Why Was White House Counsel Greg Craig Let Go?

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The dismissal of White House Counsel Greg Craig, announced last night, was rumored to be in the works in early August. Craig attracted controversy for his role in national security debates over waterboarding and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was known for counseling Sen. Ted Kennedy and representing President Bill Clinton during Clinton's impeachment hearings. Debate in August focused over whether he was a villain who deserved ousting or a sacrificial lamb. He will be replaced by Robert Bauer, a campaign lawyer and husband to outgoing White House communications director Anita Dunn.

  • Failure at Gitmo  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains. "The decision to move on was mutual, and the announcement was delayed while the White House waited out a spate of negative press stories about Craig," he writes. "But part of why Gitmo won't be closed in January is because Craig could not -- or would not --  crack skulls in the interagency process. It took the wily lawyering of Alberto Gonzales and David Addington to get Gitmo open, and it's going to take some of their skills -- wills of steel, political savvy, institutional savvy -- to get the thing closed." Ambinder added, "Craig has, according to even his allies, not displayed the best managerial skills."
  • Craig's Resignation Letter  CBS News' Mark Knoller reports. "As WH Counsel, Craig has been overseeing efforts to shut down Guantanamo Bay detention center, but it won't happen by 1 year deadline. Craig also implemented Obama decisions on standards for interrogation of suspected terrorists - ending practice of waterboarding. In resignation letter to Obama, Craig says 'we worked to make your administration the most ethical and most transparent in history.' Craig also wrote of his pride in helping Obama select and confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Neither the WH statement of Craig's letter of resignation offers a reason for his decision to step down."
  • 'Accountability on Torture'  Liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler suspects Gates' work on interrogation was involved. "Given that Craig is leaving on same day as Gitmo announcement, I suspect he's not all that happy with the resolution." She writes, "He was in favor of accountability on torture. Some of these decisions (what happens to Abu Zubadayh?) will hide torture."
  • Obama Weak on Due Process?  An anonymous liberal blogger at The Confluence snorts at Obama's stances on interrogation and detention. "Closing Gitmo isn't the problem. The problem is what to do with all the people that have been detained by our government for up to eight years without trials. Habeas corpus and due process aren't 'just words,'" he writes. "It sounds like Craig believes in the rule of law. Too bad for him, cuz his boss doesn't."
  • White House Needs Bauer for Elections  A "senior administration official" praises Bauer, Craig's replacement, to Marc Ambinder. "Bob's expertise in election law isn't just relevant so we can write great briefs in litigation.  As we enter 2010, having clear rules of the road on what the White House and its staff can and cannot do to help Democratic candidates will become a critical aspect of the White House Counsel's job -- and there's no lawyer in America who knows that better than Bob," the official said. "Such skill is even more critical as we approach 2012 -- and -- here's the wild card -- if the Supreme Court does major violence to the campaign finance regulation regime (as most observers expect by June), then deciding how to try to rewrite those laws, or what to do in the wild west regime that will replace current law, will be a critical task. And who better to have on point than Bob Bauer."
  • The '08 Campaign Against Craig  Here are two fairly over-the-top ads from the 2008 presidential campaign hitting Obama for enlisting Craig. They're produced by conservative group American Future Fund. It's worth noting that such criticism of Craig's past clients never gained much traction.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.