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Gregory Craig named Obama’s White House counsel

By Laurie Bennett

November 17, 2008 at 2:16pm

Washington lawyer Gregory B. Craig is no stranger to high-profile clients.

And he’s no stranger to the White House, either.

So he may feel right at home in his new job, White House counsel to Barack Obama.

The appointment announced over the weekend was something of a surprise, according to reports, as it had been thought that Craig might end up in a national security post. But it’s no surprise that Craig, a partner at the firm of Williams & Connolly, will be in the Obama administration.

He’s one of the most powerful and well-connected Washington attorneys, one who has had a range of clients including John
W. Hinckley Jr., the would-be presidential assassin, Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a libel case and President Bill Clinton.

Beyond that, Craig threw his support early to Obama, despite his connections to Hillary and Bill Clinton, whom he had known since their days together at Yale Law School. (Craig graduated in 1972, the Clintons in 1973.)

In January, Craig told The New Yorker magazine that his backing of Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton had something to do with inspiration.

“I don’t discount the possibility of her being able to inspire me,” he said. “But she hasn’t in the past, and Obama has.”

(Of course, Craig and Hillary Clinton could end up on the same team anyway, if she’s offered and accepts the position of Secretary of State.

Presumably, bygones will be bygones with both.)

The son of the late William G. Craig, an educator, Gregory Craig, 63, graduated from Harvard College in 1967 before going on to Yale Law.

Craig was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, and it was then, according to The Washington Post, that he met Harold Ickes, who would become a key adviser to both Clintons.

After law school, Craig joined Williams & Connolly, where he was mentored by the powerhouse lawyers, Joseph Califano and Edward Bennett Williams.

Craig was counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy during the 1991 rape trial of Kennedy’s nephew, William Kennedy Smith.

In 2000, Craig represented the father of Elian Gonzalez in his efforts to have his son returned to Cuba.

John Podesta, then Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, recruited Craig to lead the Clinton impeachment defense in 1998.

Podesta, who became chief of staff for Clinton, is now serving as co-chairman of the Obama-Biden transition team.

Craig has held other government positions during his career.

He was a senior adviser to Sen. Kennedy on matters of foreign policy, national security and defense. He also was a senior adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the Clinton administration.

“He has the ability to look at issues from a different perspective and he’s very pragmatic and very smart,” Albright told the Post.

Craig is married to Derry Noyes, a graphic designer who has created a wide variety of stamps for the United States Postal Service. Earlier this year the service released her set of 16 stamps featuring the work of Charles and Ray Eames, the furniture designers.

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