Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that he was surprised by the resignation of White House Counsel Greg Craig and believes Craig has been unfairly blamed for the administration's difficulties in closing the prison base at Guantanamo Bay.
Briefing reporters at the Department of Justice, Holder called Craig a "great lawyer" who had "contributed in a significant way to the success of this administration." On the issue of shutting down Gitmo -- a project that Craig spearheaded within the administration, but which has stalled in Congress -- the AG insisted that it was wrong to scapegoat one person.
"Greg is a friend of mine," he said, "and those who have tried to place on him, I think, an unfair proportion of the blame as to why things have not proceeded, perhaps as we've wanted, with respect to Guantanamo, that is simply unfair."
Craig's departure from the White House on Friday was long anticipated. Inside the administration, there was a growing frustration over what aides considered a botched political process, which was Craig's responsibility. Those who know Craig personally, meanwhile, say he felt increasingly frustrated with his role within the administration. He had, initially, wanted to be part of the White House's foreign policy apparatus.
The push to close Guantanamo has met various pitfalls since it became a stated administrative objective, with Congress balking at the prospect of bringing detainees to domestic prison facilities. And now, it is widely assumed that the one-year deadline for shutting the detention center will be missed.
"I think it is going to be difficult to close that facility by January the 22nd," Holder told reporters on Friday. "There are a number of things that I think are most problematic."