Obama adviser Greg Craig
JERUSALEM – An attorney and top foreign policy adviser to Sen. Barack Obama is coming under fire for representing controversial figures, including an accused human rights abuser, an alleged murderer of a U.S. soldier and even the would-be assassin of President Ronald Reagan.
Greg Craig, who has been termed the “lawyer of the left,” represented John Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate Reagan in 1981 by firing six bullets at the president as he left a hotel. Craig was reportedly the architect of Hinckley’s successful defense in which he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, even though reports by the federal prosecution found Hinckley sane.
As a partner in the high-powered Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly, Craig represented former Bolivian Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez-Berzain in a federal lawsuit of “crimes against humanity” due to his alleged role in the suppression of labor union riots in 2003 that resulted in the deaths of 67 people.
Sanchez-Berzain is loathed in Bolivia for allegedly turning the army loose on protesters in what was described as a brutal massacre of unarmed men, women and children, some of whom were reportedly shot at point-blank range.
Craig currently represents Pedro Miguel Gonzalez-Pinzon, president of the Panamanian National Assembly, who is wanted in the U.S. for the 1992 murder of a U.S. Army soldier and the attempted murder of another.
Gonzalez, a harsh critic of the U.S., is accused of murdering the solider, Zak Hernandez Laporte, on the eve of President George H.W. Bush’s visit to Panama in 1992. The FBI is said to have credible evidence proving Gonzalez’s guilt.
The accusations and Gonzalez’s Panamanian government position are a primary reason the U.S. has halted a U.S.-Panama free trade accord.
The American Future Fund this week called on Obama to fire Craig, stating in an ad campaign that someone who “has a history of defending corrupt foreign leaders and murderers” could offer severely misguided advice to the Illinois senator.
The AFF launched a YouTube video petitioning for Craig’s ouster.
In a January editorial, the Dallas Morning News called on Obama to fire Craig if the attorney doesn’t drop the Panamanian as a client:
“Mr. Obama has made clear that the White House is no place for influence-peddlers and special interests. … This is one instance where he needs to show presidential decisiveness by asking Mr. Craig to choose between the campaign and involvement in a legal case where hot-button bilateral issues – and a Senate vote – hang in the balance,” read the editorial.
Obama repeatedly has attacked Sen. John McCain for purportedly allowing lobbyists to serve as top advisers.
The Political Punch blog run by ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper noted, “There’s a big difference between a lobbyist, who is paid to interact with lawmakers such as Mr. Obama, and a lawyer, who works with the courts. But in this situation, Gonzalez’s indictment has complicated passage of the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement.”
Craig recently said at a forum that Obama’s campaign is aware of his involvement in the Gonzalez case.
“I have removed myself from participation in discussions with the candidate or his advisers on relations between the United States and Panama,” Craig said.
Obama has been on the record stating he opposes any trade act with Panama due to the Gonzalez case.
But Obama has not addressed Craig’s defense of other unsavory characters such as Hinckley.
Craig also has represented Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in the 1991 Palm Beach, Fla., rape case involving the senator and his accused nephew, William Kennedy Smith, who was acquitted of all charges. Craig was an aide to Kennedy in the 1980s.
In 2004, Craig was counsel for then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan during investigations that year of the Oil-for-Food scandal.
Craig, an anti-war protester in the 1960s, also successfully represented Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the Cuban father of Elian Gonzalez during the 2000 child custody dispute that ended in the forcible seizure of Elian by U.S. marshals and the boy’s return to Cuba.
According to reports, Craig was heavily involved in the decision to seize Elian. The outcome was seen as a major victory for Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Craig is a top foreign policy adviser to Obama. His foreign policy experience includes serving as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s senior adviser on defense, foreign policy and national security issues from 1974 to 1988. In 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appointed Craig as a top senior adviser and as director of policy planning.
Craig’s embrace of Obama turned some heads due to the attorney’s high profile representation of Bill Clinton during impeachment hearings over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. When the Senate refused to convict Clinton on accusations of perjury, Craig was seen as the politician’s savior.
But Craig admonished Sen. Hillary Clinton in a March posting on Obama’s site:
“Hillary Clinton’s argument that she has passed ‘the commander-in-chief test’ is simply not supported by her record,” he wrote.
“[Obama] possesses the personal attributes of a great leader – an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage,” Craig argued.
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.