Attorney General Eric Holder has been at the center of some of the Obama administration’s biggest scandals and controversies. Conservatives have long hoped he would step down—a House resolution demanding his resignation had well over 130 co-sponsors—but it never seemed likely to happen for one reason: the confirmation hearings to replace him would be a public relations debacle (everybody is against Holder because they are racists).
Faced with the possibility of a Republican-controlled Senate, however, Holder had two choices: get out now and give democrats a good chance at keeping the Senate or remain attorney general until Obama’s second term is up. So America’s long national attorney general nightmare is almost over—but the White House’s may just be beginning.
Let us count the corrupt ways of Eric Holder. There is Operation Fast and Furious, a gun-running scheme that allegedly began as an elaborate sting operation to allow firearms straw purchasers to lead authorities to major gun traffickers. Then the feds allegedly lost track of the guns. But now it looks like Mexican gangs bought the guns under the table and the sting operation was just a cover, which were subsequently used in crimes—including murder sprees —in both the United States and Mexico.
The death of federal agent Brian Terry blew the lid off Fast and Furious. In February, one suspect received a thirty-year-sentence for Terry’s murder. But the story remained safely contained to the conservative media, with the lone exception of dogged reporting by Sharyl Attkisson, a recovering liberal, formerly of CBS.
Despite representing the most transparent administration in history, Holder routinely stonewalled congressional investigations, especially into Fast and Furious. He was eventually held in contempt of Congress by the House, to which he responded by claiming to be a victim of racial and partisan persecution.
Not long before news of his resignation came down, a federal judge denied a Justice Department request to delay the release of documents pertaining to Fast and Furious. But Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.
While Operation Fast and Furious was dismissed as a right-wing conspiracy, Holder had no such luck with the Associated Press scandal. Eric Holder was directly and intimately involved in the seizure of phone records for more than twenty lines belonging to the AP. He and his Justice Department dug through the personal emails of Fox News’ James Rosen.
“Search warrants like these have a severe, chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public,” First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin told the Washington Post. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down.” The veracity of Holder’s testimony to Congress about the intention and scope of its reporter probes has been widely criticized as a total falsehood.
The Holder Justice Department was aggressive in the enforcement of laws it liked and much more selective when it involved policies with which the administration disagreed (immigration restrictions, the Defense of Marriage Act).
Holder initially resisted congressional efforts to get more information about the Obama administration’s policy of extrajudicial killings for counterterrorism purposes. Did this include Americans on U.S. soil? And if so, under what circumstances? This led to the filibuster of CIA chief nominee John Brennan and a national debate on drones.
Holder, the first African-American attorney general, was far quicker than his boss, the first African-American president, to racialize national controversies. He was far less measured in his comments about the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He famously called America a “nation of cowards” with regard to race.
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder told Justice Department employees.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin retorted that Holder’s proposed dialogue “means the rest of us shutting up while being subjected to lectures about our insensitivity and insufficient integration on the weekends.”
When President Obama’s nominee for the next attorney general testifies before Congress, however, lawmakers can be excused for wondering if they are getting the full story. They never did with Holder.