Greg Craig Career: What Work Did He Do for Obama & Clinton?

Greg Craig and Obama

Getty Greg Craig with Obama.

Greg Craig is a former aide to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. He is also a longtime attorney who was indicted by federal prosecutors in connection to his work with convicted former Donald Trump aide Paul Manafort.

Craig, 74, served as Obama’s White House counsel and previously worked as Bill Clinton’s director of policy planning.

After serving in the Obama administration, Craig became a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The firm was contracted by the Ukrainian government in 2012, then run by Putin-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, who was a client of Manafort.

Manafort later admitted that the firm was hired to write a report intended to boost Yanukovich’s reputation and the firm reached a settlement with the Justice Department earlier this year in which they admitted to failing to register as foreign lobbyists, The Washington Post reported. The firm said they relied on false statements made by Craig.

Craig was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and lying to investigators.

Craig has denied any wrongdoing.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Greg Craig Attended Yale With Bill & Hillary Clinton

Craig attended Yale Law School and was part of the same class as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Craig even sublet his apartment to the Clintons for $75 a month, The New Yorker reported.

After graduation, Craig worked on-and-off at the law firm Williams & Connoly between 1972 and 2009 — except when Clinton called on him to serve.

2. Craig Served in Bill Clinton’s Administration

Craig, who served as a national security and foreign policy adviser to former Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy in the 1980s, was offered the post of White House counsel by Clinton in 1996 but declined, according to “Masters of the Game” by Kim Eisler.

Instead, he was named by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the position of director of policy planning at the department, The New York Times reported, where he served until 1998.

During that time, he also assisted Albright on Tibetan affairs during China’s crackdown in the region, The Times reported.

He went on to serve as an assistant to the president and special counsel from 1998 to 1999, having been brought on to help Clinton during impeachment proceedings against him, The Washington Post reported.

Craig returned to private practice in 2000 and represented Juan Miguel Gonzales, the father of Elian Gonzalez, whom the Clinton administration sent back to Cuba amid an international custody dispute, per The Weekly Standard.

3. Craig Later Served as Barack Obama’s White House

Craig met the Obamas in 2004 and despite his close ties to the Clintons urged him to run for president, later becoming one of his foreign policy advisers, Newsweek reported.

Despite having known Hillary Clinton for decades, Craig endorsed Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

Craig even played Obama’s then-opponent John McCain during debate preparation sessions.

Craig wanted to be named Secretary of State but was instead appointed to be Obama’s White House counsel, The Washington Post reported. He served for a year from January 2009 until January 2010.

During his time at the White House, Craig was key in drafting an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay (which did not happen), recommended the release of the “Torture Memos,” and oversaw the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, The New York Times reported.

4. Craig Was Forced Out of Obama’s Administration

Rumors swirled that Craig would be forced out of the administration for months, The New York Times reported at the time.

According to “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” by Jonathan Alter, Obama “tried to avoid a high-profile ouster” by offering Craig a federal judgeship but Craig declined.

Craig learned of his ouster while reading the morning paper, Alter reported.

Obama later called Craig to apologize, Alter added.

5. Craig Was Indicted in Connection to His Work With Convicted Ex-Trump Aide Paul Manafort

On April 11, 2019, Craig was indicted by federal prosecutors in an investigation that stemmed from special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, that saw Manafort convicted and sentenced to more than seven years in prison on a slew of fraud charges.

Craig was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine and lying about the work he did to investigators, CNBC reported. He faces up to five years in prison on each count.

Craig’s firm Skadden, Arps was hired by Manafort client Viktor Yanukovich’s government to create a report defending him after he jailed his political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, The Washington Post reported.

Craig insisted that he did not do work for Ukraine that violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act but in a settlement with the Justice Department the firm admitted it should have registered as a foreign agent and paid $4.6 million in fees it earned from its work in Ukraine.

The settlement added that the firm believed they did not need to register because of “false and misleading oral and written statements” made by Craig.

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