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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down

The battle over his successor begins today.


Eric Geller


Posted on Sep 25, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:50 pm CDT

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American to lead the Department of Justice, will announce today that he intends to resign following the confirmation of his successor, NPR reports.

A White House official confirmed NPR’s report shortly after it broke, and a Justice Department official said that the announcement would come at a White House event later today. The White House has scheduled a “personnel announcement” for 4:30 pm ET.

Holder, the United States’ top law enforcement officer, is the third-longest-serving member of President Barack Obama‘s cabinet, after Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. He is also the fourth-longest-serving Attorney General in history.

In his time at the Justice Department, Holder has made news for his pushes to reduce mandatory minimum sentences in federal drug trials, his department’s numerous investigations of civil rights violations and police brutality, and his attempts to prosecute terrorism suspects in public courts instead of sending them to military tribunals.

Holder often spoke out on racially charged issues with more passion and frankness than the president, receiving plaudits from civil rights groups, and he clashed frequently with Republicans on the House government oversight committee, particularly its combative chairman, California Rep. Darrell Issa.

NPR reports that “the decision to leave was [Holder’s] alone.” According to Huffington Post justice reporter Ryan Reilly, Holder plans to continue overseeing his department’s response to the events in Ferguson, Mo, until he leaves.

Holder, per #DOJ official, has no immediate plans to step down and wants to focus on causes like #Ferguson during remaining days.

— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) September 25, 2014

According to NPR reporter Carrie Johnson, who broke the story, Holder gave advance notice of his decision to two people whose lives and work are deeply intertwined with his own mission as the nation’s top law enforcement officer: Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and John Lewis, the Georgia congressman who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

Holder’s tenure has been marked by several public relations crises, including conservative red meat like the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal. He may be best remembered among conservatives for being the first sitting member of a president’s cabinet to be held in contempt of Congress.

“The White House,” Johnson writes, “would have been happy to have him stay a full eight years and to avoid what could be a contentious nomination fight for his successor.”

No one knows what is next for Holder—even the Attorney General himself. Several people close to Holder told NPR that he could return to white-collar prosecutions at Covington & Burling, the law firm he left to join Obama’s 2007 presidential campaign.

Holder may have announced that he has one foot out the door, but he and the Justice Department are still pushing ahead with other plans. NPR reports that “several more policy and enforcement initiatives are underway and could be announced soon.”

Photo via northcharleston/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 25, 2014, 12:35 pm CDT