Attorney General Eric Holder canceled a speech he was scheduled to deliver at a graduation ceremony for new officers at the Oklahoma City Police Department on Thursday after hundreds of people planned to protest his presence at the event.
A Justice Department official said Holder needed to attend a meeting related to national security in the nation's capital, which delayed his departure for Oklahoma, Politico reports.
He is still planning to travel to the region to visit the U.S. Attorney's offices in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas.
"The Attorney General had been looking to addressing the cadets, and regrets he cannot attend in person," Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said, according to Politico. "He extends his heartfelt congratulations to the cadets and their families."
Conservative lawmakers and groups, on the other hand, declared Holder's absence at the graduation a "victory." Hundreds of protesters, including lawmakers, police officers, and conservative activists, were expected to turn out.
"Our protest has turned into a victory celebration because we frankly didn't want him here — and we succeeded," state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft told The Washington Times.
"This man has used his position to advance his own political agenda and that's not right. He swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend it for all of us — not some of us."
U.S. District Judge Vickie Miles LaGrange took Holder's place to speak at the ceremony that honored 42 new police officers.
Holder drew the ire of law enforcement and conservative groups after he was held in contempt of Congress in 2012 for not providing crucial information about the Fast and Furious
gun-running scandal. The program allowed high-powered firearms to be given to gun smugglers so they could be traced to Mexican drug cartels.
Republicans claim Holder is not complying with subpoenas
related to Fast and Furious. Earlier this month, Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold told Holder during a hearing that he should be in jail.
"I'm committed to maintaining the constitutional balance of power and the authority that this legislative branch has, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate that Mr. Holder be here," Farenthold said. "If an American citizen had not complied with one of the Justice Department's subpoenas, they would be in jail and not sitting here in front of me, testifying."
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