Gregory Craig is stepping down as White House Counsel and will be replaced by Perkins Coie partner Robert Bauer, the White House announced this morning.
The move, effective Jan. 3, comes one month after Craig in an interview with The National Law Journal said, "The reports that I'm about to leave are wrong. I have no plans to leave."
But Craig was under pressure for his support of a one-year deadline to shutter Guantánamo - a deadline that now seems unlikely to be met. During his 11 month tenure, he gambled by taking on a bigger role in crafting policy than others who have held the job, a move which exposed him to criticism – and blame – within the administration and press.
News of the White House Counsel shake-up coincided with the announcement that five high-profile Guantánamo detainees linked to the 9/11 attacks will be tried in federal court in New York City.
In his Nov. 13 letter of resignation, Craig made no mention of Guantánamo, though he did flag one of his successes. “Working with others inside and outside the White House, we helped you identify and appoint Jude Sonia Sotomayor to be your first nominee to the Supreme Court. We share your pride in that appointment and the work that went into it.”
Craig wrote that he planned to return to private practice, though he did not specify where. Prior to becoming White House Counsel, he was a partner at Williams & Connolly.
President Barack Obama in a statement called Craig “a close friend and trusted advisor who tackled many challenges as White House Counsel.”
In naming Bauer as Craig’s replacement, Obama described the Perkins Coie partner as “a tough and widely-respected advocate. 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 is currently general counsel to Obama for America as well as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee, and has been counsel for many years to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees. He has also served as co-counsel to the New Hampshire State Senate in the trial of Chief Justice David A. Brock in 2000 and counsel to the Democratic Leader in the trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. He could not be reached immediately for comment.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement praising Craig (a fellow Vermonter). Leahy said, “Greg Craig is an exceptional public servant, as well as a gifted lawyer. Together with President Obama, he helped to bolster the integrity of the Presidency, and restore integrity to the White House Counsel’s Office.”