Attorney General Eric Holder To Resign

One of last members of President Obama's original cabinet is stepping aside.

Eric Holder Judiciary

National Public Radio is reporting that Attorney General Eric Holder will announce later today that he will be stepping down as Attorney General upon confirmation of a successor:

Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black U.S. attorney general, is preparing to announce his resignation Thursday after a tumultuous tenure marked by civil rights advances, national security threats, reforms to the criminal justice system and five and a half years of fights with Republicans in Congress.

Two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Holder, 63, intends to leave the Justice Department as soon as his successor is confirmed, a process that could run through 2014 and even into next year. A former U.S. government official says Holder has been increasingly “adamant” about his desire to leave soon for fear he otherwise could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.

Holder already is one of the longest serving members of the Obama cabinet and ranks as the fourth longest tenured AG in history. Hundreds of employees waited in lines, stacked three rows deep, for his return in early February 2009 to the Justice Department, where he previously worked as a young corruption prosecutor and as deputy attorney general — the second in command — during the Clinton administration.

But some of that early glow faded in part due to the politicized nature of the job and in part because of Holder’s own rhetoric, such as a 2009 Black History Month speech where he said the country was “a nation of cowards” when it comes to discussions about racial tension.

Five years later, violence erupted between police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after a white policeman killed an unarmed black 18 year old. And this time, the White House dispatched Holder to speak his piece, in effect jump starting that conversation, and helping to settle nerves in the frayed community.

This doesn’t come as entirely surprising. It had been reported at the start of the year that Holder intended to leave office by the end of the year, although later reports indicated that he would stay on through the midterm elections in November. That second announcement came as a bit of a surprise because of the political realities that would make confirmation of a successor much more difficult if the GOP gains control of the Senate in November. Had Holder stepped down earlier, than his successor would have likely been easily confirmed thanks to the changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules. Now, the situation is far murkier. Even if the President names a successor relatively quickly, the Senate may not be able to complete confirmation hearings and consideration of that nomination prior to the end of the current Senate term. There will be a Lame Duck Session after the elections, of course, but that period will be relatively short and the agenda will be packed full of other matters for the Senate’s consideration to the point where the GOP could run out the clock rather easily if it wanted to, which would probably be more likely if Republicans win the Senate in November. If the GOP wins control of the Senate, then that would mean that any nominee would have to make it past a Republican Senate after January, and at the very least that is likely to be politically bumpy thanks to Holder’s sometimes contentious relationship with Republicans in Congress. That relationship was fairly sour from the beginning, but it hit a low point when the House of Representatives voted to hold Holder in contempt over his alleged withholding of documents related to the investigation of the so-called Fast & Furious scandal, a contempt vote that has gone nowhere in the courts in the two years since it occurred.

As to who might replace Holder, the list seems rather open ended at this point. One name that comes to mind most immediately is Solicitor General Don Verrilli, the number two man in the Justice Department and the government’s voice in the Supreme Court and before the Federal Courts in many cases, most prominently the challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The advantage of appointing someone like Verrilli is that he has already been through the Senate confirmation process and confirmed, so the process could potentially be expedited so that he could be confirmed before the end of the years. Another name that has been mentioned as a Holder replacement over the years has been Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who will be leaving office at the end of this year in any case. The unknowns there include the fact that Patrick has never been through a confirmation in the Senate and that as a politician he would likely be subjected to tougher scrutiny than a someone like Verrilli who had previously served as a Counsellor To the President and Deputy Attorney General before being named to replace Elana Kagan as Solicitor General when she was elevated to the Supreme Court. In any case, the President will be making some kind of personnel announcement later this afternoon, and although it hasn’t been confirmed that it will be about the Attorney General’s position the fact that it will be taking place after the speech in which Holder will make his announcement certainly seems to indicate that it will be.

No doubt, the announcement of Holder’s resignation will be greeted with applause on the right. Indeed, given some of the rhetoric I have seen about Holder from online writers on the right over the years one thinks that some conservatives would prefer that he be taken out of the Justice Department in handcuffs for unspecified crimes that he has allegedly committed while in office. From my perspective, I can’t say that I’ve found Holder’s time in office to be great, or that he will leave a great legacy as Attorney General, but I can’t say that he’s been particularly bad as well. You don’t have to accept the conspiracy theories about Fast & Furious, for example, to recognize that it was a badly mishandled undercover operation that probably never should have been authorized to begin with, and as the person at the top of the department he bears some responsibility for that. Additionally, his department’s somewhat ham handed handling of the issue of civilian trials for Gitmo prisoners involved in the September 11th attacks ended up causing nothing but political headaches for the Administration, especially since it was clear well beforehand that there was bipartisan opposition to the idea in Congress. His Justice Department has also continued to target medical marijuana growers and sellers in states like California despite pledges from President Obama to the contrary when he was running for office. That being said, I can’t say that Eric Holder was any worse than previous Attorneys General, or that he was any better. In the end, this isn’t really a cabinet position that leads to political stardom to any particular degree and, in the end, the smartest strategy for any occupant of the office is usually to keep your head down and just get the job down. By and large, when Holder messed up it was because he forgot this.

On a final note, Holder’s resignation means that there are only members  of President Obama’s first term cabinet still in office, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That’s not entirely unusual in a two term Presidency, of course, and Holder has actually served longer than most Attorneys General in two term Presidencies, Nonetheless, the fact that Holder has been a close adviser of the President’s for some time now, and that the Department of Justice is a far more high profile department than either Agriculture or Education,  makes this announcement a big deal.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. edmondo says:

    How would anyone know he’s not there?

  2. al-Ameda says:

    For most conservatives this news is the next best thing to impeachment of the president.

    Eric Holder will go down as a relentlessly average AG, there is nothing that he did especially well or egregiously wrong.

  3. edmondo says:

    I can’t say that Eric Holder was any worse than previous Attorneys General

    “Hey, I am as good as Alberto Gonzalez or Ed Meese!”

    Try putting that on your resume and see how long it takes you to get a job.

  4. Paul L. says:

    a contempt vote that has gone nowhere in the courts in the two years since it occurred.

    Look like there was a Oct 1 deadline for Holder –
    Judge Denies DOJ Request to Delay Release of Fast and Furious Document List

    Progressive better hope Media Matters and the rest of the Left wing noise machine has a heads up on spinning what comes out in Fast and Furious Document List. Other than Holder is no longer with the Administration and it is time to move on.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    One of Holder’s jobs was to act as lynching surrogate. Republicans needed a black man to attack more directly than they could Obama.

  6. edmondo says:

    One of Holder’s jobs was to act as lynching surrogate.

    Oh please. You need to take off those racist finding glasses you wear. They are out of kilter. You call everyone who finds fault in a policy implemented by a black man “a racist”. Give it a rest.

  7. stonetools says:

    I think Holder did very well on civil rights issues such as voting rights and police shootings. He did belatedly try to prosecute the banksters who f**ked up the economy in 2008 but the law tended to be against him, and (IMO) due to the influence of Giethner, there was a go easy approach to the finance industry during Obama’s first term.
    On racial issues, he was Obama’s “anger” interpreter much of the time, saying out loud what Obama couldn’t.
    I think he was a good AG and will be missed.

  8. stonetools says:

    @edmondo:

    Oh please. You need to take off those racist finding glasses you wear. They are out of kilter. You call everyone who finds fault in a policy implemented by a black man “a racist”. Give it a rest.

    Spoken like an entitled white conservative trying to pass himself off as a disgruntled liberal.

  9. edmondo says:

    Spoken like an entitled white conservative trying to pass himself off as a disgruntled liberal.

    Yeah, I am one of the Koch Brothers. Try and guess which one.

    Do you guys even think about policy or is it sufficient that if a Democrat advanced it so it must be good? Bombs in the Middle East and no prosecution of Wall Street wrongdoing. When Bush did it, you hated it. Now that your guy is in charge, it’s quite acceptable. Hypocritical much?

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @edmondo:

    Do I think about policy? I wrote a very long piece on the ISIL policy in comments, I think about issues all the time. Certainly far more than you do, and with far greater honesty than the propaganda you absorb and uncritically regurgitate.

    Racism is a major component of Republicanism. Not all Republicans are racists, but the majority of racists are Republicans and Republicans deliberately cater to that demographic because without it their vote disappears.

    So, yes, racism is a huge contributor to conservative reactions to Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder, and it’s absolute nonsense to pretend otherwise. Racists did not magically disappear sometimes in the 1960’s.

    Why don’t you toddle on over to http://www.reddit.com/r/greatapes and then come back and tell us how racism is imaginary.

  11. Paul L. says:

    Surprised No progressives pointed out my “conspiracy theory” is wrong.

    DOJ responded by asking for a month long delay in releasing the list with a deadline of November 3, just one day before the 2014-midterm elections. That request has been denied. A short delay was granted and DOJ must produce the Vaughn index by October 22.

    , Holder lost again in court on Fast & Furious:

    No, he did not the DOJ just got 3 weeks instead of the 4. he asked for
    Eric Holder still has lots to get done by October 22.
    Those talking points for Media Matters and Doug still need to be written.

  12. stonetools says:

    @edmondo:

    I do think about policy. I also understand the rule of law and the limits that places on prosecutors.

    WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday called for Congress to take steps to help prosecutors build criminal cases against senior Wall Street executives, saying companies often insulated their leaders from responsibility for misconduct.

    In a speech before New York University School of Law, Holder made some of his most extensive comments yet on improving the prosecution of white-collar crime. He called on Congress to boost rewards for Wall Street whistleblowers and fund more FBI agents with forensic accounting expertise.

    The Justice Department has faced years of criticism for a dearth of marquee prosecutions against Wall Street executives for conduct that contributed to the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

    It has reached multibillion-dollar settlements with institutions including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc, for misrepresenting risks of shoddy mortgage bonds sold before the crisis. But no individuals have faced related charges.

    At the speech, students passed around flyers criticizing Holder’s appearance as a “whitewash,” saying he had “provided impunity” to banks for selling toxic assets and had “refused to prosecute” them for other misdeeds.

    “When it comes to financial fraud, the department recognizes the inherent value of bringing enforcement actions against individuals, as opposed to simply the companies that employ them,” Holder said.

    But he said prosecutors could not always establish that high-ranking executives far removed from day-to-day operations knew about a particular scheme. He said blurred lines of authority often make it hard to name the person responsible for individual business decisions.

    Holder suggested lawmakers consider a rule in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 that requires a single executive to sign accounting forms and bear liability for misrepresentations, and examine whether it could be applied to other areas of corporate wrongdoing.

    “We need not tolerate a system that permits top executives to enjoy all of the rewards of excessively risky activity while bearing none of the responsibility,” he said, before an audience that included Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff

    I would like the banksters who caused the 2008 crisis to be paraded in the streets and be hung up by their b***s. Unfortunately, unlike people who are illiterate in the law, I understand that Holder can’t wave a magic wand and order that done.

    Why haven’t the laws be changed to allow easier prosecution of financial criminals? Check with your friends the Republicans and google “filibuster.”

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @edmondo: Self-awareness is never a front line skill on the right.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @Paul L.:
    Hey conspiracy boy…Holder will stay on until his replacement is confirmed…likely in 2015 given the record breaking filibuster habits of Republicans in the Senate.
    Kinda sucks when the facts don’t match your ideology, eh?

    Anyway…In spite of almost 6 years of Republicans trying to get rid of him…he will now leave on his own…one of the longest serving Cabinet members and the fourth longest tenure for an AG in history.
    Seriously…if they can’t even get a guy fired….can Republicans actually accomplish anything?

  15. dennis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do I think about policy? I wrote a very long piece on the ISIL policy in comments, I think about issues all the time. Certainly far more than you do, and with far greater honesty than the propaganda you absorb and uncritically regurgitate.

    Oh, please, Michael. Do you really expect those dunderheads to read, let alone comprehend, anything more nuanced and complex than “see spot run” or, better yet, “I love green eggs and ham?”

    Many of us read, understand, and agree/disagree with your posts; but, don’t think the effort is not wasted on the lockstep line tow-ers here on the blog …

  16. beth says:

    @C. Clavin: This could be fun. Do the Republicans want to see him gone so badly that they confirm Obama’s nominee quickly? Or do they stay the course and refuse to confirm, thereby keeping Holder in office? I predict lots of exploding heads over this one.

  17. Tyrell says:

    Some thoughts about AG Holder:

  18. Paul L. says:

    @beth:

    It would guess a Acting AG would be appointed

    Acting director of IRS resigns amid furor over targeting of conservative groups.

    Memo From Eric Holder to Dennis Burke Date: Jan 7,2010 Subject: Important What is the current status of Operation Fast and Furious?
    Memo From Eric Holder to Barrek Obama Date: Jan 21,2010 Subject: Operation Fast and Furious and using it to promotr more US Gun Laws.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @beth:
    Right?…Obama should nominate the most radical person he can find.
    How about Bill Ayers? Oh…not an attorney. Who cares???
    That should do the trick.
    KA-BOOOOM!!!!

  20. Ron Beasley says:

    I think you need a new spam filter!

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    I thought it was Jenos posting under another name.

  22. JohnMcC says:

    @edmondo: If your impression of ‘liberals’ is that we are perfectly OK with the air war in the ME and with the lack of prosecutions r/t the Crash of ’08 let us know how to send you subscriptions to MotherJones and The Nation. Your reading list really is terribly inadequate.

  23. Lenoxus says:

    I for one like it when conservatives attack Obama for the drone strikes, the non-prosecution of bankers, the failure to close Guantanamo, the NSA spying, and the deliberate allowance of heavy weaponry into criminal hands in Operation Fast and Furious. It implies they are against all those things. Next, I want them to criticize Obama for excessive deportation.

    It makes me wonder if half of Obama’s policies are reverse psychology. (Unfortunately, it won’t stick whenever we do get a Republican president, so if that was the plan it was worthless.)

  24. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: My favorite attorney generals: Robert Kennedy, Nicholas Katzenbach, John Mitchell, and Ramsey Clark (until he became a secret agent for the Soviet Union).

  25. edmondo says:

    @stonetools:

    Unfortunately, unlike people who are illiterate in the law, I understand that Holder can’t wave a magic wand and order that done.

    He did belatedly try to prosecute the banksters who f**ked up the economy in 2008

    Once again you totally make up shit whenever it suits you and expect no one to call you on it. The guy who invented “Too Big To Jail” was none other than Eric Holder!

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2014/06/ag-holder-paid-no-attention-to-bank-fraud/

    http://crooksandliars.com/mike-lux/holder-confesses

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/04/eric-holder-1999-memo_n_3384980.html

  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Lenoxus: I’ve long felt Obama should make a strong case against jumping off bridges.

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @Paul L.:
    But what about Benghazi?

  28. Tillman says:

    Good riddance. Dude never really called off the DOJ on legalized marijuana growers in Colorado and Washington. Not to mention making things worse in any appearance he had with Issa’s inquisition.

    I mean, sure, better than Gonzales by leagues, but not subverting the law for political purposes is usually a fundamental of the job, not something you’re commended for.

  29. Lyle says:

    @edmondo:

    And now Holder is going to back to white shoe law firm Covington to defend
    those very same evil banks and their top executives. I love the hypocrisy of Washington.
    He’ll make a minimum of 3MM a year.

  30. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “My favorite attorney generals: Robert Kennedy, Nicholas Katzenbach, John Mitchell, and Ramsey Clark (until he became a secret agent for the Soviet Union).”

    Um, you are aware that Mitchell served 19 months in prison for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, all crimes committed while in office, aren’t you?

    Or is this just more high-level trolling, like when you include LeMay in your list of favorite generals?

  31. Janis Gore says:

    Well, these last few days at this site and others on the Internet has made the next two elections a breeze for me.

    Straight Democratic tickets, no positions analyzed, no questions asked. I’m fed up with the clowns in the Republican party. Enough, already.

  32. dazedandconfused says:

    I suspect Obama wishes Congress was in session right now. Picking a white guy who is a strident voting-rights advocate and watching the R’s attack him in confirmation hearings in the last month before the election could help “get out the vote”.

  33. Tyrell says:

    @wr: General LeMay – the leader and general who formed and built the Strategic Air Command, a force that kept this country safe during the cold war. When I was a child, I constantly read, watched news reports, and heard people talking about Patton, MaCArthur, Marshall, LeMay, and others. These were our heroes, along with Civil War and Revolutionary War generals. Those were our heroes then, not some rock singer. People today dismiss, ridicule, and defame General LeMay and others. That is because we live in an age of revisionist history in which the news media and others are trying to tear down and discredit great leaders of the past. General LeMay was not perfect, but he served this country well. I just don’t get some of this criticism of General LeMay. Mitchell ? Well I liked him at first and thought he had some good ideas, but then got caught up in that Watergate mess. I did not like Mitchell as much as Robert Kennedy, Nick Katzenbach, and Ramsey Clark.

  34. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @edmondo: Wait a second…you have policy suggestions??? This is big news! I’d love to see them! Where do you blog on THIS stuff? Here, all you do is whine–sort of like a less rabid Bithead.

  35. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Shouldn’t you be referring us to some article by Walter Williams that will help us understand your comment of

    Some thoughts about AG Holder:(sic)

    ?

  36. Eric Florack says:

    @stonetools: the banks didnt cause that. The government did. actually, liberals did, trying to buy votes from a core constituancy.

  37. dazedandconfused says:
  38. Blue Galangal says:

    @Janis Gore: Tell me about it. I’ve rarely in my life voted straight tickets for either party but since 2008 it’s been check check check. In Ohio, the worst Democrat is still going to be worlds above the best Republican (see: Steve Chabot for what happens when a moderate Republican gets infected with teapartyitis).

    (Yes, this is hyperbole, I am well aware that SOME Democrats are worse than SOME Republicans.)

  39. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:
    More delusion from Mr. Delusion.

  40. wr says:

    @Tyrell: If you want to “get” the criticism of LeMay you need to look past his achievements in WW2.By the time of the Cuban missle crisis he acted in ways that would have essentially guranteed the destruction of man on earth — pushing to bomb the sites and then invade Cuba rather than negotiating a peaceful settlemen with the Russians, urging the US to bomb Vietnam “back to the Stone Age,” running for VP under George Wallace…

  41. JKB says:

    The calculus of Holder’s replacement will be interesting. Obama needs someone just as partisan and corrupt as Holder. But the Democrats, especially if trounced in November, will want someone who will restore some legitimacy to the office and show that Democrat=corruption is not true. So the Senate Dems may try to put someone in office to do a bit of clearing up for 2016. That has to have a lot of Dems in the Administration uneasy. Hanging a few Obama partisans will be a way of showing that the party is moving away from Obama, at least until after November 2016.

    There are lots of criminal investigations sitting there waiting to go to prosecution, as soon as their is an opening. This is the start of the process, I’d expect.

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    The calculus of Holder’s replacement will be interesting. Obama needs someone just as partisan and corrupt as Holder. But the Democrats, especially if trounced in November, will want someone who will restore some legitimacy to the office and show that Democrat=corruption is not true.

    You provided no examples of “partisan and corrupt” with respect to Holder. Why?

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    the banks didnt cause that. The government did. actually, liberals did, trying to buy votes from a core constituancy.

    Yes, the banks abandoned core underwriting principles in order to make loans to people who ultimately could not afford the debt – because the government ordered them to do so, in order to please Democratic constituencies.

    And of course, Wall Street investment bankers created complex derivative securities that bundled these deficient loans into securities that masked serious underlying risk of the securities, and sold them to government, institutional and individual investors around the world – because the government ordered them to do so, in order to please Democratic constituencies.

    I’ve heard that you can buy a very nice studio basement unit in Area 51 for under $50,000 – that’s if you’re a liberal constituent. However if you’re conservative it’s free – because, we all know conservatives both like and expect free stuff from their government.

  44. Grewgills says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    No, but he was the LeMay that was on the ticket with George Wallace in 1968.

  45. Tyrell says:

    @dazedandconfused: “Dr. Strangelove” is a favorite. The crazy general played by Sterling Hayden may have been based actually on General Lemintzer, who had such wild ideas that I think either Kennedy or Johnson had to get rid of him. One was for the government to secretly kill US civilians and make it look like the Cubans did it to give the US a good reason to attack Cuba. This crazy plan got as far as the White House, where Defense Secretary McNamara nixed it. Another famous Cold War movie was “7 Days In May” in which the general played by Burt Lancaster may also have been based on Lemintzer, a person whose views and plans became so extreme that other generals began to distance themselves from him.
    That movie was remade for tv a while back: good, but there is no way you can top Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Ava Gardner.