Greg Craig

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Greg Craig
Greg Craig.jpg
33rd White House Counsel
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 3, 2010
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Fred Fielding
Succeeded by Robert Bauer
Personal details
Born Gregory Bestor Craig
(1945-03-04) March 4, 1945 (age 70)
Norfolk, Virginia, United States
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater Harvard University
University of Cambridge
Yale Law School
Profession Lawyer

Gregory Bestor "Greg" Craig (born March 4, 1945) is an American lawyer and former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama. He has represented numerous high-profile clients, including John W. Hinckley, Jr., who was acquitted of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by reason of insanity, and, in 2010, Goldman Sachs. As assistant to the President and special counsel in the White House of President Bill Clinton, Craig directed the team defending Clinton against impeachment. He was a foreign policy advisor to Senator Edward Kennedy and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Early years and legal career[edit]

Craig was born in Norfolk, Virginia. His father, William Gregory Craig, was a university educator, former associate dean of students at Stanford University, president of several universities and colleges, and first Director of Training for the Peace Corps; he died in 2005. Greg Craig's mother, Mary Lois (née Bestor), was attentive to four boys, two of whom had learning disabilities; she worked with them endlessly; one is now a teacher and the other is a medical doctor.[1][2] Lois also owned a bookstore in the Craigs' hometown of Middlebury, Vermont.[3]

Greg Craig went to Philips Exeter Academy, then graduated in the class of 1967 of Harvard (where he sang in the a cappella group the Harvard Krokodiloes).[4] While an undergraduate, Greg gave leadership to and was a major fundraiser for Harlem Prep, organized to create academic opportunities at the highest level. During this time Greg also traveled to South Africa with Allard K. Lowenstein, to declare common cause with those seeking an end to racist policies. Greg and Al Lowenstein, joined by Bill Clinton and others, were instrumental in beginning the student opposition to the war in Vietnam. Lowenstein said at that time: "Either Bill or Greg could some day be President of the United States." Following Harvard Craig won the Lionel de Jersey Harvard Scholarship to Emmanuel College at Cambridge University. He received his J.D. in 1972 from Yale Law School, where he met Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham.

Craig's first employment following law school was with the Washington-based law firm Williams & Connolly, and he was a partner with the firm before becoming President Obama's counsel.[5] His previous year's income, in a 2009 report, was a salary of $1.7 million from the firm, where he was reported to have been a partner since 1999.[6]

Private clients[edit]

Craig has represented numerous high-profile clients. In 1981, he was a member of the team that represented John W. Hinckley, Jr., who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan, helping put together an insanity defense that led to Hinckley's acquittal.[7]

Craig represented Senator Ted Kennedy during the 1991 rape trial of William Kennedy Smith.[8] (The Senator himself faced no charges in this trial.)

He represented the Cuban father of Elián González during the 2000 child custody dispute which ended when U.S. Marshals enforced court orders that the child be moved from the Florida home of relatives, where they had influenced the child to make a number of videos lashing out at his father.[9] The courts ultimately supported the father's contention that the child should be returned to his custody.

Craig represented United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan during the Volcker Commission's investigations in 2004 into the scandals involving the oil-for-food programme.

Recently, he represented Pedro Miguel González Pinzón, a Panamanian legislator wanted in the US for the murder in 1992 of a US soldier, and the attempted murder of another. The Dallas Morning News called on Senator Obama to ask Craig to choose between the campaign and involvement in the case.[10] Craig had earlier represented the Panamá government during the trial in 1990 of the former president, General Manuel Noriega[11] and had sought the return to Panamá's treasury of funds stolen by Noriega.

In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice granted asylum to two of Craig's clients, former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former Minister of Defense Carlos Sánchez Berzaín. The two Bolivians were being accused of "genocide" (along with, among others, Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe) in Bolivia after approximately 60 policemen, soldiers and protesters died in violent clashes in El Alto, Warizata and Sorata in 2003.

In 1977, he represented the first FBI agent ever to be indicted, John J. Kearney, who was accused of illegal wiretapping, breaking and entering, and mail opening in connection with the FBI investigation of the Weatherman. That same year, working with Edward Bennett Williams, Mr. Craig represented the former CIA Director, Richard Helms, who was under grand jury investigation for alleged perjury in his 1973 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, concerning the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, and the role the United States played in it.

In 1983 to 1984, working with Edward Bennett Williams, Mr. Craig represented Victor Posner, who was charged with tax evasion in federal court in Miami.

Public service[edit]

Craig served as Senator Edward Kennedy’s Senior Advisor on Defense, Foreign Policy and National Security issues for five years (1984–88).

In 1997 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made Craig one of her senior advisors, and he served as Director of Policy Planning from 1997–98. In late 1997 he was appointed as a special coordinator to focus attention on China's suppression of Tibet's cultural and religious traditions.[12]

In September 1998 President Clinton appointed Craig as Assistant to the President and Special Counsel in the White House, where he directed the President’s team defending against impeachment. He was also a member of the President’s trial team in the United States Senate.

In the Obama presidential campaign[edit]

Because of his close ties to the Clintons, when Craig declared his support of Senator Barack Obama's presidential ambitions in March 2007, it attracted widespread attention.[13][14]

FISA controversy[edit]

As a spokesman for the Obama campaign, Craig dealt with the senator's reversal of an earlier commitment to filibuster the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.[15] Craig's explanation of the apparent turn-around included a statement that Obama had "concluded that with FISA expiring, it was better to get a compromise than let the law expire." This drew the criticism that Obama and/or his legal advisors had mistakenly supposed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was due to expire in the first place.[16][17]

Debate prep[edit]

In 2008, Craig assumed the role of John McCain to help prepare Barack Obama for his first debate against the Republican nominee. He had performed a similar function in 2004, taking on the role of President George W. Bush in mock debates to coach Democratic nominee John Kerry for his three general election match-ups against the incumbent.[18]

In the Obama administration[edit]

Craig in the Oval Office with Barack Obama

In its November 2008 issue, the American Bar Association's monthly magazine, ABA Journal, predicted that Craig would be named Secretary of State in an Obama administration.[19] However, Craig was ultimately appointed as White House Counsel in the administration.[20]

In the first year of the Obama administration, Craig was prominent in handling several issues—taking the first step toward fulfilling the campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp; the search that produced the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor; revising interrogation and detention policies; the release of Department of Justice memos on harsh interrogations; and "he was at the center of the White House decision to reverse itself and withhold photographs of detainee abuse." Criticism of the administration's handling of some of these issues had reportedly resulted, by October, 2009, in a certain questioning of Craig's ability to continue as counsel. While he said he intended to stay, others said he'd be gone by the end of the year.[21] He was replaced by Robert Bauer.[22] [1] Obama's handling of Craig's resignation was widely criticized.[23] CNN cites that he was forced out because of his role in advising Obama to close Guantanamo Bay by January 2010, a task that could not be achieved.[24]

In his resignation letter he said he would serve until 3 January 2010. [2]

Private practice after the White House[edit]

Craig is currently a partner in the Washington, DC office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, one of the largest law firms in the United States.

In April, 2010, it was reported that Craig was engaged to advise financial giant Goldman Sachs on litigation strategy before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed its civil suit. Skadden is a long-time lawyer to Goldman. Concern that a recent Obama Administration member would lobby on behalf of such a high-profile object of both regulatory and legislative attention was expressed and deflected. Though there is a two-year Administration ban to avoid revolving door concerns, Craig said "I am a lawyer, not a lobbyist," and legal representation is not covered by the ban.[25]

Craig has also been retained by former Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards in his federal case that alleges Edwards illegally used campaign funds to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Craig is married to Derry Noyes, a graphic designer who has designed several postage stamps for the United States Postal Service. They have five children: Will, Eliza (Ziza), Margaret (Maggie), Mary, and James.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York Times Mar. 11, 2005 obituary of William G. Craig.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "A first lady's love of children's books" by Jeanie Thompson, First Draft: The Journal of the Alabama Writers' Forum, Fall, 2000, Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 5. Retrieved 4/5/09.
  4. ^ Group photo of 1966 Harvard Krokodiloes from group's website.
  5. ^ Greg Craig's personal web page at Williams & Connolly website.
  6. ^ "Hedge Fund Paid Summers $5.2 Million in Past Year" by John D. McKinnon and F. W. Farnum,, April 4, 2009. Retrieved 4/5/09.
  7. ^ National Review article of May 22, 2000 by John J. Miller.
  8. ^ New York Times article of Nov. 1, 1991 stating that Gregory B. Craig represented Senator Edward Kennedy during the trial of his nephew William Kennedy Smith.
  9. ^ Transcript of April 22, 2000 CNN interview with attorney Craig on seizure of Elián González.
  10. ^ Dallas Morning News editorial of January 14, 2008 on Obama's ties to González Pinzón's attorney.
  11. ^ New York Times article of June 21, 1990 stating that Attorney Craig sought to block the use of funds stolen from Panamá as a source for Noriega's defense.
  12. ^ New York Times article of Nov. 1, 1997 on Craig's appointment.
  13. ^ New Yorker article of Jan. 28, 2008 about Craig's support of Obama.
  14. ^ Robert Novak article posted to RealClearPolitics on Mar. 3, 2007.
  15. ^ New York Times article of July 2, 2008 quoting Craig, in his role as Obama spokesperson, on Obama's shift from an earlier commitment to "filibuster any legislation" to his present position in support of the legislation.
  16. ^ ""'s Glenn Greenwald's column detailing interview with Craig about his FISA comments
  17. ^ "" FISA commenter Glenn Greenwald email to Greg Craig questioning apparent legal mis-statements, pointing out FISA was not expiring.
  18. ^ CNN: Debate prep underway
  19. ^ The Lawyers Who May Run America, ABA Journal, November 2008
  20. ^ (2008). Exclusive: Gregory Craig to be White House counsel. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  21. ^ "Fate of White House Counsel Is in Doubt" by Peter Baker, The New York Times, October 21, 2009. Retrieved Oct. 21, 2009.
  22. ^ CNN Political Ticker Officials: Top White House lawyer to be pushed out
  23. ^ Dowd, Maureen (November 25, 2009). "Thanks For the Memories". New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Officials: Top White House lawyer to be pushed out". CNN. November 13, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Ex-Adviser to Obama Now Lawyer for Goldman" by Peter Baker, The New York Times, April 20, 2010 (April 21, 2010 on p. B11 of National ed.). Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  26. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (June 3, 2011). "Edwards Indicted in Campaign Fund Case". New York Times. 
  27. ^ Washington Post article of Nov. 19, 1998.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Fred Fielding
White House Counsel
Succeeded by
Robert Bauer