how rising sea levels and more intense storms might affect low-income, minority neighborhoods. And it started examining how air pollution from power plants affected nearby residents, many of them black.

“Seeing all of those intersections and more, we really saw this as a civil rights issue,” Ms. Patterson said. “The N.A.A.C.P. is now engaging around pushing for policies and pushing for access to clean energy.”

One of her priorities, Ms. Patterson said, is to educate state conferences and chapters. A milestone was the 2017 report with its Florida conference, which got the state organization to reverse its position on solar panels, energy efficiency and other clean-energy programs.

“I looked at it differently than I do now,” Ms. Nweze said. “The more you look at the issue, you realize this isn’t really working.”

But the national N.A.A.C.P. message has not found traction in every state.

The president of the group’s Illinois conference, Teresa Haley, said that her group typically got $5,000 to $10,000 a year from the energy industry and that the money did not influence the group’s activities. “They do have their lobbyist who contacts us and says, ‘We need your support.’”

Ms. Haley added that her group’s local branches held votes on which initiatives they support, sometimes backing utilities and sometimes opposing them. In 2012, for example, the Chicago branch successfully fought to close two coal-fired power plants in minority neighborhoods.

In California, the N.A.A.C.P. conference has more consistently taken positions that align with those of the state’s largest utilities.

Alice Huffman, the president of that state conference, has signed letters opposing government-run electricity providers known as Community Choice Aggregation, which allow consumers to choose solar power and wind with lower rates while leaving billing and transmission in the hands of investor-owned utilities. Ms. Huffman and the heads of other nonprofit organizations joined the utilities in sending a letter to state regulators contending that those programs could shift more of the grid’s cost to those who could least afford it. Studies have found that those in community choice programs typically have lower electric bills, but that state fees charged for grid maintenance could hurt low-income customers.

California’s three investor-owned utilities have donated about $180,000 to the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and its local chapters over the last five years, the companies said. Ms. Huffman and her conference did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Funderburk, the environmental lawyer, said the utility donations pressured nonprofit organizations to support the industry in ways undisclosed to members and the public.

“The only way to get real equity is to make things much more transparent,” he said.

Ms. Patterson said the N.A.A.C.P. was working on alternative revenue sources for chapters that stood to lose financial support from utilities.

In Florida, Ms. Nweze said that she realized that reversing support for fossil-fuel interests could jeopardize the state conference’s funding, but that she could no longer ignore the effect of climate change on her members.

“I’m not naïve,” she said. “I’m concerned, but I’m more concerned about the impact on the lives of the people throughout the country and this state in particular.”

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Ukraine’s Leader, Wiser to Washington, Seeks New Outreach to Trump

Westlake Legal Group 12dc-lobby-1-facebookJumbo Ukraine’s Leader, Wiser to Washington, Seeks New Outreach to Trump Zelensky, Volodymyr Yanukovych, Viktor F United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Telizhenko, Andrii Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Mercury Public Affairs Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Lanza, Bryan

WASHINGTON — Eager to repair their country’s fraught relationship with Washington, allies of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine have met with lobbyists with close ties to the Trump administration, hopeful of creating new channels of communication.

After more than two months of anxious waiting, Mr. Zelensky finally appears to have won support from the White House for a candidate to fill Ukraine’s vacant ambassadorship to the United States.

And Mr. Zelensky, still deeply dependent on American assistance, has been signaling, in hardly subtle fashion, that he and his officials will not assist in the impeachment process, keeping quiet in particular about the fact that his government knew weeks earlier than it has publicly acknowledged that Mr. Trump had frozen nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Nearly every world leader has struggled to figure out how to deal with Mr. Trump. But few face greater pressure to find the answer — or more hurdles to doing so — than Mr. Zelensky.

Wiser now to the ways of Washington, he and his team are carefully trying to reestablish themselves in a variety of ways as an important ally with a substantive agenda deserving of Washington’s attention and support.

They have a long ways to go. Mr. Zelensky’s team has been discouraged by the absence of expected support from Mr. Trump for Ukraine’s peace talks with Russia, as well as the lack of follow-through from the White House on a promised Oval Office meeting with Mr. Zelensky that the administration had quietly signaled might happen in late January.

Mr. Zelensky’s allies were frustrated further by Mr. Trump’s meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. And when the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani paid an unexpected visit to Kyiv last week in a continued effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump’s political opponents, no Ukrainian government officials met him.

Asked by an official at the German Marshall Fund on Friday what the Zelensky administration wants from Washington, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, who has been in Washington this week meeting with administration and congressional officials, said “all we are asking from our colleagues in the U.S. administration is fair treatment.”

He added, “We don’t want to be shamed and blamed.”

The continued push to try to overcome Mr. Trump’s grudge against Ukraine suggests Zelensky administration officials have concluded that impeachment will fail in the Senate and that they will almost certainly need to work with Mr. Trump for at least another year, and possibly another five years if Mr. Trump is re-elected.

“Our relations are not in good shape,” said Olena Zerkal, a former deputy foreign minister under Mr. Zelensky. “I don’t believe in any chemistry between our leaders.”

Mr. Zelensky’s willingness to accommodate the Trump administration has hardly gone unnoticed in Kyiv.

After the White House released a rough transcript of a July 25 call between the American and Ukrainian presidents, Mr. Zelensky was panned in Ukraine on social media for seeming too eager to please Mr. Trump. That included signaling a willingness to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump into political targets like the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Monica Zelensky,” the Ukrainian president was called on social media in Kyiv, in a reference to the intern whose sexual relations with Bill Clinton led to the last impeachment proceedings of an American president.

Even a White House visit, if it happens, risks being seen not so much as a triumph for Mr. Zelensky as more kowtowing to Mr. Trump, who could cite it as evidence he never linked such a visit, or American military assistance for Ukraine, to investigations that would benefit him politically.

“In Kyiv, we have to place bets on the current power in Washington,” said Nikolay Kapitonenko, professor at the Institute of International Relations. But outreach to the Republican administration is not risk free, he said, adding, “Zelensky understands that taking any side is dangerous.”

The importance of American support for Ukraine — and the desire for more of it from Mr. Trump — has been on display in recent days.

An American diplomat traveled to Kyiv to express support for the Ukrainians headed into Mr. Zelensky’s first face-to-face meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Paris.

But Trump administration officials privately told the Ukrainians that Mr. Trump himself would signal support, according to Americans and Ukrainians familiar with the matter, either via Twitter, as first reported by The Daily Beast, or possibly even an invitation for Mr. Zelensky to visit the White House next month. While Mr. Trump posted more than 100 tweets on Sunday, none expressed support for the Ukrainians headed into the peace talks.

The Trump administration had also resisted calls to levy sanctions against a Russian gas pipeline that would circumvent Ukraine. The White House reportedly worked to undermine congressional efforts to block the pipeline, though sanctions language was added to a $738 billion military policy bill that passed the House on Wednesday. And the military assistance that Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of using as leverage to force the investigations reportedly still has not fully reached Ukraine.

Those are among the issues that may help explain why the Ukrainians are considering stepping up their lobbying in Washington, despite potential political and financial costs.

During his campaign and early in his presidency, Mr. Zelensky proclaimed that he had no need to hire lobbyists like the government of his predecessor. “I never met a single lobbyist,” he said. “I don’t need this. I never paid a coin and I never will.”

Yet, in the weeks before Mr. Zelensky was elected in April, his advisers quietly worked with a Washington lobbying firm, Signal Group, to arrange meetings in Washington with Trump administration officials, as well as congressional offices and think tanks that focus on Ukraine-United States relations.

Mr. Zelensky distanced himself from the arrangement, even though Signal Group reported in a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, that it was paid nearly $70,000 by Mr. Zelensky’s party through a lawyer named Marcus Cohen. Mr. Cohen, on the other hand, claimed that the money came from his own pocket, not from Mr. Zelensky’s party.

The Justice Department’s National Security Division, which oversees FARA, sent a letter to Mr. Cohen requesting information about the arrangement, then urged him to register as a foreign agent, according to people with knowledge of the situation. One of the people said that the division also audited Signal Group’s filings, informing the firm in a letter in October that the inquiry was closed.

Signal defended its FARA filings as accurate, and referred questions about Mr. Cohen’s representations to him or Mr. Zelensky’s team. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Zelensky “may find that it is best to be his own spokesperson on this subject for a while to prevent others from interpreting his words for him,” at least until “trust can be rebuilt,” Heather A. Conley, who was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs from 2001 to 2005, said in an email.

Ms. Conley, who is director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was among the think tank officials who met with one Mr. Zelensky’s advisers in April in a meeting arranged by Signal and Mr. Cohen.

They discussed Mr. Zelensky’s anticorruption and economic overhaul plans, Ms. Conley said, adding, “Ukraine faces a fraught landscape in Washington — with or without a lobbyist.”

The discussions about hiring a lobbyist, which are described as preliminary, have divided Mr. Zelensky’s team.

Some are concerned that hiring a lobbying firm with ties to Mr. Trump could jeopardize Democratic support. And some are wary of becoming involved with K Street at all, because of the specter of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for crimes related to his lobbying for a deeply unpopular former Ukrainian government.

Yet two of the firms being discussed for possible lobbying engagement have links to Mr. Manafort, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

A representative of one of the firms, Mercury Public Affairs, which worked with Mr. Manafort on his Ukraine effort, met in Kyiv last month with a top aide to Mr. Zelensky. The lobbyist, Bryan Lanza, has ties to the Trump White House, and was in Ukraine on unrelated business according to people familiar with the meeting.

It was arranged by an American lawyer named Andrew Mac, who himself registered last month with the Justice Department as an unpaid lobbyist for Mr. Zelensky. Mr. Mac, who splits his time between Washington and Kyiv, was appointed by Mr. Zelensky last month as an adviser responsible for building support among the Ukrainian diaspora.

In a sign of the scrutiny in Kyiv on its new government’s tumultuous relationship with Mr. Trump, and efforts to calm it, secretly recorded video and photographs circulated of Mr. Lanza’s meeting with the Zelensky aide in a restaurant.

In an article featuring the photographs, a Ukrainian news outlet noted that Mr. Lanza helped lift sanctions against the corporate empire of the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin ally. That arrangement was assailed by critics in Washington as a sweetheart deal that represented a capitulation to the Kremlin, while Mr. Lanza also lobbied to help remove potentially crippling sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

Mr. Mac said Mr. Lanza had been “very effective in working for his clients on difficult matters.”

Another firm that was discussed by Mr. Zelensky’s aides, Prime Policy Group, also has a Manafort link — albeit a more dated one. It was started by Charlie Black, a former business partner of Mr. Manafort’s in the 1980s and ’90s. Mr. Black’s firm has represented other clients in Ukraine, including Sergey Tigipko, a Ukrainian billionaire and former official in the government of Viktor F. Yanukovych.

Mr. Black said he had not had any conversations with Mr. Zelensky’s team about a possible contract, but would not be opposed to such an engagement.

Mr. Mac met this month in Washington to discuss Ukrainian energy issues with the former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat turned Republican from Louisiana who is now a lobbyist. While someone with knowledge of the deliberations said Mr. Tauzin was not being considered as a potential lobbyist for Ukraine, he has connections that could be helpful. His congressional staff once included Dan Brouillette, who was confirmed this month as secretary of the Energy Department, upon which the Ukrainian government has relied for help with its power supply during brutally cold winters.

Ms. Conley suggested that Mr. Zelensky would be better served by an ambassador than a lobbyist, but the process of filling that vacancy has not been quick.

At least three names had been floated in recent months, and the Zelensky administration’s current preference for the position, Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, had been awaiting approval since late September or early October, according to people familiar with the process. They said that the State Department had signed off on Mr. Yelchenko weeks ago, but that the Ukrainians had grown anxious waiting for the White House to do so.

Officials in Kyiv were told that the approval would be formally communicated this week, they said. The White House and State Department did not respond to questions about the approval of Mr. Yelchenko.

Some attributed the delay to a quiet push by some Trump allies for a prospective ambassador who is closely aligned with Mr. Giuliani, Andrii Telizhenko, who had served as a low-ranking diplomat in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington under the previous government.

He was embraced by Mr. Trump’s allies after claiming that the former American ambassador to Kyiv and other Ukrainian officials worked to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. In recent months, Mr. Telizhenko has worked closely with Mr. Giuliani to advance those claims. As part of the effort, the two men traveled together to Hungary and Ukraine last week to record interviews with former Ukrainian officials for a series of programs by a conservative cable channel seeking to undermine the impeachment proceedings.

It is unclear whether Mr. Zelensky’s team ever seriously considered Mr. Telizhenko as an ambassador candidate.

Kenneth P. Vogel reported from Washington, and Andrew E. Kramer from Kyiv.

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Boeing Shaped a Law to Its Liking. Weeks Later, a 737 Max Crashed.

With a few short paragraphs tucked into 463 pages of legislation last year, Boeing scored one of its biggest lobbying wins: a law that undercuts the government’s role in approving the design of new airplanes.

For years, the government had been handing over more responsibility to manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. But those paragraphs cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority.

Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing, the nation’s dominant aerospace manufacturer, is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 50 regulators, industry executives, congressional staff members and lobbyists, as well as drafts of the bill and federal documents, found that Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators.

In a stark warning as the bill was being written, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would “not be in the best interest of safety.”

A labor group representing agency inspectors raised concerns that the rules would turn the F.A.A. into a “rubber stamp” that would only be able to intervene after a plane crashed “and people are killed,” according to internal union documents reviewed by The Times.

Weeks after the law was passed, a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing everyone on board. A second Max crashed in Ethiopia less than five months later, and the plane was grounded.

On both doomed flights, a new automated system on the Max, designed to help avoid stalls, triggered erroneously, sending them into fatal nose-dives. Mired in crisis, Boeing is still trying to fix the plane and get it flying again.

In the aftermath, lawmakers have seized on flaws in a regulatory system that cedes control to industry — an issue that is likely to put Boeing on the defensive this week when the company’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, testifies before Congress for the first time since the two crashes.

The F.A.A. never fully analyzed the automated system known as MCAS, while Boeing played down its risks. Late in the plane’s development, Boeing made the system more aggressive, changes that were not submitted in a safety assessment to the agency.

The Max was certified under the old rules. The new law, the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018, makes it even more difficult for the government to review manufacturers’ work.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160295604_b49b248c-f79a-4c0d-87c6-14186b943649-articleLarge Boeing Shaped a Law to Its Liking. Weeks Later, a 737 Max Crashed. United States Senate Nelson, Bill (1942- ) Muilenburg, Dennis A Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aviation Administration Cantwell, Maria Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Bahrami, Ali Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 into law last October. Most of the attention on the legislation had been on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.Credit…Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosia

In the past, agency officials could decide whether to delegate oversight to the company or to maintain control, depending on the importance of a system or concerns about safety. Now, the agency, at the outset of the development process, has to hand over responsibility for certifying almost every aspect of new planes.

If F.A.A. officials decide a system may compromise safety, the new rules dictate that they will need to conduct an investigation or an inspection to make their case before taking back control. If the officials raise concerns, ask for changes or otherwise miss certification deadlines, any disputes are automatically elevated by law to managers at the agency and the company.

The law also creates a committee of mostly aerospace executives to ensure that the regulator is meeting metrics set by the industry, and the law allows companies to make recommendations about the compensation of F.A.A. employees.

“The reauthorization act mandated regulatory capture,” said Doug Anderson, a former attorney in the agency’s office of chief counsel who reviewed the legislation. “It set the F.A.A. up for being totally deferential to the industry.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said that the certification process is “part of an effective F.A.A. oversight of safety that permits them to focus on the most important issues that are critical to the safety of flight.” He added that “this authority has been a proven way for decades for government regulators across many industries to prioritize resources and rely on technical experts to maintain quality, safety and integrity.”

When the legislation was hashed out, the lobbying effort barely registered in the country’s vast political machine. Boeing’s push, and the use of industry language in the crucial paragraphs, was standard amid the deregulatory drive by many businesses. Most of the attention on the bill was focused on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.

Since the two fatal accidents, the law has set off worries in Washington about whether the rules championed by Boeing make company deadlines a priority over passenger safety.

The manufacturer helped author a report that congressional aides used as a reference while writing the law, borrowing language and ideas that had long been used by Boeing. Its executives pressed Michael Huerta, then the head of the F.A.A., for support, telling him that the regulator’s inefficiency was threatening Boeing’s ability to compete against its chief rival, Airbus of France. They also helped persuade Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State, where Boeing has its manufacturing hub, to introduce language that requires the F.A.A. to relinquish control of many parts of the certification process.

“The method by which the F.A.A. certifies aircraft is in need of repair — I don’t think anyone could argue otherwise at this point,” Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington, who voted in favor of the legislation, said in an interview. “No matter what we did last year, we need to be pulling some of that back into the public sphere, and take some of it out of the hands of industry.”

In closed-door meetings with congressional staff members, in testimony on Capitol Hill, in memos to lawmakers, the talking points were all the same.

Starting in 2014, Boeing and its trade associations explained that streamlining certification would make American aerospace companies more competitive with overseas rivals, by allowing them to develop planes more efficiently.

They argued that F.A.A. employees were interpreting the rules in seemingly arbitrary ways and slowing down the development process, according to seven people involved in the discussions and documents reviewed by The Times.

In a 2015 memo sent to congressional staff members that was reviewed by The Times, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which represents the business jet unit of Boeing, urged lawmakers to “fully implement” the so-called system of delegation. If disputes caused delays, the trade group called for “automatic escalation to appropriate F.A.A. and company management” so that issues didn’t languish.

The Aerospace Industries Association, which was headed during part of the lobbying campaign by Mr. Muilenburg of Boeing, echoed those priorities. Richard Efford, a lobbyist for the group, said in an interview that he emphasized the need to “fully utilize” delegation.

Boeing executives made the same pitch to Mr. Huerta at industry events and in meetings at the F.A.A., according to three people with knowledge of the matter. It became a routine discussion, they said.

And they made their case publicly as well, at times citing the company’s safety record.

In a 2015 hearing, Ray Conner, then the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, pushed like others for making “full use” of the system. He said it took too long to get approvals for interiors, like seats and bathrooms, that company engineers could assess. He argued that European regulators outsource far more.

The language of their lobbying push was rooted in a 2012 report from an industry-dominated committee run by Christine Thompson, a Boeing executive, and Ali Bahrami, an F.A.A. official at the time who later became a lobbyist.

In aerospace speak, it called for “full utilization of available delegation,” outsourcing as much oversight as possible. It outlined six recommendations that “will result in the reduction of certification delays” and “enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry.”

“There was a consensus that they had good recommendations, and that we ought to put them into writing,” said Matt Bormet, who formerly worked for Mr. Larsen. “I heard no complaints about the report.”

Boeing and its allies found a receptive audience in the head of the House transportation committee, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican staunchly in favor of deregulation, and his aide working on the legislation, Holly Woodruff Lyons.

The F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 was broadly meant to provide agency funding for the coming years. Lawmakers also used it to introduce new rules for drones, airport noise and the certification process.

As Ms. Lyons helped write the law, she was in regular touch with Boeing, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The critical paragraphs in the final bill borrowed heavily from industry language, instituting the “full utilization of F.A.A. delegation.”

“The certification reforms in the F.A.A. bill were strongly desired and had bipartisan support,” Mr. Shuster said in an email, noting that delegation “has worked well and safely for over 50 years.”

The evolution of the bill had the imprint of industry.

An early version that Ms. Lyons sent to lobbyists directed the F.A.A. to measure its own performance, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. In one circulated a month later, staff members had added a clause specifying that the agency would be judged in part by a committee dominated by aerospace executives, which would come up with metrics for the regulator.

As the Senate prepared its own version in early 2016, Boeing was in close contact with the office of Ms. Cantwell.

“Senator Cantwell is responsive to the needs of Washington State businesses,” said Nick Sutter, one of her former staff members. “Boeing people were in and out of the office all the time.”

In conversations with a top aide for the senator, Matt McCarthy, Boeing lobbyists pushed for language that would compel the F.A.A. to rely more on manufacturers, according to two people directly involved in the discussions. Mr. McCarthy took a job as a lobbyist for Boeing in September.

Regulators and companies agreed that the F.A.A.’s resources were best focused on new and high-risk systems, according to Peggy Gilligan, the agency’s head of safety back then, and several other officials.

Ms. Cantwell submitted an amendment that directed the F.A.A. to automatically give companies the right to approve anything deemed “low and medium risk” on an airplane. It was language that particularly helped Boeing, with its wide range of planes.

“Listening to your constituents is always the first step in legislating, but it’s certainly not the last,” said Ansley Lacitis, deputy chief of staff for Ms. Cantwell. “This concept of risk-based oversight was bipartisan, consensus-based and recommended by experts.”

The amendment passed without any debate. At the hearing, then-Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, cheered the changes. The law, he said, “will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and — most importantly — create good jobs for Americans.”

F.A.A. officials tried to push back, raising concerns to congressional staff members and aerospace executives. But they were constrained in their efforts.

As a federal agency, the F.A.A. is forbidden by law to use government resources to influence and lobby Congress. At most, officials could provide comments and feedback, so-called technical assistance in the legislative process.

“It is true that we were supportive of delegation as a general philosophy,” said Mr. Huerta, the former F.A.A. chief. “It is not true that means the agency supported every proposal to expand delegation and impose limits on the agency’s ability to take back delegations.”

Early on, Ms. Gilligan, the former F.A.A. official, said industry lobbyists suggested that the law should give companies input on performance evaluations of individual F.A.A. employees overseeing the certification of their planes. Two other agency officials confirmed her account.

“It appeared they were looking to influence the individuals’ pay outcome in some way, and for the F.A.A. employees to know that potential pay impact,” Ms. Gilligan said.

The final bill did not completely satisfy her concerns. The law created a panel with industry representatives to help assess “performance incentive policies” for F.A.A. employees, as long as they “do not conflict with the public interest.”

Mostly, top F.A.A. officials worried about the unintended consequences of giving more authority to manufacturers. Boeing employees have described pressures from their managers to meet deadlines while approving systems.

Under the old rules, the F.A.A. could decide to take back oversight authority on a system if they were concerned about safety. The new law would require the agency to conduct an investigation or inspection to prove that there was a problem before stepping in, a potentially lengthy process.

Industry groups told congressional staff members that manufacturers were sometimes subject to the whims of individual F.A.A. employees, who could block approvals and delay production schedules, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

“It causes delays and a lot of frustration within the companies,” said Mr. Efford, the lobbyist.

But regulators were concerned that the new law would keep them from effectively doing their job.

In early 2015, Brian Morris, a safety official at the agency, prepared feedback for lawmakers, arguing that the legislation would prevent the regulator from acting until a dangerous system had already been introduced onto an aircraft. “With this language, Congress is asking us to wait till we find a hazard before removing delegation,” he wrote, according to an F.A.A. document reviewed by The Times.

A current and a former F.A.A. official said that Mr. Morris was collecting feedback from multiple departments, so the comments reflected the opinions of other agency staff members. The document notes that the comments were “provided in response to a congressional request.”

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, a small labor group that represents F.A.A. employees, had a similar warning. If the regulator could only intercede after documenting problems, it may not be able to stop manufacturers from installing risky systems.

“That will, as a practical matter, mean after the accident has happened and people are killed,” the union said in comments prepared for Congress in early 2016, which were reviewed by The Times.

Through a spokesman, Ms. Lyons, the congressional aide writing the law, said she did not receive comments from Mr. Morris or the union, but was aware of the F.A.A.’s worries.

“The concerns were discussed and considered in a bipartisan manner,” said the House transportation committee spokesman, Justin Harclerode. “Members did not agree with this interpretation of the language, and were not convinced the language would negatively impact the FAA’s ability to safely oversee the aviation industry”

He added that the F.A.A., under the law, could set the parameters of the investigation or inspection.

At a ceremony in the Oval Office last October, President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act into law, while Representative Shuster, who shepherded the legislation, looked over his shoulder.

The agency has already begun to make the required changes.

In August, it announced the formation of the advisory committee charged with setting goals for the regulator. The committee includes two union representatives and 17 industry officials, among them Beth Pasztor, one of Boeing’s top executives. The F.A.A. recently selected managers for an internal office that will help enforce provisions of the law.

As the rules take hold, some lawmakers who originally supported the legislation are backing away.

Mr. Nelson, the former senator who co-sponsored the law, said he did not fully understand the ramifications. “This was never brought to my attention,” he said in an interview. “Had I known about it, I would have tried to put the kibosh on it.”

Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who is the chairman of the House transportation committee, celebrated the bill’s changes last year, saying it would maintain safety and “will help our manufacturers become much more competitive in the world market and introduce their products more quickly.”

Mr. DeFazio, who is currently leading a congressional investigation into the crashes, said in an interview that he was reconsidering the law and might introduce legislation to restore some of the agency’s oversight authority.

“If the F.A.A. basically deferred on a safety critical system and did not provide proper oversight, then either the individuals involved are going to be at risk, or the whole system itself isn’t working properly,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight

With a few short paragraphs tucked into 463 pages of legislation last year, Boeing scored one of its biggest lobbying wins: a law that undercuts the government’s role in approving the design of new airplanes.

For years, the government had been handing over more responsibility to manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. But those paragraphs cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority.

Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing, the nation’s dominant aerospace manufacturer, is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 50 regulators, industry executives, congressional staff members and lobbyists, as well as drafts of the bill and federal documents, found that Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators.

In a stark warning as the bill was being written, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would “not be in the best interest of safety.”

A labor group representing agency inspectors raised concerns that the rules would turn the F.A.A. into a “rubber stamp” that would only be able to intervene after a plane crashed “and people are killed,” according to internal union documents reviewed by The Times.

Weeks after the law was passed, a Boeing 737 Max jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing everyone on board. A second Max crashed in Ethiopia less than five months later, and the plane was grounded.

On both doomed flights, a new automated system on the Max, designed to help avoid stalls, triggered erroneously, sending them into fatal nose-dives. Mired in crisis, Boeing is still trying to fix the plane and get it flying again.

In the aftermath, lawmakers have seized on flaws in a regulatory system that cedes control to industry — an issue that is likely to put Boeing on the defensive this week when the company’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, testifies before Congress for the first time since the two crashes.

The F.A.A. never fully analyzed the automated system known as MCAS, while Boeing played down its risks. Late in the plane’s development, Boeing made the system more aggressive, changes that were not submitted in a safety assessment to the agency.

The Max was certified under the old rules. The new law, the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018, makes it even more difficult for the government to review manufacturers’ work.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160295604_b49b248c-f79a-4c0d-87c6-14186b943649-articleLarge Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight United States Senate Nelson, Bill (1942- ) Muilenburg, Dennis A Lobbying and Lobbyists Law and Legislation House of Representatives Federal Aviation Administration Cantwell, Maria Boeing Company Boeing 737 Max Groundings and Safety Concerns (2019) Bahrami, Ali Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 into law last October. Most of the attention on the legislation had been on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.Credit…Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosia

In the past, agency officials could decide whether to delegate oversight to the company or to maintain control, depending on the importance of a system or concerns about safety. Now, the agency, at the outset of the development process, has to hand over responsibility for certifying almost every aspect of new planes.

If F.A.A. officials decide a system may compromise safety, the new rules dictate that they will need to conduct an investigation or an inspection to make their case before taking back control. If the officials raise concerns, ask for changes or otherwise miss certification deadlines, any disputes are automatically elevated by law to managers at the agency and the company.

The law also creates a committee of mostly aerospace executives to ensure that the regulator is meeting metrics set by the industry, and the law allows companies to make recommendations about the compensation of F.A.A. employees.

“The reauthorization act mandated regulatory capture,” said Doug Anderson, a former attorney in the agency’s office of chief counsel who reviewed the legislation. “It set the F.A.A. up for being totally deferential to the industry.”

A spokesman for Boeing, Gordon Johndroe, said that the certification process is “part of an effective F.A.A. oversight of safety that permits them to focus on the most important issues that are critical to the safety of flight.” He added that “this authority has been a proven way for decades for government regulators across many industries to prioritize resources and rely on technical experts to maintain quality, safety and integrity.”

When the legislation was hashed out, the lobbying effort barely registered in the country’s vast political machine. Boeing’s push, and the use of industry language in the crucial paragraphs, was standard amid the deregulatory drive by many businesses. Most of the attention on the bill was focused on a failed Republican effort to privatize the air traffic control system.

Since the two fatal accidents, the law has set off worries in Washington about whether the rules championed by Boeing make company deadlines a priority over passenger safety.

The manufacturer helped author a report that congressional aides used as a reference while writing the law, borrowing language and ideas that had long been used by Boeing. Its executives pressed Michael Huerta, then the head of the F.A.A., for support, telling him that the regulator’s inefficiency was threatening Boeing’s ability to compete against its chief rival, Airbus of France. They also helped persuade Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State, where Boeing has its manufacturing hub, to introduce language that requires the F.A.A. to relinquish control of many parts of the certification process.

“The method by which the F.A.A. certifies aircraft is in need of repair — I don’t think anyone could argue otherwise at this point,” Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington, who voted in favor of the legislation, said in an interview. “No matter what we did last year, we need to be pulling some of that back into the public sphere, and take some of it out of the hands of industry.”

In closed-door meetings with congressional staff members, in testimony on Capitol Hill, in memos to lawmakers, the talking points were all the same.

Starting in 2014, Boeing and its trade associations explained that streamlining certification would make American aerospace companies more competitive with overseas rivals, by allowing them to develop planes more efficiently.

They argued that F.A.A. employees were interpreting the rules in seemingly arbitrary ways and slowing down the development process, according to seven people involved in the discussions and documents reviewed by The Times.

In a 2015 memo sent to congressional staff members that was reviewed by The Times, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which represents the business jet unit of Boeing, urged lawmakers to “fully implement” the so-called system of delegation. If disputes caused delays, the trade group called for “automatic escalation to appropriate F.A.A. and company management” so that issues didn’t languish.

The Aerospace Industries Association, which was headed during part of the lobbying campaign by Mr. Muilenburg of Boeing, echoed those priorities. Richard Efford, a lobbyist for the group, said in an interview that he emphasized the need to “fully utilize” delegation.

Boeing executives made the same pitch to Mr. Huerta at industry events and in meetings at the F.A.A., according to three people with knowledge of the matter. It became a routine discussion, they said.

And they made their case publicly as well, at times citing the company’s safety record.

In a 2015 hearing, Ray Conner, then the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, pushed like others for making “full use” of the system. He said it took too long to get approvals for interiors, like seats and bathrooms, that company engineers could assess. He argued that European regulators outsource far more.

The language of their lobbying push was rooted in a 2012 report from an industry-dominated committee run by Christine Thompson, a Boeing executive, and Ali Bahrami, an F.A.A. official at the time who later became a lobbyist.

In aerospace speak, it called for “full utilization of available delegation,” outsourcing as much oversight as possible. It outlined six recommendations that “will result in the reduction of certification delays” and “enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry.”

“There was a consensus that they had good recommendations, and that we ought to put them into writing,” said Matt Bormet, who formerly worked for Mr. Larsen. “I heard no complaints about the report.”

Boeing and its allies found a receptive audience in the head of the House transportation committee, Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican staunchly in favor of deregulation, and his aide working on the legislation, Holly Woodruff Lyons.

The F.A.A. Reauthorization Act of 2018 was broadly meant to provide agency funding for the coming years. Lawmakers also used it to introduce new rules for drones, airport noise and the certification process.

As Ms. Lyons helped write the law, she was in regular touch with Boeing, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The critical paragraphs in the final bill borrowed heavily from industry language, instituting the “full utilization of F.A.A. delegation.”

“The certification reforms in the F.A.A. bill were strongly desired and had bipartisan support,” Mr. Shuster said in an email, noting that delegation “has worked well and safely for over 50 years.”

The evolution of the bill had the imprint of industry.

An early version that Ms. Lyons sent to lobbyists directed the F.A.A. to measure its own performance, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. In one circulated a month later, staff members had added a clause specifying that the agency would be judged in part by a committee dominated by aerospace executives, which would come up with metrics for the regulator.

As the Senate prepared its own version in early 2016, Boeing was in close contact with the office of Ms. Cantwell.

“Senator Cantwell is responsive to the needs of Washington State businesses,” said Nick Sutter, one of her former staff members. “Boeing people were in and out of the office all the time.”

In conversations with a top aide for the senator, Matt McCarthy, Boeing lobbyists pushed for language that would compel the F.A.A. to rely more on manufacturers, according to two people directly involved in the discussions. Mr. McCarthy took a job as a lobbyist for Boeing in September.

Regulators and companies agreed that the F.A.A.’s resources were best focused on new and high-risk systems, according to Peggy Gilligan, the agency’s head of safety back then, and several other officials.

Ms. Cantwell submitted an amendment that directed the F.A.A. to automatically give companies the right to approve anything deemed “low and medium risk” on an airplane. It was language that particularly helped Boeing, with its wide range of planes.

“Listening to your constituents is always the first step in legislating, but it’s certainly not the last,” said Ansley Lacitis, deputy chief of staff for Ms. Cantwell. “This concept of risk-based oversight was bipartisan, consensus-based and recommended by experts.”

The amendment passed without any debate. At the hearing, then-Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, cheered the changes. The law, he said, “will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and — most importantly — create good jobs for Americans.”

F.A.A. officials tried to push back, raising concerns to congressional staff members and aerospace executives. But they were constrained in their efforts.

As a federal agency, the F.A.A. is forbidden by law to use government resources to influence and lobby Congress. At most, officials could provide comments and feedback, so-called technical assistance in the legislative process.

“It is true that we were supportive of delegation as a general philosophy,” said Mr. Huerta, the former F.A.A. chief. “It is not true that means the agency supported every proposal to expand delegation and impose limits on the agency’s ability to take back delegations.”

Early on, Ms. Gilligan, the former F.A.A. official, said industry lobbyists suggested that the law should give companies input on performance evaluations of individual F.A.A. employees overseeing the certification of their planes. Two other agency officials confirmed her account.

“It appeared they were looking to influence the individuals’ pay outcome in some way, and for the F.A.A. employees to know that potential pay impact,” Ms. Gilligan said.

The final bill did not completely satisfy her concerns. The law created a panel with industry representatives to help assess “performance incentive policies” for F.A.A. employees, as long as they “do not conflict with the public interest.”

Mostly, top F.A.A. officials worried about the unintended consequences of giving more authority to manufacturers. Boeing employees have described pressures from their managers to meet deadlines while approving systems.

Under the old rules, the F.A.A. could decide to take back oversight authority on a system if they were concerned about safety. The new law would require the agency to conduct an investigation or inspection to prove that there was a problem before stepping in, a potentially lengthy process.

Industry groups told congressional staff members that manufacturers were sometimes subject to the whims of individual F.A.A. employees, who could block approvals and delay production schedules, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

“It causes delays and a lot of frustration within the companies,” said Mr. Efford, the lobbyist.

But regulators were concerned that the new law would keep them from effectively doing their job.

In early 2015, Brian Morris, a safety official at the agency, prepared feedback for lawmakers, arguing that the legislation would prevent the regulator from acting until a dangerous system had already been introduced onto an aircraft. “With this language, Congress is asking us to wait till we find a hazard before removing delegation,” he wrote, according to an F.A.A. document reviewed by The Times.

A current and a former F.A.A. official said that Mr. Morris was collecting feedback from multiple departments, so the comments reflected the opinions of other agency staff members. The document notes that the comments were “provided in response to a congressional request.”

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, a small labor group that represents F.A.A. employees, had a similar warning. If the regulator could only intercede after documenting problems, it may not be able to stop manufacturers from installing risky systems.

“That will, as a practical matter, mean after the accident has happened and people are killed,” the union said in comments prepared for Congress in early 2016, which were reviewed by The Times.

Through a spokesman, Ms. Lyons, the congressional aide writing the law, said she did not receive comments from Mr. Morris or the union, but was aware of the F.A.A.’s worries.

“The concerns were discussed and considered in a bipartisan manner,” said the House transportation committee spokesman, Justin Harclerode. “Members did not agree with this interpretation of the language, and were not convinced the language would negatively impact the FAA’s ability to safely oversee the aviation industry”

He added that the F.A.A., under the law, could set the parameters of the investigation or inspection.

At a ceremony in the Oval Office last October, President Trump signed the F.A.A. Reauthorization Act into law, while Representative Shuster, who shepherded the legislation, looked over his shoulder.

The agency has already begun to make the required changes.

In August, it announced the formation of the advisory committee charged with setting goals for the regulator. The committee includes two union representatives and 17 industry officials, among them Beth Pasztor, one of Boeing’s top executives. The F.A.A. recently selected managers for an internal office that will help enforce provisions of the law.

As the rules take hold, some lawmakers who originally supported the legislation are backing away.

Mr. Nelson, the former senator who co-sponsored the law, said he did not fully understand the ramifications. “This was never brought to my attention,” he said in an interview. “Had I known about it, I would have tried to put the kibosh on it.”

Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who is the chairman of the House transportation committee, celebrated the bill’s changes last year, saying it would maintain safety and “will help our manufacturers become much more competitive in the world market and introduce their products more quickly.”

Mr. DeFazio, who is currently leading a congressional investigation into the crashes, said in an interview that he was reconsidering the law and might introduce legislation to restore some of the agency’s oversight authority.

“If the F.A.A. basically deferred on a safety critical system and did not provide proper oversight, then either the individuals involved are going to be at risk, or the whole system itself isn’t working properly,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-turkeybank-facebookJumbo-v2 U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Turkey Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Money Laundering Lobbying and Lobbyists Justice Department Iran Halkbank Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Embargoes and Sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Tuesday sharply escalated economic pressure on Turkey by filing fraud and money-laundering charges against the country’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade United States sanctions.

The charges against the institution, Halkbank, came as the administration sought ways to project that it was taking a tough line with Turkey after President Trump effectively signaled this month that the United States would not stand in the way of Turkey’s desire to send forces into northern Syria.

Mr. Trump’s willingness to allow the military action has thrown the region into chaos and ignited an intense bipartisan backlash against him at home. As the criticism has mounted, the White House has emphasized the steps it is taking to restrain Turkey’s offensive, including a round of sanctions announced on Monday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had repeatedly raised the Halkbank case with Mr. Trump over the past year, urging the United States not to take further action, saying that to do so would unfairly expose Turkey to severe financial risks. One of the bank’s top executives was convicted on related charges last year, and the Justice Department has been reviewing since then whether to pursue the case further as Turkish officials and lawyers pressed the government not to indict the bank.

The charges appeared to catch at least some advisers to Turkey’s government off guard. They were filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which has been investigating the bank’s role in what has been called the largest Iran sanctions violation in United States history, as billions of dollars’ worth of gold and cash were illegally transferred to Iran in exchange for oil and gas.

Justice Department officials said high-ranking government officials in Turkey “participated in and protected this scheme,” with some receiving bribes worth tens of millions of dollars and helping to hide the conspiracy from the scrutiny of regulators in the United States.

“This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security,” said John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security.

Lawyers and lobbyists representing the bank, including Brian D. Ballard, a friend of Mr. Trump’s and the vice chairman of his inauguration, have been trying for more than a year to persuade the Trump administration not to file charges against the bank, or at least to understand that doing so could threaten the economy of a NATO ally.

Turkish officials had directly made other appeals to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The lobbying campaign led some sanctions experts in Washington to question if the case might have been delayed or dropped.

After Mr. Trump came under intense criticism for choosing to stand aside as Turkey pursued its plan to assert control over a section of northern Syria, he began striking a tougher tone toward Mr. Erdogan, focusing in particular on the threat of harming Turkey’s economy if it put United States military personnel at risk or engaged in atrocities against Kurds in the region.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Monday, shortly before signing an executive order to impose the first set of sanctions.

Representatives for the Turkish government — who in interviews early Tuesday did not give any hint that they knew the criminal charges were imminent — said late in the day that they suspected a link between the new prosecution of the bank and the invasion of Syria.

“The timing is beyond any reasonable coincidence,” said one individual who has been working with the bank, but spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The Justice Department and the White House did not respond to questions about whether the decision was influenced by Turkey’s decision to send troops in Syria.

Mr. Ballard, along with Robert Wexler, a former House Democrat from Florida, and James P. Rubin, a State Department official during the Clinton administration, had each been working at times over the last two years to lobby on the matter, Justice Department filings show. They had reached out in 2018 to the office of Vice President Mike Pence and the State Department, among others.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and adviser to Mr. Trump, also was involved in the matter in 2016 and 2017, trying to secure the release of one suspect in the case, in a possible prisoner swap with a pastor whom Turkey was holding on espionage charges that the United States claimed were fabricated.

Andrew Hruska, a former federal prosecutor in New York now with the law firm King and Spalding, had also been working on the matter, communicating directly with the Justice and Treasury Departments, on behalf of the bank.

Mr. Erdogan brought the case up with President Trump in November 2018, and his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, the country’s finance minister, following up a few days later with Mr. Mnuchin, pushing him to closely follow the case.

Lawyers for the bank did not dispute that money was illegally moved through Halkbank to Iran starting around 2012 and continuing through 2016.

But they argued that the moves were largely orchestrated by an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, named Reza Zarrab, who had hired Mr. Giuliani to try to secure his release.

Turkish officials argued that Mr. Zarrab, who then decided to plead guilty to charges and become a witness for the prosecution, had lied to American prosecutors. The Turkish officials said Mr. Zarrab accused the bank and government officials in Turkey of conspiring in the effort as part of an attempt to reduce any time he would spend in prison, after he was arrested by American authorities in 2016.

In January 2018, in part because of Mr. Zarrab’s testimony, a Halkbank executive named Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted of violating sanctions as part of the case. At his sentencing in May 2018, a federal judge said that while Mr. Atilla had “unquestionably furthered” the scheme, he was “somewhat of a cog in the wheel” and not “a mastermind.”

These assertions reflected claims made by federal prosecutors that the wrongdoing had reached high into the Turkish government.

But until Tuesday, there had been no public follow-up by the Justice Department, nor any action by the Treasury Department, which separately has the power to impose sanctions on the bank or impose a fine.

The bank was formally charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate sanctions, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Representatives for the bank said that they feared the charges alone might lead other global banks to limit doing business with Halkbank, and if a multibillion-dollar penalty results, it could threaten the overall viability of the institution.

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U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-turkeybank-facebookJumbo-v2 U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Turkey Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Money Laundering Lobbying and Lobbyists Justice Department Iran Halkbank Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Embargoes and Sanctions

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Tuesday sharply escalated economic pressure on Turkey by filing fraud and money-laundering charges against the country’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade United States sanctions.

The charges against the institution, Halkbank, came as the administration sought ways to project that it was taking a tough line with Turkey after President Trump effectively signaled this month that the United States would not stand in the way of Turkey’s desire to send forces into northern Syria.

Mr. Trump’s willingness to allow the military action has thrown the region into chaos and ignited an intense bipartisan backlash against him at home. As the criticism has mounted, the White House has emphasized the steps it is taking to restrain Turkey’s offensive, including a round of sanctions announced on Monday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had repeatedly raised the Halkbank case with Mr. Trump over the past year, urging the United States not to take further action, saying that to do so would unfairly expose Turkey to severe financial risks. One of the bank’s top executives was convicted on related charges last year, and the Justice Department has been reviewing since then whether to pursue the case further as Turkish officials and lawyers pressed the government not to indict the bank.

The charges appeared to catch at least some advisers to Turkey’s government off guard. They were filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, which has been investigating the bank’s role in what has been called the largest Iran sanctions violation in United States history, as billions of dollars’ worth of gold and cash were illegally transferred to Iran in exchange for oil and gas.

Justice Department officials said high-ranking government officials in Turkey “participated in and protected this scheme,” with some receiving bribes worth tens of millions of dollars and helping to hide the conspiracy from the scrutiny of regulators in the United States.

“This is one of the most serious Iran sanctions violations we have seen, and no business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security,” said John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for national security.

Lawyers and lobbyists representing the bank, including Brian D. Ballard, a friend of Mr. Trump’s and the vice chairman of his inauguration, have been trying for more than a year to persuade the Trump administration not to file charges against the bank, or at least to understand that doing so could threaten the economy of a NATO ally.

Turkish officials had directly made other appeals to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The lobbying campaign led some sanctions experts in Washington to question if the case might have been delayed or dropped.

After Mr. Trump came under intense criticism for choosing to stand aside as Turkey pursued its plan to assert control over a section of northern Syria, he began striking a tougher tone toward Mr. Erdogan, focusing in particular on the threat of harming Turkey’s economy if it put United States military personnel at risk or engaged in atrocities against Kurds in the region.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Monday, shortly before signing an executive order to impose the first set of sanctions.

Representatives for the Turkish government — who in interviews early Tuesday did not give any hint that they knew the criminal charges were imminent — said late in the day that they suspected a link between the new prosecution of the bank and the invasion of Syria.

“The timing is beyond any reasonable coincidence,” said one individual who has been working with the bank, but spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The Justice Department and the White House did not respond to questions about whether the decision was influenced by Turkey’s decision to send troops in Syria.

Mr. Ballard, along with Robert Wexler, a former House Democrat from Florida, and James P. Rubin, a State Department official during the Clinton administration, had each been working at times over the last two years to lobby on the matter, Justice Department filings show. They had reached out in 2018 to the office of Vice President Mike Pence and the State Department, among others.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and adviser to Mr. Trump, also was involved in the matter in 2016 and 2017, trying to secure the release of one suspect in the case, in a possible prisoner swap with a pastor whom Turkey was holding on espionage charges that the United States claimed were fabricated.

Andrew Hruska, a former federal prosecutor in New York now with the law firm King and Spalding, had also been working on the matter, communicating directly with the Justice and Treasury Departments, on behalf of the bank.

Mr. Erdogan brought the case up with President Trump in November 2018, and his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, the country’s finance minister, following up a few days later with Mr. Mnuchin, pushing him to closely follow the case.

Lawyers for the bank did not dispute that money was illegally moved through Halkbank to Iran starting around 2012 and continuing through 2016.

But they argued that the moves were largely orchestrated by an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, named Reza Zarrab, who had hired Mr. Giuliani to try to secure his release.

Turkish officials argued that Mr. Zarrab, who then decided to plead guilty to charges and become a witness for the prosecution, had lied to American prosecutors. The Turkish officials said Mr. Zarrab accused the bank and government officials in Turkey of conspiring in the effort as part of an attempt to reduce any time he would spend in prison, after he was arrested by American authorities in 2016.

In January 2018, in part because of Mr. Zarrab’s testimony, a Halkbank executive named Mehmet Hakan Atilla was convicted of violating sanctions as part of the case. At his sentencing in May 2018, a federal judge said that while Mr. Atilla had “unquestionably furthered” the scheme, he was “somewhat of a cog in the wheel” and not “a mastermind.”

These assertions reflected claims made by federal prosecutors that the wrongdoing had reached high into the Turkish government.

But until Tuesday, there had been no public follow-up by the Justice Department, nor any action by the Treasury Department, which separately has the power to impose sanctions on the bank or impose a fine.

The bank was formally charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate sanctions, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Representatives for the bank said that they feared the charges alone might lead other global banks to limit doing business with Halkbank, and if a multibillion-dollar penalty results, it could threaten the overall viability of the institution.

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Gregory Craig Acquitted on Charge of Lying to Justice Department

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-craig-facebookJumbo Gregory Craig Acquitted on Charge of Lying to Justice Department Mueller, Robert S III Lobbying and Lobbyists Justice Department foreign agents registration act Craig, Gregory B

WASHINGTON — Gregory B. Craig, one of Washington’s most prominent Democratic lawyers, was acquitted on Wednesday of a felony charge that he lied about work he did seven years ago for the Ukrainian government.

The jury returned the verdict after just hours of deliberation. It was a blow to the Justice Department’s effort to more aggressively crack down on foreign influence in Washington and a vindication of Mr. Craig’s high-risk strategy of taking the case to trial.

The trial exposed in detail how a foreign government was able to harness Washington’s industry of lawyers, lobbyist and public relations experts, an unflattering portrait that included at least four million dollars in secret offshore bank transfers from a Ukrainian oligarch to Mr. Craig’s law firm.

But Mr. Craig’s guilt or innocence turned on the question of whether he deliberately misled Justice Department officials who were investigating whether he should register as a foreign agent.

The case was viewed as a test of the Justice Department’s new campaign to enforce a once-obscure foreign lobbying law. Until roughly two years ago, violators of the statute, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, typically received only an administrative slap on the wrist.

While Mr. Craig, 74, who served as White House counsel in the first year of the Obama administration, was not accused of violating FARA, he was accused of deceiving the officials who enforce it in an effort to avoid registering as a foreign agent. His was one of a series of foreign lobbying-related prosecutions that sprang from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

Those cases have contributed to a wave of disclosures by lobbyists and lawyers. The number of people who newly registered as foreign agents so far this year is more than twice the number of new registrants in all of 2010.

Jurors were forced to weigh Mr. Craig’s reputation as an illustrious Washington lawyer who had served two Democratic presidents against a series of electronic communications that suggested he had shaded the truth in two letters and a meeting with Justice Department officials six years ago.

The case hinged in particular on whether Mr. Craig had sought to obscure his role in promoting his law firm’s report by providing a copy to a journalist, David E. Sanger of The New York Times, who, along with a colleague, wrote a story about the report.

William Taylor, one of Mr. Craig’s lawyers, said his client had been “hounded” by overzealous prosecutors.

“The question that you need to ask is not why this jury acquitted Mr. Craig. but why the Department of Justice brought this case against an innocent man in the first place,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, it’s a disgrace, and we are glad it is over.”

Mr. Craig, smiling broadly, thanked the jurors, his friends, his family and his lawyers.

One juror, Michael G. Meyer, said, that while some jurors were “very disturbed” by Mr. Craig’s conduct, “we could not find a basis to convict him.” Mr. Meyer, 60, added that the law “was presented to us in a very narrow fashion.”

Mr. Craig’s defense team insisted that prosecutors had concocted a charge out of a few minor omissions of facts that Mr. Craig was never under any obligation to reveal. “Mr. Craig is not the kind of person who would lie to a U.S. government agency, not after a 50-year career based on character and trust,” one of his lawyers, William Murphy, told the jurors.

Prosecutors said Mr. Craig gave in to hubris and self-interest, hiding the truth of his interactions with Mr. Sanger, not only from the Justice Department, but from his own firm’s general counsel. Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, one of the prosecutors, described Mr. Craig’s final letter to the Justice Department on the matter as a “masterpiece” of lies and half-truths.

“If you read the letter, you will find contempt for the FARA unit,” coupled with a sense of “entitlement” and self-importance, he argued. He noted Mr. Craig proposed complaining to the attorney general himself if FARA officials did not accept his viewpoint.

The Justice Department’s inquiry concerned a 2012 report that Mr. Craig and his law firm — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom — performed for the Ukrainian government, then led by Viktor F. Yanukovych.

In hopes of burnishing Mr. Yanukovych’s tattered image in the West, his government hired Skadden to review its prosecution of a political opposition figure. The report, which earned the law firm $4.6 million, concluded that while the political leader’s rights had been violated at trial, her conviction on corruption charges was backed by evidence.

Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Craig concealed his role in Ukraine’s media strategy for the report because registering as a foreign agent would have limited his prospects for further government service and damaged his reputation. The evidence showed that he wrongly claimed that he only responded to inquiries from reporters to correct misconceptions. In fact, he had contacted Mr. Sanger, offering him an advance copy of the report and an interview about its findings before its publication.

The prosecution’s case was hampered by several problems: Justice Department officials who oversee FARA registration kept no notes of the meeting during which Mr. Craig supposedly lied to them in order to convince them to reverse their decision that he had to register as foreign agent. The prosecution never sought to call Mr. Sanger to testify.

Others knowledgeable about Mr. Craig’s involvement in Ukraine’s media plan were either convicted criminals or confessed liars. Paul Manafort, who was working for Ukraine at the time and went to become Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, is now serving a seven and a half year prison term for fraud and other crimes. The prosecutors ruled out calling Mr. Manafort, who breached a plea agreement and tried to convince witnesses against him to lie, as a witness.

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Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite

WASHINGTON — It is a trial tailor-made to grab the attention of this city’s power brokers: In a federal courtroom this month, one of Washington’s most prominent lawyers — a former White House counsel and attorney to global statesmen and other icons — is battling criminal charges of lying to investigators about his work for a shady foreign client.

But the most riveting aspect of the case against the lawyer, Gregory B. Craig, is not his innocence or guilt. Rather, it is the depiction of the seamy world of power brokers like Mr. Craig that prosecutors have painted during nearly two weeks of testimony and in an array of court filings.

Mr. Craig’s trial has supplanted any image of Washington’s elite as sage Brahmins with a vivid picture of the ruling class at its avaricious worst. The details include a $4 million payment shunted through a secret offshore account to Mr. Craig’s law firm, a backdated invoice, a lying publicist, a scheme to net one player’s daughter a cushy job and a bungled wiretap by a suspected Russian intelligence asset nicknamed “the angry midget.”

Taken together, they illustrate how lawyers, lobbyists and public relations specialists leapt onto slippery ethical slopes to cash in on a foreign government’s hopes of papering over its sordid reputation.

Seven years ago, Mr. Craig teamed with Paul Manafort, then a political consultant for the Ukrainian government, to help President Viktor F. Yanukovych respond to criticism over a prosecution of Ukraine’s opposition leader. Mr. Craig’s law firm collected more than $4.6 million to produce a report concluding that while the trial was flawed by Western standards, the conviction was supported by evidence.

For Mr. Craig and his law firm — Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — getting too close to Mr. Yanukovych’s corrupt and increasingly authoritarian government posed perils, chiefly the prospect of tainting its prestigious white-shoe law practice.

Mr. Craig, now 74, faced an even more direct problem: If he went beyond producing the report to promoting it to journalists and others, he could run afoul of a decades-old federal law that requires those who represent foreign powers in the United States to disclose their actions to the Justice Department.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_79777682_4a52920e-dee7-4df4-b8ed-05eb56b685e9-articleLarge Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite Yanukovych, Viktor F van der Zwaan, Alex United States Politics and Government Ukraine Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher&Flom LLP Schoen, Douglas E Pinchuk, Victor M Media Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Legal Profession Kilimnik, Konstantin V Justice Department Gates, Richard W III (1972- ) Craig, Gregory B

Mr. Craig teamed up with Paul Manafort, then a political consultant for the Ukrainian government, to help President Viktor F. Yanukovych, pictured, respond to criticism over Ukraine’s prosecution of the opposition leader.CreditPavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Those worries faded after Skadden’s report was published in 2012. But then prosecutors began to draw back the curtain on the project, described by one publicist for Ukraine as “a loony job” for a government seeking to bolster “a terrible reputation.”

The saga began in February 2012 when Douglas E. Schoen, a high-profile Democratic pollster, contacted Mr. Craig to discuss a “potentially substantial piece of new business” — an independent review of the prosecution and imprisonment of Yulia V. Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s charismatic former prime minister and Mr. Yanukovych’s political rival. This account is based on witness statements, court filings and evidence presented at Mr. Craig’s trial, now nearing its conclusion.

The Ukrainian government was the client, but Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate represented by Mr. Schoen, was footing the bill. “When Ukraine has to pay for something like this,” Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s longtime deputy, told one associate, “the president asks whichever oligarch whose turn it is to cover the costs.”

The main contact between Mr. Craig and the Ukrainian government was Mr. Manafort, who had become fabulously rich working for Mr. Yanukovych and was hiding his income in offshore bank accounts. Later, after Mr. Manafort served as Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, the special counsel investigated his financial misdeeds and brought a pair of cases that netted a seven-year prison term for Mr. Manafort.

Mr. Craig told the F.B.I. that he saw Mr. Manafort as a “tough” character and thought they could not be friends. But they could do business.

Despite misgivings by some Skadden lawyers, Mr. Craig flew to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, to seal the deal over breakfast at Mr. Pinchuk’s palatial home. He and Mr. Manafort agreed privately that Mr. Pinchuk would pay Skadden $4 million to produce a report that Mr. Yanukovych hoped would convince Western governments that Ukraine should be allowed to join the European Union and partake of its financial benefits.

Mr. Craig had already dispatched five lawyers to Kiev when Mr. Pinchuk notified him that Mr. Yanukovych’s office had not authorized him to wire the half of the money that was due up front. Mr. Craig was furious and threatened to quit.

Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel magnate, was footing the bill for the Skadden lawyers.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“We will leave tomorrow, go home and say that we are lucky to be out of it,” he wrote to Mr. Manafort, who promised to deliver the money “a different way.”

The Ukrainian government planned to capitalize on Mr. Craig’s luminous reputation. Best known as the White House counsel during the first year of the Obama administration, he had represented luminaries including Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, and the Soviet dissident Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice noted in a statement announcing the inquiry.

But Skadden’s fancy reputation cut the other way, too. Publicly, Ukraine’s financially strapped government said the firm would be paid only the legal limit for outside contracts of $12,000. In an August 2012 editorial with the headline, “Skadden Stink,” The Kyiv Post called that assertion “ridiculous,” noting that would cover only about 12 hours of Mr. Craig’s services alone at his standard rate. Ms. Tymoshenko’s lawyer refused to cooperate with the project unless Skadden disclosed more information.

Scrambling, Mr. Craig and Mr. Manafort agreed to raise the “official” fee to $1.25 million. Bypassing his own firm’s billing system, Mr. Craig submitted a new invoice for that amount, although the firm had already collected more than three times that sum from Mr. Pinchuk, routed through offshore bank accounts controlled by Mr. Manafort. At Mr. Manafort’s request, Mr. Craig backdated the document to before the newspaper editorial was published.

Fearing more bad publicity, he also delayed work on a follow-up project involving a second trial of Ms. Tymoshenko.

The fees were not Mr. Craig’s only problem. He also had to placate Mr. Manafort, who wanted Skadden to hire his daughter Andrea Manafort, a recent law school graduate. While Mr. Craig sought interviews for her, Skadden sent her a standard rejection letter in response to a résumé that had arrived with no cover letter.

“Thanks for your help,” Mr. Manafort wrote sarcastically in an email to Mr. Craig, attaching the rejection letter. “I see Skadden knows how to show appreciation for a $4 MILLION gift account.”

Westlake Legal Group mueller-report-people-events-promo-1552676143429-articleLarge-v3 Trial of High-Powered Lawyer Gregory Craig Exposes Seamy Side of Washington’s Elite Yanukovych, Viktor F van der Zwaan, Alex United States Politics and Government Ukraine Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher&Flom LLP Schoen, Douglas E Pinchuk, Victor M Media Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Legal Profession Kilimnik, Konstantin V Justice Department Gates, Richard W III (1972- ) Craig, Gregory B

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“I am pissed,” Mr. Craig replied. In an email to the firm’s Washington head of litigation, Mitchell S. Ettinger, he wrote, “This could not have come at a worse time.”

Mr. Manafort told Mr. Craig that he would generate “seven figure annual fees,” adding that “it goes without saying that I will push all future business to wherever” his daughter ended up.

Mr. Ettinger told Mr. Craig to stress the prospect of further business because that “is the only factor that will matter” to the firm’s leaders. Describing the Ukraine report as a $1 million-a-month engagement, Mr. Craig said Ms. Manafort’s connections made up for her unimpressive grades.

Five days later, she had a job offer.

“You are the MAN,” her father wrote Mr. Craig, calling his daughter “sky high.”

At least one Skadden lawyer wondered how Mr. Yanukovych would react if the report was critical. Mr. Craig reassured him that anything would be better than the condemnation Ukraine already faced.

But while Mr. Craig insisted the report be independent, Mr. Yanukovych’s aides were apparently tracking its progress by eavesdropping on phone calls.

After Jonathan Hawker, one of the Western public relations experts hired by Ukraine, worried in a phone call that the report would be too negative, he heard from Konstantin V. Kilimnik, a Yanukovych aide. Mr. Kilimnik, whom prosecutors have linked to Russian intelligence, was nicknamed the “angry midget” for his short stature and temper.

Mr. Manafort tried to pressure Mr. Craig into getting Mr. Manafort’s daughter, a recent law school graduate, hired at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.CreditMandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The president’s office was very angry and concerned” about what it had heard, Mr. Kilimnik warned. He demanded a memo explaining what Mr. Hawker had meant.

The report was of limited value unless it generated publicity, so the public relations team drafted about 18 versions of a rollout plan. The team expanded to include a supposedly independent European think tank headed by Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, and Tony Podesta of the now-defunct Podesta Group lobbying and public affairs firm. Prosecutors now claim Mr. Yanukovych’s political party funded the organization.

In late September 2012, Mr. Hawker laid out the strategy to Mr. Craig, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates and another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, over lunch at the opulent Harvard Club in Manhattan.

Privately, Mr. Hawker found the whole project distasteful. He ironically nicknamed it “veritas,” Latin for truth. During weeks holed up in the basement of the Kiev building where Ukraine’s prosecutors worked, he had learned they were readying new charges against Ms. Tymoshenko, including buying the wrong ambulances, tax evasion and murder.

For his part, Mr. Craig had grown increasingly worried that Mr. Yanukovych would ignore the report’s mixed conclusions and declare that Skadden had exonerated his government. That would be damaging “to the project, to this law firm, to your guy and to me,” he wrote to Mr. Manafort.

The media strategy envisioned releasing the report in advance to chosen American and European news outlets whose coverage would set the tone for others. Witnesses testified that Mr. Craig wanted to give an advance copy to David E. Sanger, a New York Times reporter in Washington.

But Mr. Craig kept changing his mind about whether he could be directly involved. Under the foreign lobbying disclosure law, if he engaged in public relations for Ukraine in the United States, he would have to register as a foreign agent.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko in 2011 during a trial in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.CreditAssociated Press

He also had well-founded concerns about the professionalism of the public relations team. On the witness stand, Mr. Hawker acknowledged that he doctored Mr. Craig’s quotes to one publication without his permission and also lied to a Radio Free Europe reporter, denying that he represented Ukraine’s government.

Mr. Hawker warned Mr. Manafort that the strategy would fall apart without Mr. Craig, who eventually agreed to participate for two reasons: to please his foreign paymasters and to protect his reputation, Mr. Gates told the F.B.I.

Two days before the report was released, Mr. Craig hand-delivered a copy to Mr. Sanger’s home, then granted interviews to reporters from The Times and The Daily Telegraph in London. He insisted to both that Skadden never looked at whether Ms. Tymoshenko’s trial was politically motivated.

Although the Times article turned out more skeptical than Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates and Mr. Hawker had hoped, all three proclaimed the strategy a great success.

The news coverage caught the attention of the Justice Department, but Mr. Craig, concerned about protecting his career prospects, convinced officials there that he did not need to register as a foreign agent. In a letter to the department, he insisted, erroneously, that he had responded to journalists’ inquiries only after the report was published to correct mischaracterizations.

Had he acknowledged that Skadden was involved in Ukraine’s media plan, the need for him to register as a foreign agent “would have been a slam dunk,” the federal official in charge of enforcing the foreign lobbying statute told the F.B.I., according to a summary of her interview.

The official, Heather Hunt, testified Monday that Mr. Craig told her that he had spoken to journalists on his own, not at the Ukrainian government’s request or direction.

Four years passed before federal prosecutors questioned Mr. Craig again. By then, they were deep into an inquiry into the financial misdeeds of Mr. Manafort, a sprawling investigation that led to the prosecutions of Mr. Manafort, Mr. Gates, Mr. van der Zwaan, Mr. Kilimnik — and eventually Mr. Craig.

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