White House counsel resigning in wake of Guantanamo criticisms

[JURIST] The White House announced [press release] Friday that Gregory Craig [WhoRunsGov profile] is resigning as White House Counsel and will be replaced by Bob Bauer [profile profile], Obama's personal attorney. Craig's resignation [letter, PDF], effective in January, comes after months of criticism of his management of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] policy initiatives, including the ban on torture and the release of documents on the treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. Craig gained notoriety by leading former president Bill Clinton's defense during his 1998 impeachment proceedings [PBS materials; JURIST materials]. In 2000, he represented the father of Elian Gonzalez [BBC backgrounder] in his successful effort to gain custody of his son and bring him back to Cuba from the US. In 1981-82, Craig defended John Hinckley [PBS profile], who was accused of an assassination attempt on former president Ronald Reagan. Obama praised Craig's service as White House counsel, stating that he "will continue to call on him for advice in the years ahead." Craig will be the highest official to step down from the Obama administration since appointments [JURIST report] last November. Bauer is expected to take over the position by the end of this year.

Craig's policy management is not the only issue that has come under fire for the administration's handling of Guantanamo Bay. The Center for American Progress (CAP) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] on Tuesday criticizing the White House for several shortfalls in its decision-making process. According to CAP, these shortfalls include failing to sufficiently staff the review task force and misreading Congress on key issues. The report also claims that the administration's most significant mistakes were the decisions to keep a modified version of the Bush-era military commissions and its request of Congress for $80 million to close the facility and relocate the detainees, which provided impetus for Congressional opponents to obstruct the process. In October US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced that the Obama administration may miss its January deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials.

 

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