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Obama's lawyer makes quiet exit after Gitmo frustrations

In the first major shake-up in the Obama inner circle, Greg Craig is resigning as White House counsel. He will be replaced by Robert Bauer, a leading Democratic lawyer and Barack Obama's personal attorney, whose own wife, Anita Dunn, stepped down this week from the pivotal job of White House communications director. Reports of the impending departure of Mr Craig, responsible for advising the President on legal issues involving the White House, have circulated here for months, but had been stoutly denied.

When confirmation finally came, the announcement was plainly timed to create as few waves as possible, while the President is away in Asia, and on a day when headlines are dominated by news that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused key 9/11 plotters held at Guantanamo Bay will be tried in civilian court in New York. In fact, dissatisfaction with Mr Craig's handling of the intended closure of the prison in Cuba is widely said to have been a factor in his departure.

The process has proved far more protracted than expected, amid strong public resistance to the transfer of some of the remaining 200-odd detainees to the US mainland, and intense difficulties in persuading other countries to take the others. As a result Mr Obama's target date of next January for closing Guantanamo Bay is almost certain to be missed, and Mr Craig is being saddled with part of the blame.

Ms Dunn will leave her post by the end of this month. She has led a White House offensive against the conservative Fox News cable channel, describing it as "a wing of the Republican party". On her orders, Fox was barred from presidential interviews, but Mr Obama is reported to be granting Fox an interview during his Asian trip.