Ex-White House lawyer joins John Edwards' team

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, seen leaving leaves funeral services for wife Elizabeth Edwards on Dec. 11, 2010, in Raleigh, N.C., admitted to fathering a child with a staffer while he was campaigning for president. The affair was made all the more tawdry because of his initial denials and the fact that Elizabeth was battling cancer at the time.
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Updated at 7:55 a.m. Eastern.

WASHINGTON - President Obama's former lawyer has signed on to help former presidential candidate John Edwards as he tries to ward off a criminal indictment over payments to his ex-mistress.

CBS News has learned that while the hiring of former White House council Greg 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, reports CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford.

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Craig told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he wants to help Edwards because the ex-senator from North Carolina didn't break any campaign finance laws.

Experts say bringing him on the case is a sign that Edwards is worried about where this investigation is heading, adds Crawford.

"That's one of the reasons Mr. Craig has been brought in- to assist in that effort to avoid indictment on the front end," Kieran Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor tells CBS News.

"I have seen Greg Craig in 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," Crawford told "The Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge. Crawford described Craig as "very cautious and savvy" -- a lawyer who avoids "uphill battles." "So I would say, that is a pretty good sign for John Edwards," she predicted, adding that Craig has earned a reputation in Washington's circles of power as "the man to see" when you're in trouble.

The Justice Department is trying to determine whether to prosecute Edwards over payments his donors made to keep his girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, and their daughter in hiding during the 2008 campaign.

Craig said he didn't discuss his decision to join the Edwards team in the last few weeks with anyone at the White House, which he left more than a year ago.

NPR first reported that Craig had joined Edwards' team.