CBS Touts John Edwards Hiring 'Heavy Hitter' Greg Craig, Who Represents 'Legal Stratosphere'

On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge introduced a story updating the John Edwards scandal and potential legal charges against the former Senator: "...a grand jury has been looking at evidence that he may have violated campaign finance laws. Now the former Democratic presidential hopeful has hired a political heavy hitter to fight off possible charges."

In the report that followed, legal correspondent Jan Crawford continued to take the focus off Edwards and place it on prominent liberal attorney Greg Craig: "Edwards has now enlisted a heavyweight...Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig has joined Edwards' team....Experts say bringing him on the case is a sign Edwards is worried about where this investigation is heading." The headline on-screen throughout the segment read: "Bracing For A Fight; John Edwards Hires Fmr. White House Counsel."

After Crawford briefly summed up Edwards' adultery scandal, Wragge wondered: "Jan, you're a lawyer. Reading the tea leaves here, what do you make of Mr. Craig taking on this case?" Crawford replied: "He takes clients he believes in, cases he thinks he can win....He's just not someone who's going to fight, you know, one of these uphill battles. So I would say, I mean, that is a pretty good sign for John Edwards."
        
Wragge observed that Craig's clients have been "the elitist of the elite" and asked Crawford to "talk about the legal stratosphere with which this man operates." She noted how Craig had become "the man to see" in Washington in legal matters and listed some of his "elite" clientele: "He represented Elian Gonzalez's father and helped get that boy back to Cuba. He was involved in John Hinckley's defense, and more recently, he was involved in that high profile defense of Goldman Sachs. So a pretty heavy hitter here to say the least." Wragge remarked: "Yeah, so I guess if you think you're in trouble, this is the guy you try to retain."  

Here is a full transcript of the March 4 segment:

7:12AM ET

CHRIS WRAGGE: Now the latest on John Edwards. For nearly two years a grand jury has been looking at evidence that he may have violated campaign finance laws. Now the former Democratic presidential hopeful has hired a political heavy hitter to fight off possible charges. CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford in Washington with that story this morning. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Good morning, Chris. We are picking up a lot of intel this morning that the grand jury is almost finished with that investigation, including Edwards' decision to beef up his legal team.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Bracing For A Fight; John Edwards Hires Fmr. White House Counsel]

Former Senator John Edwards has now enlisted a heavyweight in the legal battle over whether he improperly used campaign funds to hide his mistress Rielle Hunter. Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig has joined Edwards' team as speculation grows that a federal grand jury is wrapping up its investigation.

KIERAN SHANAHAN [FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR]: When you go from one lawyer to a team of lawyers in a grand jury investigation, that's usually not a good sign for you.


CRAWFORD: CBS News has learned that while the hiring of Craig has just recently become public, he was actually brought on six weeks ago. Craig left his post as President Obama's counsel in January 2010. He was also one of President Clinton's lawyers during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Experts say bringing him on the case is a sign Edwards is worried about where this investigation is heading.

SHANAHAN: That's one of the reasons that Mr. Craig has been brought in, to assist in that effort to avoid indictment on the front end.

CRAWFORD: Edwards began his affair with Hunter during his presidential run in the 2008 campaign, and the two had a child together. Two years later, Edwards' marriage to wife Elizabeth crumbled. She died in December, after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.

KEN VOGEL [POLITICO CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER]: His fall from grace was so swift, and so complete, there's absolutely no way that he can rehabilitate his image enough to be back involved in politics.

CRAWFORD: But a tarnished image could be the least of Edwards' problems. If he's indicted he could face a federal prison sentence. But sources close to the case say an indictment is not imminent at the moment. In fact, they say the Justice Department is now reviewing whether the allegations against Edwards, even if they were true, would violate any laws. Chris.

WRAGGE: Jan, you're a lawyer. Reading the tea leaves here, what do you make of Mr. Craig taking on this case?

CRAWFORD: Chris, I mean, I have seen Greg Craig in a lot of different cases over the years and they all have one thing in common. He takes clients he believes in, cases he thinks he can win. He is very cautious and savvy. He's just not someone who's going to fight, you know, one of these uphill battles. So I would say, I mean, that is a pretty good sign for John Edwards.

WRAGGE: He also takes on the elitist of the elite. I mean, besides presidents, let's talk about the legal stratosphere with which this man operates.

CRAWFORD: Well, yeah. I mean, in many ways, oddly enough, I mean this could be one of Greg Craig's lower profile cases. He got his start working for this legendary lawyer here in Washington who is nicknamed 'the man to see,' and in some ways, I mean, that is what Greg Craig has become too. He represented Elian Gonzalez's father and helped get that boy back to Cuba. He was involved in John Hinckley's defense, and more recently, he was involved in that high profile defense of Goldman Sachs. So a pretty heavy hitter here to say the least.

WRAGGE: Yeah, so I guess if you think you're in trouble, this is the guy you try to retain. Alright, CBS's Jan Crawford in Washington for us this morning. Jan, thank you.

CRAWFORD: Thanks.

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC