Podcast: Former AG Eric Holder tired of holding his tongue

 

Eric Holder

Former Attorney General Eric Holder

In this podcast at Politico, former Attorney General Eric Holder unleashes his opinions on several issues that he’s been holding back on until now. What does he have to say about the possibility of President Trump firing Robert Mueller? What does he think about his indirect successor, Jeff Sessions? He may be “still finding his voice,” but he’s not shy about voicing his opinions.

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Eric Holder Bids Farewell to Justice Department

Attorney General Eric Holder waves to Justice Department during a farewell gathering at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, April 24, 2015. Holder was bidding farewell to the Justice Department on Friday after six years as the nation's top law enforcement official. Holder was addressing employees at an afternoon ceremony one day after his chosen successor, Loretta Lynch, was confirmed by the Senate following a months-long delay.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Attorney General Eric Holder waves to Justice Department during a farewell gathering at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, April 24, 2015. Holder was bidding farewell to the Justice Department on Friday after six years as the nation’s top law enforcement official. Holder was addressing employees at an afternoon ceremony one day after his chosen successor, Loretta Lynch, was confirmed by the Senate following a months-long delay. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder bid farewell to the Justice Department with a defense of his work on issues ranging from civil rights to prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts.

Before several hundred lawyers and staff in the department’s great hall in Washington, Holder spoke emotionally for 15 minutes about his six-year tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

“It is hard for me to walk away from the people and the institution I love so much,” said Holder, 64, who also expressed thanks to his staff and his security detail.

Not known for a sense of humor, he cracked a few jokes, including one about how his children’s names are etched in his official portrait and another about not charging employees leave for attending the speech.

Holder joked about the delay in his departure, calling the speech his third good-bye event. He gave away two “Free Eric Holder” armbands, which were popular among aides frustrated by the delay in confirming Loretta Lynch as his successor. Lynch, who was confirmed Thursday by the Senate, is scheduled to be sworn in Monday and will be the first black woman to serve as attorney general.

Holder announced his resignation in September, long enough ago that he has jumped from 4th to 3rd in the rankings of longest serving attorneys general in U.S. history. Lynch was nominated by President Barack Obama in November, but her confirmation was delayed by political fights over the administration’s immigration policies and partisan squabbling over unrelated legislation addressing human trafficking.

Divisive Figure

Holder, the first black attorney general, positioned himself at the vanguard of protecting racial and ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians from discrimination. As part of that effort, he sought to fix what he considered flaws in the justice system and sentencing policies.

During his six years in office, Holder has also been seen as a divisive figure, particularly by Republicans, and came under sharp criticism for overseeing leak investigations that ensnared reporters and for his handling of a botched gun-trafficking investigation and its aftermath.

During his final speech, Holder focused on more positive themes and took a parting shot at critics of his policies. He celebrated how the department handled its investigations of lenders and settlements related to the financial crisis. He also praised prosecutors for how they took on polluters, civil-rights violators and tax evaders.

Comcast Deal

Holder hailed the work of his antitrust division, noting that Comcast Corp. had abandoned its $45.2 billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable Inc.

“I think it would have been extremely anti-competitive and it would not have been in the best interest of the American people,” he said of the proposed tie-up.

He also took a shot at those who criticized his efforts to try terror suspects in U.S. civilian courts, saying the debate “is dead.”

“We brought the toughest national security cases into that system with unbelievable results,” he added.

An over-arching achievement, Holder said, was that the department was no longer viewed as partisan or being influenced by politics — a notion that Republicans will find hard to swallow.

“This department is restored, it’s restored to what it always was,” he said, “and what it must always be — free of politicization, focused on its mission, making sure justice is done, without any kind of interference from political outsiders.”

Before the speech, Holder toured the Justice Department and shook hands and hugged his soon-to-be former employees. As he left the building to applause, he shook more hands and stood for selfies with lawyers and staff.

“I’m going to miss you,” he said before leaving the stage for the final time. “I’m going to miss this institution.”

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Can the Ferguson PD be saved?

large (1)(CNN) After a police officer shot Michael Brown, the Federal Department of Justice conducted an investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department. What investigators found was a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans. In a town with a black population of 67%, black people represented 85% of vehicle searches, 90% of the traffic violations and 93% of the arrests. There is no way to justify this.

The Department of Justice has an opportunity to gut the Ferguson Police Department and rebuild it from scratch. In fact, it’s more than an opportunity: It’s a necessity.

In the court of law, there is an old closing argument that goes like this: You sit down, pour yourself a bowl of stew, and find that the first piece of meat that you taste is rancid. You don’t put just that piece aside; you throw out the whole bowl. Lawyers use this story to say that if you catch a witness lying about one thing, then you can’t believe anything they say.
Unfortunately, it is an analogy that can be applied to the Ferguson Police Department. The Department of Justice report revealing unquestionable racist bias that permeated the entire department cannot be ignored, and the problems it reveals cannot be fixed from the inside. If there are a few good cops in the Ferguson Police Department, they need to leave, and they need to go elsewhere to continue their proud law enforcement career without being overshadowed by their involvement in a poisoned organization.

In fact, everyone in the Ferguson Police Department needs to leave, from the top to the bottom. The Police Department should be completely reconstituted under Department of Justice control in a manner that ensures that citizens of Ferguson receive the type of public service they pay for and deserve — and more importantly, in a manner that protects their rights, not only as citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, but as constitutionally protected citizens of our country.

A completely rebuilt Ferguson Police Department, established with a charter to enforce the law with equality, could serve as an example for every law enforcement agency in the country.

A new Ferguson Police Department could show what a concerted, roots-up effort toward nonracist behavior in a police department can be. Under Justice Department leadership, the Ferguson Police Department could become a model for practices such as equipping all police with body cameras, community policing and better use of force training.

If we can create from the ashes of the Ferguson Police Department a model that works, it may provide some consolation for minorities who have been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

And if the black community in Ferguson — in fact, people of every race in Ferguson — can look back five years from now and see an unbiased organization of public servants who give respect and get respect, who reduce fear rather than cause it, then perhaps the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death will stand for something.

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