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US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to Resign

By    |   Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:53 AM

Eric Holder, who served as the public face of the Obama administration's legal fight against terrorism and pushed to make the criminal justice system more even-handed, is resigning after six years on the job. He is the nation's first black attorney general. 

The White House said Thursday that President Barack Obama planned to announce Holder's departure later Thursday. The White House said Holder plans to remain at the Justice Department until his successor is in place.

The 63-year-old former judge and prosecutor took office in early 2009 as the U.S. government grappled with the worst financial crisis in decades and with divisive questions on the handling of captured terrorism suspects, issues that helped shape his six-year tenure as the country's top law enforcement official. He is the fourth-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history.

In his first few years on the job, Holder endured a succession of firestorms over, among other things, an ultimately-abandoned plan to try terrorism suspects in New York City, a botched gun-running probe along the Southwest border that prompted Republican calls for his resignation, and a perceived failure to hold banks accountable for the economic meltdown.

But he stayed on after President Barack Obama won re-election, turning in his final stretch to issues that he said were personally important to him. He promoted voting rights and legal benefits for same-sex couples and pushed for changes to a criminal justice system that he said meted out punishment disproportionately to minorities.

NPR was first to report his departure

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

Deputy Attorney General James Cole; Kathryn Ruemmler, the former White House counsel; Deval Patrick, the Democratic governor of Massachusetts; and at least three Democratic U.S. senators, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, have been mentioned by congressional and administration officials as qualified successors.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been a supporter and ally of Obama and is another potential candidate. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan also has been mentioned at a possible successor. Bharara’s response when asked about higher office has consistently been “I love my job.” 

Holder has been discussing plans to leave the job for more than a year as he tried complete his agenda on federal sentencing and civil rights.

Holder positioned himself at the vanguard of protecting racial and ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians from discrimination, fixing what he considers related flaws in the justice system, sometimes without congressional action.

Last year, he sued North Carolina and Texas to overturn voter-identification laws that he says unfairly target minorities.

He has instructed federal prosecutors to avoid charging low-level drug offenders in a way that triggered what he considers “draconian” mandatory minimum sentences.

He also has been a target for congressional Republicans,over his role in overseeing a botched attempt to track gun smuggling called Fast and Furious. The House held Holder in contempt of Congress in 2012.

Myrlie Evers, widow of civil right pioneer Medgar Evers, said Holder never shied away from the tough issues. 

“There has been no greater ally in the fight for justice, civil rights, equal rights, and voting rights than Attorney General Holder,” she said in a statement today. “The attorney general was always there ready to correct injustices and offer common sense reforms to better our nation.”

More recently, Obama asked him and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnston to deliver recommendations on actions the administration could take to ease deportations of undocumented immigrants and provide some of them with legal status. Obama has deferred making a decision until after the November congressional elections.

Holder also has been a frequent target of criticism from congressional Republicans. South Carolina Republican Representative Jeff Duncan said via Twitter: “Good riddance Eric Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not be missed.”

In February, he suffered a health scare that sent him to the hospital. Holder felt faint during a morning meeting in late February and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated for an elevated heart rate. He described the experience as “spooky.”

“It will happen to all of you at some point, you zoom past your 30th, 40th, 50th birthday. When you get to 60, there is a certain sense of mortality you have to come to grips with, when you realize you have more yesterdays than tomorrows,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg News in March.

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

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Attorney General Eric Holder plans to resign his post, staying in office until a successor is confirmed, a Justice Department official said. Holder told President Barack Obama of his plans over the Labor Day weekend and will formally announce his decision at the White...
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Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:53 AM
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