Jill Simpson, Alabama lawyer and whistleblower in the Don Siegelman case, calls Craig's exit a "terrific step in the right direction." Simpson brought to public attention Craig's connections to Republican strategist Karl Rove. And she pointed out that his former law firm, Williams & Connolly, represented numerous figures from the George W. Bush years.
Why has the Obama administration taken no action on political prosecutions, such as the Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi? Simpson places the blame at Greg Craig's feet:
The damage Greg Craig has done in the political prosecution cases is immeasurable, and people are still wrongfully in prison as a direct result of actions he has taken. For months he has been a thorn in the side of Democrats who have claimed that political prosecutions occurred in America under George W. Bush--and Craig refused to hear their pleas.
For months Greg Craig has been throwing up road blocks to those who want to get at the truth--and to evidence that will show that Bush officials engaged in political prosecutions. Many of those officials are clients of Craig's former law firm. Maybe now the truth will be allowed to march forward since Greg Craig has been removed from the White House.
In a post titled "Rove's Buddy Resigns Post as WH Counsel," Larisa Alexandrovna of the at-Largely blog nicely summarizes Craig's disturbing ties to Karl Rove. And Simpson says those ties had consequences when Craig joined the Obama administration:
Greg Craig is the guy at the White House who crafted the deal that is known in Alabama, and political-prosecution circles, as "the deal with the devil." That deal allowed Karl Rove to testify not under oath in secret hearings, where the full information he testified about may never be released--and even if it is, it will be worthless in legal proceedings.
That deal treated Karl Rove as above the rule of law and allowed him to testify not under oath. And the deal was done by none other than Greg Craig, who was Rove's friend for many years--the guy whose former firm was representing Rove in a book deal and is the same firm to which Greg Craig will likely return. It was very sad that Greg Craig never thought to recuse himself from the matter, when he knew how long and close his ties were with Karl Rove.
Published reports indicate that Craig's exit was driven by his role in controversial decisions related to the prison at Guantanomo Bay, Cuba. But Simpson has sounded the alarm for months about Craig's ties to Karl Rove and other Republicans. She even pointed out Craig's financial ties to Ogilvy Government Relations, a well-known Republican PR firm.
A growing number of progressives seem to be listening to Simpson's concerns. And that might have played a significant role in Craig's ouster, particularly in light of recent disappointing elections results for Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey.
Simpson's concerns about Craig should resonate because she's had firsthand dealings with him. Leading up to Simpson's testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in fall 2007, she received several communications from Craig about the possibility of him representing her. After hearing Simpson's full story, Craig backed away, citing a conflict of interest.
In a letter from her lawyer to Craig earlier this year, Simpson makes it clear that she suspects Craig took her information and shared it with Rove. And her opinion of Craig has not improved in the intervening months:
Mr. Craig dishonored his important position in the White House by not taking steps to recuse himself from matters related to political prosecutions. And he continued to take this stance even when clear conflicts were raised in writing to him by my attorney. By the way, he has never responded to the letter because he knows what was said in it is true.
Simpson says Craig's conflicts of interests probably went beyond Rove and the issue of political prosecutions:
I still believe today that Greg Craig used his position at the White House to protect his former firm's Republican clients, such as Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
I believe the new White House counsel should review the deals Craig cut with former Bush officials. Greg Craig had conflicts from all directions--and he apparently didn't give a rip about ethics.
Simpson is hopeful about Robert Bauer, the veteran Democratic attorney who will replace Craig:
It is my understanding that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has worked with President Obama in selecting the new White House counsel. It also is my understanding that Mr. Bauer has an impressive resume of working on issues of importance to all Democrats, in addition to having been President Obama's personal legal counsel. I think this removes the ugly Karl Rove influence from the Obama White House.
I suspect now we will begin to see the "changes" that Obama promised when he ran for election in 2008. It is my hope and prayer that, with Greg Craig removed from power in the White House, we will see the folks wrongfully imprisoned by political prosecutions freed in a short time. They have suffered for far too long at the hands of Karl Rove and his enabler, Greg Craig.