Attorney general has become a controversial title. The nation’s top cop, the attorney general is supposed to take the lead in enforcing federal law. But in recent years, the position has become a backdoor for presidential agendas, whether it was Janet Reno ordering Elian Gonzalez snatched and deported to Cuba, or Alberto Gonzalez bending over backwards to justify President Bush’s anti-terror initiatives.
But no attorney general appointed in modern times has become as much of a lightning rod as Eric Holder. Appointed at the beginning of President Obama’s first term, Holder was controversial right from the beginning. Today he announced that he’s stepping down. Let’s take an opportunity to remember some of his most truly outrageous moments.
Racial justice in New Haven
When the New Haven Fire Department announced that it had openings for firefighters, an exam was administered for qualified applicants. A number of test-takers passed, but there was a problem: none of them were African Americans. On this basis, the city of New Haven declared the test results null and void. Outraged, eighteen of the men who passed the test sued the city, demanding that the results be honored.
Attorney General Eric Holder filed a brief in support of the city of New Haven (though also arguing that the case should be remanded to a district court). The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed and ruled in favor of the firefighters. African Americans face real discrimination, but Holder’s decision to intrude into this case was unnecessary and itself supported a discriminatory position.
Behaving like a child
Congressman Louie Gohmert got the opportunity to cross-examine Holder in 2012 over the Boston Marathon bombings. Gohmert and Holder had a tense exchange that ended with Gohmert bungling his words and declaring, “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus!” Fast-forward to 2013 and Gohmert and Holder were going at it again. Holder ended his side of the argument by sneering, “Good luck with your asparagus.”
Yes, the attorney general of the United States of America waited an entire year to come back to the House of Representatives and taunt a sitting congressman over a verbal flub. Our country is truly in the hands of five-year-olds.
Eric doesn’t know, Eric doesn’t know
Speaking of congressional testimonies, Eric Holder was repeatedly summoned before various committees over the years, usually related to one of the many scandals that plagued his department. Holder usually responded by mimicking a mid-level manager who had just started his job earlier that week, scratching his head and saying he just didn’t know. After one his testimonies before the House Judiciary Committee, the Washington Free Beacon put together a montage of Holder in all his unknowing glory.
The only sitting Cabinet member held in contempt of Congress
This one mostly speaks for itself. After months of Holder stonewalling over the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, withholding key documents and staying tight-lipped during testimony, the House GOP had finally had enough. They voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress, making him the only sitting Cabinet member in American history to achieve that distinct honor.
The effects of this can’t be understated. As a result of the contempt charge, at any point the House could have sent in the sergeant-at-arms to arrest Holder and hold him in prison. They also could have prosecuted him in order to force him to provide the outstanding documents.
Spying on and intimidating journalists
A good Justice Department should seek to enforce the First Amendment. Not so Eric Holder’s. Thin-skinned and tyrannical, the attorneys under him aggressively seized an enormous number of phone records from the Associated Press regarding their publication of a story about al Qaeda in Yemen. When the scandal broke, Holder assured the House Judiciary Committee that he’d recused himself from the AP incident and had never been involved in the prosecution of a journalist.
Not long after that, it was revealed that Holder had, in fact, gone after a reporter: Fox News’s James Rosen, whose emails the DOJ seized. The agency also speculated, almost casually, that Rosen could have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for reporting on North Korea—also known as “doing his job.”
“I’m proud to be an activist attorney general”
In an August interview with Juan Williams, Holder boldly proclaimed that he was proud to accept the label of “activist attorney general.” He also declared: “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job.”
Later, he defiantly added that critics who say his department includes an “activist civil rights division and this is an activist attorney general — I’d say I agree with you 1,000 percent and [I am] proud of it.”
Drone ’em at home too — actually, never mind
You may recall the controversial secret memos drawn up by Judge David Barron, which provided legal justification for the Yemen drone strike that killed American citizens without a trial. This underhanded justification, along with the appointment of CIA Director John Brennan and an alarming letter from Eric Holder, sparked Senator Rand Paul to speak for 13 hours in a filibuster.
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder wrote in the letter.
Holder would backtrack on that shortly after the filibuster and ruled out drone use on American soil.
(Photo source: The Associated Press)