Obama picks presidential assassin’s lawyer as White House counsel

posted at 9:20 am on November 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama has selected Gregory Craig as White House counsel, a move that will recall some controversial legal cases over the last few years.  Craig has plenty of experience in politics as well as the courtroom, having served as Bill Clinton’s legal counsel during the impeachment hearings.  Craig flipped from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama early in the primaries, and Obama has repaid his support — but Craig’s caseload will raise a few eyebrows:

Gregory B. Craig, a well-known Washington lawyer who quarterbacked President Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense, has been chosen White House counsel by President-elect Barack Obama, according to Democratic officials.

Craig is intimately familiar with the president-elect’s record because he played the role of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in debate preparations.

The officials said Obama has settled on Craig but were not sure when the appointment would be announced.

The choice gives the president-elect both experience and loyalty. During the primaries, Craig was an early Clinton alumni defector to Obama. Columnist Robert D. Novak reported back in the winter of 2007 that Craig had told him he “was impressed with Obama when he first met him at the home of investment banker Vernon Jordan, an intimate friend and supporter of the Clintons.”

Craig was an Obama foreign policy adviser during the campaign. At the start of the Clinton administration, he had been the State Department’s Director of Policy Planning, the head of State’s in-house think tank. He also was senior adviser on defense, foreign policy and national security to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Besides defending Clinton through the impeachment process, an effort that Craig lost, who else had the benefit of Craig’s counsel?

  • Elian Gonzalez’s father – Craig represented the father who demanded the return of his son after his estranged wife died trying to take Elian to freedom.  Most people saw this as a thinly-veiled publicity stunt from Fidel Castro, attempting to embarrass the US.  The dispute got resolved when Janet Reno ordered an armed assault on the house where Elian’s family in the US provided him a home.
  • John Hinckley, Jr – Craig presented and won the insanity defense that allows Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin to spend weekends with his family now.
  • Kofi Annan – The former Secretary-General of the UN hired Craig to defend his interests in the Volcker Commission probe of the Oil-for-Food scandal, which put billions of dollars into Saddam Hussein’s pockets while providing cash for Annan’s son, his deputies, and some allege Annan himself.
  • Pedro Gonzalez Pinzon – A Panamanian legislator wanted for murdering an American soldier in 1992.  The Dallas Morning News demanded that Obama force Craig to drop the case during the campaign, but no report of whether he did is easily available.

I doubt that any President has selected the defender of a presidential assassin as White House Counsel before now. Does anyone want to guess how long that takes to become a Trivial Pursuit question?

Given Craig’s dubious client list, especially Gonzalez Pinzon as an apparent active client, this selection is a disgrace.  The last person we need in the White House is an attorney who represented assassins, Castro and his goons, corrupt UN executives, and a suspected killer of an American soldier.  Those are the people the White House should focus on stopping, not embracing.

Update: I’m not saying that people should not have defense counsel when charged with a crime; that’s an absurd response to this post.  What I’m saying is that Craig is an absurd choice for White House counsel on the basis of the kinds of cases he himself pursued.  No one forced him to take Hinckley, Gonzalez Pinzon, Annan, or Gonzalez/Castro as clients.  Like most attorneys looking to boost their practice, Craig undoubtedly competed hard for their business.

Was Craig the only attorney available for this gig?  No.  Could Barack Obama find someone qualified who wasn’t currently representing a man suspected of murdering an American soldier or who represented a presidential assassin?  If not, then Obama’s more incompetent than anyone figured.


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So Craig was an “attempted presidential assassin’s” lawyer? Yeah, that’s SO MUCH better a light on Craig’s client list.

People can make up their own minds’ as to how much better it is, if any, but words should be used with their clear proper meaning (see George Orwell).

interested_party on November 17, 2008 at 1:45 PM

From the Dallas paper link:

Mr. Craig also represented a Noriega supporter, former Panamanian President Ernesto Pérez Balladares, after he was banned from U.S. travel.

Now he is defending Pedro Miguel González, another Noriega loyalist and the president of Panama’s legislature. Mr.

González is a fugitive under federal indictment for the murder of U.S. Army Sgt. Zak Hernández Laporte on the eve of President George H.W. Bush’s visit to Panama in 1992. Though Mr. González denies involvement, significant FBI evidence suggests otherwise.

He is a harsh U.S. critic. The murder indictment, combined with Mr. González’s leadership position, is hindering bilateral relations and causing a new U.S.-Panama free trade accord to stall in the Senate, where Mr. Obama holds office.

He CHOSE his clients. They were not all US citizens in need of consul. He got clients who are hostile to his own country and was helping a murderer of a US soldier.

Real nice choice, Barry–although not surprising considering the company he’s kept in the past.

Renwaa on November 17, 2008 at 1:59 PM

Your stated position on this issue is in direct contradiction to what you have sworn to defend, just as your incoming CinC has spoken disparagingly of what the Framers wrought. In the next 4-8 years, you may be given some unlawful orders. You’ve done nothing to demonstrate that you’ll recognize them should that happen. God help us if your ilk is statistically significant.

Oh! I’d recognize them but the good news for me is that I’ll be “retired” by the time your pal Obama takes over the Presidency. It was planned prior to the elections but, having lived through the social experiments on the DOD by the Clintons, I don’t think I could stand watching good honest servicemembers put at risk by your buddy’s inability to lead.

highhopes on November 17, 2008 at 2:09 PM

As disgusted as I was when the Senate spit in the eyes of the House Managers and acquitted Bill Clinton, it was nothing compared to the anger that welled up in me as I watched the bulletins that Easter weekend in 2000 when a phalanx of armed Federal agents removed Elian Gonzalez at gunpoint from the home of his American immigrant great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez.

Mind you, I actually was in favor of Elian being returned to his father. Elian nearly died along with his mother in her attempt to reach the shores of Florida — planned without the knowledge of his estranged father — and I feel that his parental rights trump those of his extended family. But none of that has anything to do with what Janet Reno, Al Gore (who was the presumptive Dem nominee and was taking the lead on the issue to look Presidential) and Greg Craig — Elian’s father’s lawyer — did in order to win a PR victory for Fidel Castro.

Reno, Gore and Craig all pretended that the Castro-devoted father, the Castro-hating family, and various American law enforcement agencies were in accord in letting the whole issue be decided in a Florida family court. After a U.S. Appeals court victory by the family on Thursday, April 20, 2000, the Feds made what seemed to be a solemn promise: We won’t storm the uncle’s place over the Easter weekend. THEY LIED.

Reno’s office lulled the family’s attorney (Aaron Podhurst, a Florida “friend” of Reno that she would betray) into a false sense of security by “negotiating” a place and time when Elian’s father and his wife and Lazaro’s family could meet on neutral ground in Washington to smooth over friction. The talks started over the telephone late Friday evening April 21, 2000 — Good Friday — and early Saturday morning. At that same time, armed Federal agents were plotting how to kidnap Elian.

Reno et al (notably Eric Holder, another Obamanoid) could not characterize consistently on the Sunday shows the specific orders authorizing them to snatch Elian, for good reason — it was all a sham. While all parties on the family’s side expected no court action would take place over the weekend, the INS sought and received from a friendly judge a secret after-hours warrant for Elian’s arrest under immigration laws. Knowing the clout and anti-Castro sentiments of the powerful Cuban refugee communities in the Miami area, the WH and Castro had no intention of being dealt a humiliating defeat; they had to change the venue of the legal maneuvering, and at that very moment. Predictably, the MSM smoothed over the spectacle of Janet Reno once again unnecessarily ordering a military raid of a residence with young children.

Emanuel, Podesta, Klain, and now Craig. Obama’s getting the Clinton-Gore defensive line back together. Makes me wonder what the “change” is he’s got in store since he wants people who are used to gaming the system.

L.N. Smithee on November 17, 2008 at 2:16 PM

platypus on November 17, 2008 at 1:14 PM

You’ve captured the legal part of the equation quite well. I had thought he actually made it to land- obviously that changes the legal status.

Politically the case isn’t as clean. To put a good face on a system that forces a little boy back to Cuba after his mom drowns is a tough sell, especially in Southern Florida. Clinton/Reno may have been right as far as what the law said, just as Terry Shiavo’s ex-husband had the law on his side when he insisted the state kill her, but that doesn’t mean it feels like justice.

Where I most fault Clinton/Reno is the way they went about seizing Elian Gonzales. I know that they were doing an unpopular act in a riled-up Cuban community but there was no reason to storm the house with guns drawn. It was over-reaction.

All of this is not to say I don’t think it troublesome that Craig was in the employ of Cuba to make all this happen. His client in this case may have been right but that doesn’t mean he argue for the immediate return of a child to a totalitarian regime. Or, having done so, where is Craig’s list of cases demanding the immediate deportation of illegals in the US?

highhopes on November 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM

Although he’s kind of on the outs with me since he joined ranks with the so-called “Main Street Republicans” (hello, Graham and McCain!) South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis was masterful in dismantling Greg Craig’s defense of Bill Clinton in the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings in 1998. As Joe the Plumber said of Obama, Craig was tap-dancing like Sammy Davis, Jr.

Here is a transcript from the hearing, held December 8, 1998:

REP. BOB INGLIS (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Craig, you said in your testimony that you would address the factual and evidence evidentiary issues directly today and tomorrow. You haven’t done that yet. I hope we’ve got more to come.

I understand that what you’re talking about here today, in this panel, is the standards of impeachment. But as some of my colleagues have pointed out, there’s nothing new here nothing new at all, except possibly Mr. Professor Ackerman’s statements. So we’ve heard all the rest of this before.

Now I think you’ve raised a level of expectation, and now I’m counting on you to meet that over the next today and tomorrow. You need to meet that expectation. Very unusual for the White House spin operation to go out there and set up expectations that it can’t fulfill. Usually they do it the opposite. So you’ve now established a very high expectation that I’m going to count on you to meet.

Now you also said in your testimony that the president, if we you you’re asking us to believe this: that the president has insisted and personally instructed his lawyers that no legalities or technicalities should be allowed to obscure the simple moral truth that his behavior in this matter was wrong.

Mr. Craig, did the president lie about never being alone in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky?

MR. CRAIG: Congressman, I’ve made a distinction between what was morally wrong and what was

REP. INGLIS: No, no, no, no. Mr. Craig, answer that question. This is what let me let me give a little bit of a further background now.

MR. CRAIG: Yeah.

REP. INGLIS: This is a question put to the president in the deposition. Now I understand you’re drawing distinction, a technicality, a nicety, as you said, between grand jury and deposition. So let me be absolutely clear; we’re talking here deposition. Paula Jones’ lawyer asks the question, “At any time were you and Monica Lewinsky alone together in the Oval Office?” The president’s answer: “I don’t recall.” And then he goes on.

Now, corroborating evidence of Ms. Lewinsky’s testimony indicates that there were eight occasions when the president and Monica Lewinsky had sex in the Oval Office. I ask you again now, did the president lie when he said, “I don’t recall”?

MR. CRAIG: Congressman, he goes on in that same passage to testify that it was possible, in fact, that he was alone. So the characterization of the testimony that he never was alone or he didn’t recall is not accurate. The characterization that you just gave to it and that Mr. Starr gave to it and the referral gave to it is not an accurate characterization of the president’s testimony

REP. INGLIS: You know, I’m reading the whole thing, and I don’t see what you’re talking about. It seems to me that you are relying on these technicalities.

Now Mr. Craig, did he lie to the American people when he said: I never had sex with that woman? Did he lie?

MR. CRAIG: He certainly misled and deceived

REP. INGLIS: Well, wait a minute, now. Did he lie?

MR. CRAIG: the American people. He misled them and did not tell the truth at that moment.

REP. INGLIS: Okay, so you’re not you’re not going to rely the president has personally insisted you, I understand, instructed you, has insisted and personally instructed YOU, I suppose, that no legalities or technicalities should be allowed to obscure the simple moral truth. Did he lie to the American people when he said: I never had sex with that woman?

MR. CRAIG: You know, he doesn’t believe he did. And because of the

REP. INGLIS: He doesn’t

MR. CRAIG: May I explain, Congressman? He

REP. INGLIS: He doesn’t believe that he lied?

MR. CRAIG: No, he does not believe that he lied, because his notion of what sex is is what the dictionary definition is. It is in fact something you may not agree with, but in his own mind, his definition was not

REP. INGLIS: Okay, I understand that argument.

MR. CRAIG: Okay.

REP. INGLIS: This is an amazing thing, that you now sit before us and you’re taking back all of his all of his apologies. You’re taking them all back, aren’t you?

MR. CRAIG: No, I’m not.

REP. INGLIS: Because now you’re back to the argument there are many arguments you can make here. One of them is he didn’t have sex with her; it was oral sex, it wasn’t real sex. Now, is that what you’re here to say to us today, that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky?

MR. CRAIG: What he said was, to the American people, that he did not have sexual relations. And I understand you’re not going to like this, Congressman, because you will see it as a technical defense or a hair-splitting, evasive answer, but sexual relations is defined in every dictionary in a certain way, and he did not have that kind of sexual contact with Monica Lewinsky. So

REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman’s time has expired.

MR. CRAIG: Let me just finish. So, did he deceive the American people? Yes. Was it wrong? Yes. Was it blameworthy? Yes.

REP. SENSENBRENNER: The gentleman’s time has again expired.

L.N. Smithee on November 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM

Craig and Obama are peas in a pod. It’s not the least bit surprising. We know how much O respects the military and the U.S. government.

tuffy on November 17, 2008 at 2:31 PM

L.N. Smithee on November 17, 2008 at 2:24 PM

Thanks for that golden thread from yesteryear.

I think we are all going to miss the Clinton era once Obama gets going. At least he was primarily interested in chasing tail, not “reinventing” America.

Y-not on November 17, 2008 at 2:31 PM

MR. CRAIG: Let me just finish. So, did he deceive the American people? Yes. Was it wrong? Yes. Was it blameworthy? Yes.

We should be “thrilled” that Craig is willing to voluntarily defend a President that lies to the American public, defend a President that knows that it is wrong he is lying to the public, and yet fends off any real accountability for his client on the technical basis that Webster’s Dictionary doesn’t expressly include doing “The Lewinski” in the definition of sexual relations?

This was Craig working to minimize Congressional action when the President committed perjury in a civil lawsuit. I just wonder how far Craig is willing to advise Obama goes in lying to the public the extent his Executive Orders undermine the Constitution, how far Craig will let Obama go down the path where he knowingly is violating his oath of office and federal regulations, and whether there is anything Obama says/does that will be seen as too much even for a scumsucking lawyer with political aspirations.

highhopes on November 17, 2008 at 3:19 PM

seems like another backhanded snipe at the reagans to me. the first was his nancy-seance comment at his first press conference.

homesickamerican on November 17, 2008 at 4:18 PM

Does Obama mean “wacky” in Kenyan?

profitsbeard on November 17, 2008 at 6:56 PM

I suppose you could say that getting a bj isn’t exactly having sex, it’s really just a quickie at the office by the closest office girl…

kellyjane on November 17, 2008 at 9:28 PM

I agree its troublesome, funny I find Annan the worst of the bunch, but I don’t think you become head of the UN unless you whore yourself out to the worst and more likely than not operate with impunity.

But we have to be careful with these types of headlines, I could just see it now:

“President endorses lawyer who defended people responsible for killing US soldiers for successor”…or Washington endorses Adams.

LevStrauss on November 17, 2008 at 9:44 PM

Looks like Bambi feels he going to need a guy that can do some heavy lifting.
Constitutional issues maybe…?

PaddyJ on November 18, 2008 at 6:24 AM

Craig has always struck me as another Leftist lawyer using the law to destroy this nation. Plenty of intellect, no moral discernment. Thanks to the good guys’ stupidity, now the bad guys are back in power.

paul1149 on November 18, 2008 at 7:57 AM

Kellyjane @ 9:28.

Are you speaking from a long history of hitting your head on the underside of a desk as an “office girl” or just wishful thinking?

volsense on November 18, 2008 at 1:46 PM

Isn’t “CHANGE” a beautiful thing!(Sarc.)

Every single thug that Hopey knows!

I’m going to take a wild guess,I bet
Craig lives somewhere in Obama’s
neighborhood!

canopfor on November 18, 2008 at 8:12 PM

So when President Obama says he admires President Reagan, I guess that does not mean he should not retain the same lawyer who defended his would be assassin?

- I mean Bill Ayers is just his neighbor and that whole Weathermen “kill your parents” thing is such old news.

- and that Rev. Wright he was just his preacher, does anyone really listen to the sermons?

- and Kenyan PM Railia Odinga is just his cousin. So they met last year in Kenya, how could President Obama have known that his cousin wanted to impose Sharia law in Kenya?

I guess this is “triangulation” Kenyan style.

Angry Dumbo on November 18, 2008 at 10:41 PM

Craig was an early Clinton alumni alumnus defector to Obama.

Just the one of him.

Tzetzes on November 18, 2008 at 11:57 PM

What’s next, will Obama dig up Goebbels, Himmler, and Hess?
Did Obama even go to his Granny’s funeral?

nelsonknows on November 19, 2008 at 6:03 AM

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