WASHINGTON, September 25, 2014 — The Justice Department has confirmed that Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down, leaving the Obama Administration at a low point of the Obama presidency.
Holder’s term as Attorney General has been a roller coaster of social and racial progress and what some see as his use of the job to blindly support and conceal constitutional mishaps by the Obama administration.
Critics of the Obama Administration charge that Holder has let politics replace law as the guiding principle of the Justice Department.
Time and again, Eric Holder administered justice as the political activist he describes himself as instead of an unbiased law enforcement official. — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Holder has served as the 82nd U.S. Attorney General since February 2009. He served earlier as a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.
Holder is the fourth-longest serving U.S. attorney general. In that time, he has been a consistent liberal voice in the Obama administration. He came under early criticism when, during a 2009 Black History Month speech, he called America “a nation of cowards” for the country’s inability to discuss racial tension honestly.
He has been vocal about things he felt needed to be changed, and about what he felt were racial and social inequities in the criminal justice system.
This week, Holder announced that populations in federal prisons have declined, a trend he says will continue for the next two years.
Holder, now 63, is a graduate of the Columbia Law School. He served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and was an associate judge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
A statement from a senior administration official says that Eric Holder has been instrumental in Civil Rights issues, most recently in Ferguson, Missouri as well as a champion for the LGBT community, fighting for marriage and legal benefits rights for same-sex couples.
Holder sued Texas and North Carolina over voting restrictions that he said affected the rights of minorities and the elderly.
During his nearly six years at the Justice Department, Holder has guided the department through the effects of the worst financial crisis in decades. He created controversy on both sides of the political aisle in his handling of terror suspects, attempting to bring them to trial in the New York civil courts versus military courts.
The Justice Department did win several convictions with lengthy sentences in terrorism cases that were not making progress through the military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, a prison facility that the Obama administration has tried to close.
Holder has steadfastly held on to his position despite repeated calls for his resignation, which reached a crescendo after the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal broke. Hearings over Fast and Furious led to the House holding Holder in contempt of Congress for impeding the investigation into the operation that lead to the death of border guard Brian Terry.
Terry was killed by Mexican narco-terrorists north of the Arizona border city of Nogales. One of the group, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes had entered the United States illegally with the intent, according to U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury, of committing armed robbery, allegedly of marijuana smugglers.
Osorio-Arellanes, who was not the shooter, but a part of the crew, was sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. prison.
You illegally entered the United States with the sole intention of committing armed robbery. There is no doubt that your prey was human. Law enforcement got in your way, as is their duty, and as a result a good agent died. — Judge David C. Bury, during sentencing.
During that shooting investigation, the gun used to kill Terry was linked back to Fast and Furious, during which federal agents attempted to track guns purchased by weapons smugglers.
The operation’s handlers lost track of nearly three-fourths of the guns involved, including the gun that killed Terry. Holder was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to release documents the committee claimed proved a cover up of the operation.
The illegal immigration and border crisis has affected Holders’ tenure. In 2000, Deputy Attorney General Holder created the legal means for federal agents to forcibly enter the home of Elian Gonzalez’s legal guardians, who are also America Citizens, to return the then child to communist Cuba.
As Attorney General, he announced the Obama administration program “Justic AmericCorps” to provide emergency legal representation to unaccompanied minors from Central America surging across the Mexico-America border.
How we treat those in need, particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings, many of whom are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking — goes to the core of who we are as a nation. — Eric Holder, explaining a program to provide 100 lawyers and paralegals for minors brought here by human traffickers.
Holder created a precedent when he claimed that “parental rights” trumped immigration law and Gonzalez’s refugee status. In the present border crisis, parental rights are being ignored, and administration policy gives the United States parental responsibility for these children. Holder, were he consistent, would be arguing for actual parental rights, and work to return unaccompanied minors, as well as all illegal immigrants, to their home countries.
In May, 2013, Associated Press reported that telephone records for 20 of their reporters had been subpoenaed by the Justice Department in what the established news agency called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into their operations.
Prior to this action, reporters enjoyed protection under the Shield Laws designed to protect reporters’ privilege and their right to refuse to testify about information sources.
However, Shield Laws protect on the state, not Federal level, technically allowing the Justice Department to force information from news gatherers.
At the time, AP CEO Gary Pruitt said:
These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.
The Justice Department was attempting to paint journalists James Rosen and Stephen Kim as “criminal co-conspirators” in the leak of classified information about North Korea.
The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of. … To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. — Dana Milibank, the Washington Post.
The AP scandal, as it was known, lead to the Attorney General’s Order No. 3420-2014 stating it would clarify the “Policy regarding obtaining information from, or records of, members of the news media; and regarding questioning, arresting, or charging members of the news media.”
Other prosecutions of persons for security links under the Espionage Act of 1917 by Holder and the Obama administration include (Source WiKI):
- Shamai Leibowitz, a contract linguist for the FBI, was convicted of leaking information to a blogger from embassy wiretaps in 2010.
- Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee, was indicted for allegedly revealing classified information to journalist James Risen in 2011.
- John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst, pleaded guilty to passing classified information to a reporter in 2013.
- Bradley Manning, an US Army intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to passing classified information to the Wikileaks organization in 2013.
- Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a senior analyst at the Office of National Security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was charged with disclosing national defense information to reporter James Rosen in 2010.
- Thomas Drake, a former National Security Agency senior executive, was charged with willful retention of national defense information. The charges were dismissed on the eve of his trial in 2010.
- Edward Snowden, a technical contractor for the NSA and former employee of the CIA, in Russian exile as of 2014, has been charged with theft and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information to columnist Glenn Greenwald and other media outlets in 2013.
Holder was criticized for approving the NSA’s authority to gather phone records of Americans not charged with any crime.
Holder has previously indicated a desire to resign, NPR reporting that he did not want to serve to the end of Obama’s second term. Reports are that the President and Attorney General discussed his departure over Labor Day meetings at the White House.
The President is expected to make a statement at 4:30 p.m. ET, which may include naming a possible successor. The timing behind Holder’s resignation will be a source of political speculation as Obama names his successor to the role of 83th U.S. Attorney General.
On the president’s alleged short list are Kathryn Ruemmler, a former White House counsel and Donald Verrilli, present White House Solicitor General. Also on that list is Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bhara, Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and two-time U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, Brooklyn.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, states that plans are for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on a successor as quickly as possible.
Going forward, particularly while looking at mid-term elections, Republicans in Congress will be tasked with holding the confirmation process of the next attorney general in a fair and balanced matter, focusing on quantifiable qualifications versus the subjective politics of the individual nominated.
Offering a clue to Republican thinking on this matter, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said, in response to news of Holders resignation:
Mr. Holder has consistently played partisan politics with many of the important issues facing the Justice Department. I hope that the next Attorney General will take seriously his role as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, working with Congress to ensure that the laws of our land are followed instead of being a roadblock on the path to justice.
The next attorney general’s role will include helping to shape legal policies as they affect the war in Iraq and Syria as well as overseeing the new executive orders, including immigration policy, that are expected after the mid-term elections.