11.20.08

Statement On Reports That Eric Holder, Jr., May Be Nominated To Be Attorney General

Eric Holder would make an outstanding and historic nominee to serve as Attorney General, if President-elect Obama were to choose to nominate him.  Mr. Holder would be the first African American to serve as Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the country. 

Over the last eight years, political manipulation and influence from partisan political operatives in the White House have undercut the Department of Justice in its mission, severely undermined the morale of the career professionals, and shaken public confidence in our federal justice system.  We need the new Attorney General to be a person of integrity and experience, who can inspire the thousands of hardworking prosecutors, agents and employees who do their best everyday to enforce the law and promote justice without regard to partisan politics. We need an Attorney General in the mold of Robert Jackson.  Eric Holder would be such an Attorney General.

Investigations by the Judiciary Committees of the Senate and the House and by the Department of Justice’s own Inspector General have substantiated some of our worst fears. We now have the corrosive situation in which defendants routinely question whether federal prosecutions are politically motivated. Great damage has been done to the credibility and effectiveness of the Justice Department.

I have known Eric Holder for many years.  If he is President-Elect Obama’s selection to be the next Attorney General, Mr. Holder would bring the kind of leadership, temperament, experience, and judgment we need to restore the rule of law and rebuilt the reputation of the Department of Justice so that it is worthy of its name. 

The next Attorney General must understand our moral and legal obligation to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans.  The Attorney General must ensure that the Department of Justice is working to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, not working to circumvent them in order to promote the President’s political agenda. 

I know that Mr. Holder appreciates and respects the work and commitment of the thousands of men and women who work at the Justice Department and their dedication to enforcing the law and promoting justice.  And they know him from his days at the Public Integrity Section, from his time as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and from his years as the Deputy Attorney General, the second highest ranking official of the Department.  I think this choice would be welcomed by career professionals and prosecutors at the Department of Justice and that he could do a great deal to restore morale as well as the rule of law.

His career is full of “firsts”.  It would be fitting for him to become the first African American to serve as the Attorney General of the United States. 

Shortly after his graduation from Columbia Law School, Mr. Holder joined the Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program.  He was assigned to the newly-formed Public Integrity Section in 1976, where he worked for 12 years investigating and prosecuting corruption.  While at the Public Integrity Section, Mr. Holder participated in a number of prosecutions and appeals involving such defendants as the State Treasurer of Florida, a former Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, a local judge in Philadelphia, an Assistant United States Attorney in New York City, an FBI agent, and a “capo” in an organized crime family. 

After a dozen years as a prosecutor, President Reagan nominated him to be an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.  It was Ronald Reagan who appointed him to be a judge, and he served in that position for five years. 

He left the bench to become the first African American U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, heading the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country.  While in that post, he oversaw prosecution of a powerful Democratic Congressman.  

Four years later, Mr. Holder was nominated to the important post of Deputy Attorney General.  I worked with Senator Hatch, who was then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to report his nomination favorably to the Senate.  I was disturbed that an anonymous Republican hold delayed consideration of his nomination for three weeks, but when the Senate finally voted, the vote was unanimous.  All 100 Senators voted to confirm Eric Holder to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and he became the first African American in the history of the Department to achieve that high position.

Eric Holder has prosecuted high-level public officials and organized crime, developed comprehensive programs to combat domestic violence, child abuse, and violent crime, and revitalized programs to assist crime victims.  He helped guide the Department’s efforts on the criminal prosecution of corporations, health care fraud, computer crimes, software piracy, and helped develop the community prosecution model.  He has served at nearly every level of the Department of Justice he would lead.

We need an Attorney General, as Attorney General Robert H. Jackson said 68 years ago about the federal prosecutor, “who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.”  That is the kind of prosecutor Eric Holder always was and the kind of Attorney General he would be. 

He is a public servant who has had broad support on both sides of the aisle. I was pleased to see that tthe initial reactions of Senator Hatch, Senator Sessions, Senator Coburn, and many others were to acknowledge his public service, integrity and good qualities.  Mr. Holder should have the support of Senators from both sides of the aisle if the President-Elect chooses to nominate him.

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