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Edwards Case: Watchdog Blasts Hiring of Former White House Lawyer

ABC News(HILLSBOROUGH, N.C.) -- A prominent campaign watchdog in North Carolina who has closely followed the federal investigation of John Edwards' campaign is strongly criticizing the addition of former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig to Edwards' legal defense team.

"Gregory Craig's involvement in this case is disturbing," said the watchdog, Joe Sinsheimer. "It raises the question of whether political influence can be bought and sold in Washington, D.C., even in criminal inquiries."

Craig is a high-profile Washington power broker who served as White House counsel during the first year of the Obama administration. He left the post late in 2009 and returned to private practice.

Craig did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment from ABC News, but in an interview Thursday with a North Carolina newspaper he said he has been in discussions with critical "decision makers" at the Department of Justice, advocating on behalf of Edwards.

"Mr. Craig is using the relationships he formed as White House legal counsel to try to manipulate a criminal investigation," he argued. "While Mr. Craig's actions may be technically legal, they violate the spirit of the law, which requires a two-year cooling off period before government officials can seek to influence their old colleagues."

In an interview with National Public Radio, which first reported Craig's hiring, Craig said those "revolving-door" rules apply to only the top three tiers of Justice Department officials. The Edwards' case is being led by the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, and Craig argued that the prohibitions do not apply to the lawyers and assistants there.

For more than two years, a federal grand jury has been hearing evidence in connection with more than $1 million that allegedly was used to support Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and to hide his affair with her. At its core, the investigation seeks to connect Edwards to those payments and, further, to show that he knew the payments were made with the intention of keeping his presidential campaign viable.

Sources with knowledge of the case have told ABC News that the investigation is complete and a final resolution could come before the end of March.

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