Washington attorney Gregory B. Craig, who served as White House counsel for President Obama, was charged Thursday with lying to federal officials who were examining whether he should have registered as a foreign lobbyist for legal work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012.

The indictment stems from work Craig did with Republican lobbyist Paul Manafort while Craig was a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the law firm he joined after ending his tenure at the White House. Manafort, the former campaign chairman to President Trump, pleaded guilty last year to charges related to his Ukraine lobbying.

Craig’s lawyers had said in a statement Wednesday that they expected he would be indicted, calling the action “a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

“Mr. Craig is not guilty of any charge,” attorneys William W. Taylor III and William Murphy said.

The case, brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the Justice Department’s National Security Division, grew out of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

Craig was charged with two felony counts in connection with alleged false statements related to his Ukraine work. He allegedly made the statements to Justice Department officials who were evaluating whether he should have registered as a foreign agent and in an interview with Mueller’s prosecutors.

Craig, 74, is the first prominent Democratic figure to be charged as a result of a foreign lobbying investigation spun out of Mueller’s probe

Craig resigned from Skadden in April 2018 amid a building investigation into whether the firm’s lawyers failed to register as foreign lobbyists for their engagement on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.

His indictment represents a dramatic turn for a member of the country’s most elite legal circles. Craig attended Yale Law School with Bill and Hillary Clinton and later worked in the Clinton State Department and White House. An early Obama supporter, he served for a year as his first White House counsel. He is also a veteran of the Washington-based law firm Williams and Connolly.

Last year, Mueller’s team prosecuted Manafort, who admitted that he had failed to properly register as a foreign lobbyist while working as a political consultant for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose 2010 campaign Manafort helped advise. Last month, Manafort was sentenced to a total of 7½ years in prison for lobbying violations and financial crimes.

Craig’s firm was hired in 2012 by Yanukovych’s Justice Ministry to conduct a review of the prosecution of one of Yanukovych’s leading political rivals, Yulia ­Tymoshenko. The agreement included providing advice on improving prosecutions by the ministry, according to court filings.

Skadden produced a 187-page white paper that offered a mixed review of the trial and imprisonment of Tymoshenko, claiming the analysis it conducted of the case was independent.

But human rights advocates claimed that the report had been engineered by Yanukovych’s government and whitewashed the jailing of his political opponent.

And Manafort eventually admitted that he and other lobbyists used the Skadden report as part of a broad effort to improve Yanukovych’s reputation in the West, which had suffered after the widely condemned jailing of ­Tymoshenko. Manafort agreed that they failed to disclose their lobbying effort, which included disseminating the Skadden report to U.S. government officials.

Craig came under scrutiny in part for contact he had in December 2012 with reporters, particularly at the New York Times, to explain the content of the report.

After Skadden was mentioned in news coverage, the Justice Department sought information from the law firm about whether its work, including the media contacts, required the lawyers to have registered as foreign lobbyists.

Craig and DOJ officials then exchanged letters about the topic through 2013, correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post shows.

In a letter sent to the Justice Department in October 2013, and obtained by The Post, Craig wrote that his media contacts came in response “to inaccuracies in U.S. news reports” and that he was “in no way serving as an agent for Ukraine.”

In response, a Justice Department official sent Craig a letter in January 2014 indicating that the government agency found the firm had “no present obligation to register under FARA,” the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

But subsequently, as prosecutors began scrutinizing the work of Manafort and his associates in Ukraine, they reexamined the role of Craig’s firm, including whether Craig was honest during his interactions with the Justice Department over his registration requirements in 2013.

Skadden in January reached a settlement with the Justice Department, admitting it should have registered for its work in 2012 and 2013, and agreed to turn over the $4.6 million in fees it made for the report in exchange for facing no criminal charges. In its settlement, Skadden agreed that Justice’s 2014 finding that the firm did not need to register came after the agency relied on “false and misleading oral and written statements” made by Craig.

In their statement Wednesday, Craig’s attorneys said his work on the ­Tymoshenko case came “as an independent expert on the rule of law, not as an advocate for the client” and that he refused requests to participate in Ukraine’s lobbying around the report.

They said Craig “did not lie to his former firm or the government” and said his contact with the New York Times was intended to ensure the newspaper accurately summarized the way the report criticized ­Tymoshenko’s trial.

The Ukrainian government reported that Skadden was paid just $12,000 for the report, but prosecutors have said that Manafort used an offshore account to help route more than $4 million to the law firm to pay for the work.

Another Skadden lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to the FBI about his work on the report, agreeing that he had slipped an early copy to Manafort to assist in his pro-Yanukovych lobbying efforts and later deleted emails related to the effort. He served 30 days in prison.

Mueller’s office referred Craig’s case last year to prosecutors in Manhattan as Mueller worked to bring his investigation to a close. Craig’s lawyers said they believe the New York prosecutors declined to prosecute the case. It was then transferred back to prosecutors in Washington.

Separately, prosecutors in New York have been investigating whether foreign lobbying rules were violated by two other prominent Washington figures: Tony Podesta, a Democratic lobbyist who once owned one of Washington’s leading firms, and Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman, who helps lead the Washington office of Mercury LLC.

Representatives for Podesta and Weber have said they have cooperated with prosecutors and believe that their clients followed the law.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.