- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A federal judge agreed to restart the trial of former Obama White House lawyer Greg Craig and pick a new jury after his defense team complained Tuesday that the panel’s having been selected out of public view could deny him the right to a fair trial.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she’ll take a do-over Wednesday, selecting a new jury and pushing back the opening arguments of the trial until later this week.

Mr. Craig’s lawyers raised the objection Tuesday, saying Judge Jackson’s decision to close the courtroom a day earlier while lawyers questioned potential jurors tainted the selection process.

Mr. Craig’s team said that violated his right to a public trial on a charge of lying to federal investigators about his work on behalf of Ukrainian officials.

Judge Jackson was incredulous when the lawyers raised the objection, asking defense attorney William Murphy whether they needed to start over. She later relented telling both sides there was “no choice” but to pick new jurors.

Francesco Campoamor-Sanchez, a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., told the judge he agreed with the decision to start anew.

Judge Jackson said starting from scratch would be messy. She initially said the delay could postpone the trial until October while an all-new jury pool was summoned. She then took a recess, consulted with the jury office, and returned to say roughly 100 potential jurors would be available Wednesday.

“It’s a little bit of a setback, but ultimately I think it’s going to delay us by two to three days,” she said.

Opening arguments, which had been expected Tuesday, will now occur either Thursday or Friday. It also means the trial could continue until after Labor Day, Judge Jackson said.

Typically, courtrooms are open to the public during jury selection.

Judge Jackson on Monday cleared the room but let the press stay for the first part, where she announced the questions she would ask. Jurors answered her questions and those of the lawyers privately.

She admitted Monday she’d never done that before but defended the move, saying some jurors objected to answering questions in public in such a high-profile case.

One juror discussed a mental health issue while another talked about being a crime victim, she said.

Judge Jackson asked potential jurors about their knowledge of special counsel Robert Mueller, President Trump’s ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and other figures in the 22-month Russia investigation.

Mr. Craig, who served as White House Counsel from 2009 to 2010, faces one charge of making false statements and concealing information from Justice Department investigators investigating violations of foreign lobbying laws.

Prosecutors say he misled authorities about the work he performed for the Ukrainian government, which occurred after he left the Obama administration.

Manafort had tapped Mr. Craig and his law firm, Skadden Arps, to write a report whitewashing a former Ukrainian president’s prosecution of a political rival. Prosecutors say his efforts to pitch the report to U.S. media outlets amounted to foreign lobbying.

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