By almost all accounts, Barack Obama and his team ran one of the most effective presidential campaigns in American history.
So how could Team Obama, which clearly is made up of many smart people, be dumb enough to select Greg Craig as White House counsel?
Alabama attorney Jill Simpson, a key whistleblower in the Don Siegelman case, says Craig has serious conflicts regarding certain members of the Republican Party. And we're not talking about reputable, mainstream Republicans like Richard Lugar or Olympia Snowe. We're talking Dr. Evil himself--Karl Rove.
A February 22 letter, from Simpson attorney Priscilla Black Duncan to Craig, outlines several serious charges against the White House counsel. He has represented Rove in a book deal. His close associate and mentor represents the Bush administration on executive-privilege issues regarding the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
But most troubling is the possibility that Craig violated multiple ethical rules of the legal profession in his direct conversations with Simpson. The letter states that Craig held extensive discussions with Simpson about the possibility of representing her for her testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. After hearing a complete account of Simpson's story, Craig informed her that he had a conflict involving U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and could not represent her.
The tone of the letter makes it clear that Simpson suspects Craig took privileged information he gleaned from her and shared it with Rove or individuals close to him. Such action would represent a serious breach of legal ethics, and my understanding is that Craig could face sanctions, perhaps disbarment, if such a breach were proven.
In the letter, Simpson asks that Craig withdraw from any representation of Obama in matters involving the Bush administration. A New York Times report, however, indicates that Craig was involved in negotiations that resulted in an agreement to have Rove testify in a non-public proceeding before Congress.
Also, Simpson demands that Craig turn over any material related to disclosure of information he received from Simpson, along with the identities of any people to whom he disclosed it.
The February 22 letter asks that Craig respond to these requests within three business days. So far, there is no indication that he has responded.
The complete Simpson letter can be viewed here.
Meanwhile, word seems to be spreading that Rove's deal with Congress is a raw deal for justice. Reports indicate that Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers will be questioned about the firings of U.S. attorneys and the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Siegelman appeared last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, and the first question to him was, "Are you optimistic that this particular form of testimony by Karl Rove is going to be appropriate for learning the truth about your case?"
Siegelman responded by comparing Rove to a "double-headed rattlesnake" and "an infected wound." But he adroitly avoided answering the question. In fact, Siegelman's answer indicates that he is not high on Rove's agreement with Congress and he thinks Congress is going about its investigation in a backward way.
Consider this reply from Siegelman:
"Rushing through this is not going to instill faith in the American people that we've done a good job. I would encourage Congress to take time and look at other people who can lay a foundation to put Karl Rove in check. . . .
"Congress needs to first subpoena, for example in my case, telephone records and e-mail communications between Karl Rove and the attorney general of Alabama (William Pryor) who started the investigation of me. They need to subpoena e-mail and phone records of Bill Canary, the husband of the prosecutor in my case and Karl Rove's best friend in Alabama . . . so we can have a foundation on which to have questions.
"Also, there are other people in Alabama who have knowledge of this prosecution. Those people should be brought before the committee and asked to the tell the truth under oath and penalty of perjury."
As a former state attorney general, Siegelman knows how a criminal investigation should be handled. Does it sound like he thinks Congress is going about this in the right way? Nope. Does it sound like he's pleased by an agreement that means Rove will not testify under oath? Nope.
Siegelman is a shrewd politician, and he's not about to blast this Rove deal and risk offending House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and others. It's possible that Siegelman suspects the Rove/Miers testimony will mainly be for show--that other activities will take place behind the scenes to get at the truth.
Finally, it's possible that Siegelman suspects that someone--Jill Simpson perhaps--will pull the mask off Greg Craig and show that a Rove "friendly" is up to dirty deeds within the Obama White House.
Here is the full Siegelman interview from last night's Rachel Maddow Show: