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Eric Holder to step down as U.S. Attorney General

October 3, 2014

2014-10-03 11_30_43-Miltimes 10-2-14 issue.pdf - Adobe ReaderAttorney General Eric
Holder announced Thursday, September 25, 2014, he will resign as the nation’s top law enforcement official but will remain in office until a successor is confirmed.
President Barack Obama made the announcement of the resignation at the White House on Thursday afternoon. He hasn’t yet chosen a successor.
Mr. Holder, who has been on the job since the beginning of the Obama administration, has long signaled he planned to leave the job by the end of 2014. He could ultimately stay in his post beyond year-end if the White House’s nomination process doesn’t go smoothly.
An official said the attorney general and the president have had several discussions about his planned departure, which were completed at a Labor Day meeting at the White House. The attorney general had been asking for such a conversation for months, according to people close to him, and had planned to discuss his departure with the president in August when they both vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard. The two did speak, but they were consumed with responding to the crisis in Ferguson, MO, where angry protesters repeatedly clashed with heavily armed police after an officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old.
Among those mentioned as possible successors is former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, according to people familiar with the discussions. She and Mr.
Holder had dinner together at a Washington restaurant last month. Ms. Ruemmler is highly regarded by the president and senior White House officials, according to these people, but picking someone who was part of the president’s inner circle could prompt resistance among Senate Republicans. Another candidate being considered by the White House is Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who argued the government’s case in the 2012 challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. His performance included some stumbles, including choking momentarily during his defense of the president’s main legislative achievement. Mr. Verrilli was redeemed when the Supreme Court ruled in the administration’s favor and largely upheld the law.
The first black attorney general, Mr. Holder is one of a handful of remaining cabinet members whose tenures date back to the beginning of the Obama administration.
Mr. Holder’s last year on the job has been marked by a push to strike multibillion dollar settlements with big banks over their conduct leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, in the face of criticism that he failed to charge any senior executives for their roles in the meltdown. His department recently extracted a record $16.65 billion from Bank of America Corp. for its sale of flawed mortgages, and last year it reached a $13 billion mortgage settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
His tenure has been marked by confrontations with Republicans in Congress, principally over terrorism, a botched gunrunning probe called Fast and Furious, and an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Holder’s chief nemesis in Congress, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., CA) on Thursday called him “the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history.”
In a tweet Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R—SC) wrote, “I appreciate AG Holder’s service to our country even though we had strong disagreements at times.”
Such disagreements are unlikely to fade away for Mr. Holder’s successor.
Still, Democrats have the power to confirm Mr. Obama’s executive-branch nominees with just a simple majority, thanks to a rule change last November. The Senate generally needs 60 votes to get legislation past procedural hurdles but needs only 51 to get a nominee confirmed.
That could be an incentive for Democrats to try to push through Mr. Holder’s successor when they return to Washington for the lameduck session, particularly if Republicans have won control of the chamber in November’s midterm elections.