- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

The venue has changed, but Gregory Craig is still making the case for President Clinton.

Mr. Craig, 55, a lawyer who argued Mr. Clinton's defense on perjury charges during his impeachment trial, now represents Elian Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

A partner at the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly, Mr. Craig is making the same argument as Mr. Clinton that the 6-year-old boy rescued from the Atlantic Ocean last November belongs back with his father in Cuba.

Mr. Craig has appeared on network television in recent days to dispute suggestions that the boy's father is an unfit parent.

"Every day of delay increases the damage," Mr. Craig said yesterday on "The Early Show," a CBS broadcast.

"No one said four months ago that the son was afraid of his father. Somehow, something has happened within the last four months that has prompted them to say that the son is afraid of his father."

Mr. Craig, a former Yale Law School classmate of Mr. Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, has said that religious groups sought him out, and that the governments of the United States and Cuba had nothing to do with his hiring.

Mr. Craig, who did not return a call for comment, flew to Havana in late February with a representative of the National Council of Churches and met with Mr. Gonzalez.

Carol Fouke, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Churches, said yesterday that the United Methodist Church Board for Church and Society hired Mr. Craig.

"I don't have any reason to believe that the White House had any involvement in his selection for this case by the father of Elian Gonzalez," White House spokesman James Kennedy said yesterday.

Mr. Kennedy declined comment on the political implications of Mr. Craig's selection.

Attorneys for the boy's relatives in Miami charge that Mr. Craig's ties to the White House grant him special access to officials at the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Justice Department.

They also suggest that Mr. Craig is representing a father who is a pawn of Cuban Prsident Fidel Castro.

"We believe Juan Miguel [Gonzalez] is completely under the gun of the Castro regime," Linda Osberg-Braun, an attorney for the boy's Miami relatives, said on "The Early Show."

That could complicate a thorny political problem for Vice President Al Gore. The vice president eyeing Florida's 25 electoral votes broke with Mr. Clinton last week to back permanent residency status for the boy.

"Our concern is much more with the child and whether the child will be able to stay, than with who the father's attorney is," said Ari Fleischer, a spokesman for Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

But "on a separate level, I don't think anyone in the country wants to be reminded of the problems the president has had."

Mr. Craig is a former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and once worked for the defense team of John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Reagan in 1981 but who was found not guilty of attempted murder charges on grounds of insanity.

Mr. Craig, an avid hiker and mountain climber, reached a career peak in January 1999, when he argued for Mr. Clinton's acquittal before the Senate.

Mr. Craig mocked the prosecution's case as "frequently trivial, almost always technical, often immaterial and always insubstantial."

"It is hard to take the charges seriously," he said as he opened the second day of White House arguments against the removal of the president from office.

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