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November 13, 2009 7:13 AM

White House Counsel Greg Craig Resigns

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Update 11/13/09 at 10:00 a.m. - The White House issued a statement at 8:41 Friday morning, announcing Greg Craig's resignation as White House counsel and his return to private practice. Additional information from the statement, as well as Craig's letter of resignation, have been added below. Our initial post at 7:13 Friday morning referred to a news report from Politico.

Gregory Craig, the former Williams & Connolly partner who served as President Barack Obama's first White House counsel, announced his resignation Friday. Politico, citing a White House source, reported Craig's expected departure early Friday.

In a statement released by the White House, President Obama--who is in Japan on the first leg of a weeklong trip to Asia--described Craig as "a close friend and trusted adviser who tackled many tough challenges as White House Counsel." (The statement included Craig's resignation letter, available below for download.)

President Obama named Perkins Coie partner Robert "Bob" Bauer as Craig's replacement, as had been reported. The campaign finance and election law expert, chair of the political law group at Perkins Coie, served as general counsel to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

"Bob is well positioned to lead the Counsel's office as it addresses a wide variety of responsibilities, including managing the large amount of litigation the administration inherited, identifying judicial nominees for the federal courts, and assuring that White House officials continue to be held to the highest legal and ethical standards."

Bauer's name popped up in press reports as a possible choice for the White House Counsel spot in the first days after last year's election. He has served as lead counsel to the Democratic National Committee this past year and also works as personal counsel to the President.

A move by Craig, 64, had been rumored for months. His standing with other top administration officials reportedly had suffered as a result of his handling of the President's plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center. But just last month, Craig told The National Law Journal's David Ingram that he had "no plans...whatsoever" to leave his position, pushing back against criticism over his handling of the Guantánamo Bay situation. "The rumors that I'm about to leave are false," Craig said at the time.

According to the October 12 report in the NLJ, a sibling publication, administration officials "second-guessed Craig's support of a one-year deadline to shutter Guantánamo" and accused Craig of "causing a diplomatic rift while helping to transfer four detainees to Bermuda, and they described his role in the overall effort as diminished."

Friday's resignation comes before a Monday deadline for the administration to choose which Guantánamo prisoners it plans to try before military commissions, and which prisoners will be tried before regular civilian courts. According to various news reports Friday morning, some of those decisions have already been made. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and four codefendants will be tried in federal court in New York, The Washington Post reports, citing a federal official.

Download Resignation Letter From Greg Craig

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