By Sam Youngman - 11/13/09 02:49 PM EST
Embattled White House Counsel Gregory Craig announced his resignation Friday after months spent struggling to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
Craig will return to private practice at the beginning of next year, he said in a resignation note.
Efforts to move prisoners to the U.S. to be jailed or tried have run into stiff opposition from Congress, and Craig had received blame for some of the problems.
Yet White House officials repeatedly disputed reports, circulating for months, that Craig was being removed, and that his portfolio had already been stripped of the thorny and controversial effort to close the Guantánamo camp.
Craig’s resignation comes as the Justice Department is set to announce it will prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in civilian court. Holder is to hold a press conference on Friday.
The White House said Craig would be replaced by Bob Bauer, Obama's personal lawyer and an attorney at Perkins Coie. Bauer is also married to Anita Dunn, the interim White House communications director who announced her return to the private sector this week.
In a statement, Obama did not mention the Guantánamo issue but praised Craig for his work in helping to confirm Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and implementing the White House's ethical standards.
“Greg Craig is a close friend and trusted adviser who tackled many tough challenges as White House counsel,” Obama said in a statement issued from Japan, where he is traveling.
“He has been a huge asset in the White House, and he will be missed,” Obama said. “I will continue to call on him for advice in the years ahead.”
Craig’s political obituary has been written by many Washington publications for months because of intense congressional opposition to his efforts to close the facility, and significant and embarrassing breakdowns in the vetting process as Obama assembled his Cabinet.
Bauer, for his part, angered many on the left during the presidential campaign when he wrote in a blog post that former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby should receive a pardon.
Libby was convicted of several counts related to the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. Former President George W. Bush refused to pardon Libby despite the reported repeated and intense requests from former Vice President Dick Cheney to do so.
The post on HuffingtonPost.com raised anger and questions among liberals who wondered why Bauer would float the idea during the campaign.
“Never at any time have I written for a candidate or asked a candidate’s approval, and I have not done so in this instance,” Bauer told The Hill in June 2008. “The truth of the matter is, to sound humbly, I’m just his lawyer.”
At Firedoglake.com, after Bauer's post last year, Jane Hamsher wrote: “So are we to accept that the general counsel for the Obama campaign stepped out on his own in such a high profile way with such a hot button issue and the candidate had no knowledge of it?”
Bauer’s argument was that by pardoning Libby, Bush would become more entangled in the scandal over the Plame leak.
The Obama campaign at the time insisted that Bauer was speaking for himself and not representing the eventual president or his campaign.