President-elect Barack Obama has nominated former Justice Department
official Eric Holder to be the nation's top law enforcement official.
Mr. Obama announced his nomination Monday, Holder, currently a
lawyer in Washington, said that the Department of Justice's unique
role in national security is to make sure the nation is safe and
that its laws are respected.
"We can and we must ensure that the American people remain secure
and that the great Constitutional guarantees that define us as
a nation are truly valued," Holder said. Democrats are investigating
the current Justice Department and former Attorney General Alberto
Gonzalez for actions related to the firing of federal prosecutors
and President George Bush's wiretapping program.
Holder also pledged to work with local law officials as the new
administration's national security team confronts the threat of
"From my experience at the Department of Justice, I know
we cannot be successful if we act alone...we must never forget
that in many ways, those at state and local law enforcement are
our first line of detection and protection against those from
foreign shores who would do us harm," Holder said.
President-elect Obama praised Holder's "toughness and independence"
during a news conference announcing his national security team.
"He has distinguished himself as a prosecutor, a judge, and
a senior official, and he is deeply familiar with the law enforcement
challenges we face -- from terrorism to counter-intelligence;
from white-collar crime to public corruption," Obama said.
If confirmed, Holder would be the first black attorney general.
After graduating from Columbia Law School, Holder began his law
career as part of the Attorney General's Honors Program working
in the Public Integrity Section.
He was nominated by former President Ronald Reagan as associate
judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 1988
and remained in the position for five years.
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton nominated Holder to become
the U.S. attorney for D.C.
Four years later, Mr. Clinton nominated him to serve as deputy
attorney general under Attorney General Janet Reno. Holder was
charged with supervising the Department of Justice's litigation,
enforcement and adminstration. He also became the highest-ranking
black law enforcement official in U.S. history.
In the post, Holder developed the department's guidelines for
the criminal prosecution of corporations, which became known as
the Holder Memorandum, as well as guidelines on using the False
Claims Act in civil health care matters.
But during this period, Holder was criticized for his role in
pardoning Marc Rich, a billionaire fugitive and commodities trader,
who was one of 140 individuals pardonned by President Bill Clinton
in his last hours in office. Holder reviewed Rich's pardon request
on Jan. 19, 2001 and labeled it "neutral leaning towards
Holder was later questioned by the House Government Reform Committee
reviewing why Rich's pardon was granted.
"In hindsight, I wish I had done some things differently
with regard to the Marc Rich matter -- specifically I wish I had
ensured that the Department of Justice was more fully informed
and involved in this pardon process but let me be very clear,
very clear, about one important fact," Holder told the committee.
"Efforts to portray me as intimately involved or overly interested
in this matter are simply at odds with the facts -- in truth because
the Marc Rich case did not stand out as one that was particularly
merit or use and because there was a very large number of cases
across my desk that fit into this category I never devoted a great
deal of time to this matter."
Holder later served briefly under President George Bush as acting
attorney general during the confirmation of Attorney General John
Holder most recently worked as a litigation partner at the Washington
law firm Covington & Burling LLP.
Holder first met President-elect Obama in 2004 at a dinner party
to welcome the newly-elected Illinois senator to Washington.
"We just clicked," Holder said in a profile in "The
American Lawyer" magazine.
He served as President-elect Obama's campaign co-chair and fulfilled
various roles for the campaign, including acting as a surrogate
and a fundraiser. Holder was with the candidate when he delivered
his speech on race in Philadelphia in response to controversial
remarks by Mr. Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright,
Holder's nomination as attorney general must be confirmed by the
heavily Democratic Senate.