|U.S. Attorney General|
|February 3, 2009-Present|
|Elections and appointments|
|Nominated||December 1, 2009|
|Confirmed||February 2, 2009|
|Appointed||February 3, 2009|
|Appointed by||Barack Obama|
|Deputy Attorney General|
|U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C.|
|Associate Judge of the Superior Court of D.C.|
|High school||Stuyvesant High School|
|J.D.||Columbia Law School|
|Date of birth||January 21, 1951|
|Place of birth||New York City|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Career
- 3 Confirmation vote
- 4 Attorney General term initiatives
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Analysis
- 7 Personal
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
On November 15, 2013, Holder told The Washington Post he would be the Attorney General "well into 2014." He followed up stating, "If you had asked me that six month [sic] ago, I'm not sure I would have given you that answer. I think I probably would have come up with a shorter time-frame. But, given the issues that I want to focus on and given the condition that they're in, I think that staying into 2014 is necessary, but also something that I want to do."
Holder grew up in New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School on his way to attending Columbia University. In 1973, he earned a degree in American history and went on to earn his law degree from Columbia Law School. Holder then accepted his first position with the Department of Justice investigating official corruption at all levels of government. President Reagan nominated Holder for the position of Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in 1988, a position he held until President Clinton nominated him to become the U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. Clinton nominated Holder for Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno in 1997. Between that appointment and his nomination for U.S. Attorney General, he worked at a private law firm in Washington, D.C., Covington & Burling LLP.
Below is an abbreviated outline of Holder's academic, professional and political career:
- 1973: Graduated Columbia University
- 1976: Earned law degree from Columbia Law School
- 1976-1988: Public Integrity Section, U.S. Department of Justice
- 1988-1993: Associate Judge of the Superior Court of D.C.
- 1993-1997: United States Attorney for Washington, D.C.
- 1997-2000: Deputy Attorney General
- 2001-2007: Attorney at Covington & Burling
- 2007-2008: Senior Legal Advisor on Barack Obama's presidential campaign
- 2009-Present: United States Attorney General
Holder was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General on February 2, 2008, by a vote of 75-21. All 21 dissenting votes cast were from Republicans, while 19 more Republicans voted in favor of his confirmation. Prior to the vote on Holder's confirmation, he was pressured by Senate Republicans to pledge not to prosecute intelligence agents who use "harsh tactics" for negotiations. Many Republicans also stated they would vote against him because of his involvement in the pardon of Marc Rich during Holder's time as Deputy Attorney General at the close of President Bill Clinton's second term.
|Eric Holder confirmation vote, February 2, 2009|
|Party||Votes for||Votes against||Total votes|
Attorney General term initiatives
Ex-felon voting rights
On February 11, 2014, Holder urged states to repeal or amend laws prohibiting ex-felons from voting. While the federal government cannot force the changes, Holder stated, "Whenever we tell citizens who have paid their debts and rejoined their communities that they are not entitled to take part in the democratic process, we fall short of the bedrock promise – of equal opportunity and equal justice – that has always served as the foundation of our legal system." Republican Sen. Rand Paul supported the push by the Justice Department, claiming, "There are Republicans on our side who will work with Democrats who will do the right thing on this."
On February 10, 2014, Holder announced increased protection of same-sex spouses, including equal treatment as opposite-sex spouses in "court proceedings, prison visitation and law-enforcement benefit programs even in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages." The benefits covered the 34 states in which same-sex marriages are not recognized at the state level, but they only apply to situations in which the federal government has jurisdiction. Holder stated in a memo, "It is the (Justice Department's) policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation."
Mandatory minimum sentencing
Holder explains the changes to the justice system.
On August 12, 2013, Holder announced a directive to federal prosecutors lowering the number of convictions that mandate minimum sentences. Holder's directive stated the mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders have been a contributing factor in the prison population that has grown 800% since 1980. The "Smart on Crime" initiative has five main principles which the plan claimed will help the Department of Justice "become both smarter and tougher on crime." The five principles are as follows:
- Prioritize prosecutions to focus on most serious cases
- Reform sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overburdened prisons
- Pursue alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes
- Improve reentry to curb repeat offenses and re-victimization
- 'Surge' resources to violence prevention and protecting most vulnerable populations
Texas voting rights
A U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 25, 2013, released 16 jurisdictions from federal voting rights oversight set in place by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Court's decision required Congress to pass new standards of determining which jurisdictions should have federal oversight. After the decision was made, Texas officials stated a previously blocked Voter ID law would be enforced.
On July 25, Holder announced the Department of Justice would attempt to regain oversight by using another section of the Voting Rights Act, known as bail-in. If the Department can provide evidence of unconstitutional voting practices in the state to federal courts, oversight can be restored. However, it would not have the strength or coverage of the original legislation. Holder also pushed Congress to reimpose clear guidelines for jurisdictions needing federal oversight.
The Justice Department announced on August 22, that it would challenge Texas' Voter ID law as well as the redistricting plan passed by the Republican majority legislature in separate cases. In a statement released, Holder said, "We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights. The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement." The Department announced they would also challenge a law passed in North Carolina which includes voter ID language.
On October 2, 2013, the Justice Department announced the seizure of the black market website, Silk Road, where users coordinated drug trafficking and other illegal activities using digital currency. The criminal complaint listed the total estimated transactions on the website at about $1.2 billion. Ross William Ulbright was arrested as the alleged site owner. According to an FBI spokesperson, "basically he made a simple mistake and we were able to identify him."
On May 19, 2014, the DOJ announced an investigation stemming from the Silk Road drug bust into the use of the crypto-currency Bitcoin and its involvement in the Silk Road drug trade. The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange, one of the world's most popular exchanges, was issued subpoenas for customer transaction logs and information about the solicitation of investors to determine if the exchange was involved with the Silk Road drug exchange. The exchange filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy shortly after halting exchanges on February 15, 2014. The DOJ suggested that the exchange of federal currency for the crypto-currency could fall under money laundering laws in the United States. Charles Shrem and Robert Faiella, in charge of separate Bitcoin exchanges were charged with money laundering in January 2014, allegedly dealing with the Silk Road drug exchange.
Chinese military hacking charges
On May 19, 2014, the Justice Department charged five members of the Chinese military of hacking into the systems of U.S. companies and a union. U.S. Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies, Inc., Westinghouse Electric Co., Alcoa, Inc., Solar World Industries American, Inc. and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) were the alleged targets of the hacking operation aimed at uncovering trade secrets. The indictment, based on the judgement of a grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania named five individuals for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse. They were Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang disputed the claims, stating, "The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd." The Chinese government demanded that the charges be withdrawn and announced their intention to suspend their involvement in the U.S.-China Cyber Working Group. The group was formed in 2013 by Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to address the accusations of hacking between the two countries.
Operation Fast and Furious
From 2009-2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran Operation Fast and Furious, intended to get guns into the black market and sold to Mexican drug cartels. The guns were to be tracked, allowing the ATF to halt drug trafficking and catch the traffickers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The operation was part of an overarching border patrol initiative, Project Gunrunner, run by the U.S. Department of Justice "to combat Mexico-based trafficking groups." However, an estimated 1,400 guns were lost in the operation. A total of 34 trafficking suspects were indicted.On December 14, 2010, about a month before the end of Operation Fast and Furious, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona and two guns from the operation were found near his body.
Holder testified before Congress on May 3, 2011, stating he, "probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." Sens. Chuck Grassley and Darrell Issa have led the investigations into the scandal, and subpoenas were issued to the Justice Department on October 12, 2011, in order to secure documents between the White House and the Department regarding Operation Fast and Furious.
On June 20, 2012, President Barack Obama used his executive privilege over documents sought by the congressional investigative committee, saving Holder from possible charges in the investigation. On June 28, 2012, the House voted to hold Holder in contempt for failure to disclose the documents. It was the first time in U.S. history a sitting cabinet member was held in contempt by Congress.
The House Oversight Committee filed a civil lawsuit over the documents on August 13, 2012. Holder asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the case to be dismissed on September 30, 2013, which she denied. Holder requested an immediate appeal, which was turned down November 18, 2013.
Congressional impeachment measuresTed Yoho, (R-FL) announced a House Republican attempt to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder by the end of 2013. Yoho's chief of staff responded to an inquiry about the motion for impeachment, stating, "Obviously there is a lot frustration with our attorney general. You can name the botched programs. Fast and Furious has been one of the number one complaints we get in our office and why no one has been held accountable."
On November 14, 2013, 20 House Republicans signed a proposal calling for the impeachment of Holder. The leader of the group, Rep. Pete Olson, stated, "For nearly five years, Attorney General Holder has systematically deceived Congress and destroyed the credibility of the Justice Department in the eyes of the American people."
A Reuters report released August 5, 2013, revealed a connection in the use of evidence gathered by the National Security Agency (NSA) for the purpose of anti-terrorism and evidence used in Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigations. Using evidence gathered by the NSA, the DEA created what is called "parallel construction" by the DEA's Special Operations Division. The parallel construction allowed the DEA to form an investigation based on NSA evidence but act as if the investigation began on a smaller charge initiated by the DEA or other law enforcement. Defense lawyers believe the tactic could be in violation of pretrial law because it essentially hides the evidence that began the investigation.
On August 26, 2013, eight Democrats and two Republicans requested Holder answer questions about the process in a classified briefing. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) signed a letter stating, "These allegations raise serious concerns that gps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government's intelligence gathering apparatus." House Republican Bob Goodlatte stated, "I think we need to have a very careful examination of this. I think that the trust of the American people in their government is what's at stake here."
On May 22, 2013, Holder acknowledged in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that four United States citizens have been killed in unmanned droned strikes since 2009. One of those citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki, was targeted, but three others were not targeted by the strikes. Attention to drone strikes was greatly increased when U.S. Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to CIA Director, lasting nearly 13 hours, with concerns of the government's use of unmanned drones and asking for clarification.
On May 20, 2014, the DOJ announced the secret 2011 memo allowing the legal killing of American terrorism suspects would be released. The department opted not to appeal a court order to release the memo to the public. Both democrats and republicans in the Senate claimed they would fight the nomination of federal judge David J. Barron if the information was not released to the public. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Department of Defense did not have to answer FOIA requests for the documents allowing the drone strikes.
Over a two month period, federal prosecutors obtained phone records of Associated Press journalists, their headquarters and offices in New York, Hartford, Washington D.C., and the U.S. House of Representatives during an investigation in early 2012 of leaked, sensitive information. The AP released a story in May 2012, which is believed to be linked to the wiretapping, connecting a CIA counterterrorism operation in Yemen to the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. At least 20 phone lines were believed to be monitored by federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice.
On May 19, 2013, another case of federal investigators wiretapping journalists was uncovered when a Fox News employee, James Rosen, had his personal email correspondence seized in relation to a story published on June 11, 2009. The investigation into leaked documents from the State Department's Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, led them to Rosen through phone and email communication leading up to the publishing of Rosen's story. In the affidavit, an FBI agent named Rosen a "co-conspirator" under the Espionage Act in order to obtain the warrant. All correspondence with Kim was seized along with two additional days of personal correspondence. Fox News also claimed the Justice Department seized several phone records, including one listed as Rosen's parents.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia released a statement on May 22, 2013, denying the use of wiretaps on phones and the seizure of any computer records of any news organization.
On May 10, 2013, news broke that various branches of the Internal Revenue Service had specifically targeted conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status. It began during the tea party surge in 2010. The agency was separating tax-exempt applications by searching for political terms such as "tea party" and "patriot." In June 2011, an IRS official was briefed on these transgressions and asked that this practice end. The flagging continued, however, when the criteria was changed in January 2012 to look out for groups educating on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The targeting included allegations that tea party groups were forced to provide information not asked of other tax exempt groups. Examples of this were requests for donor information, Facebook posts, resumes and political intentions of group officials and connections to other groups.
Testifying on May 15, Holder promised a criminal investigation spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and federal prosecutors into the Cincinnati office that has been blamed for the extra attention paid to conservative organizations, but he made it clear that the investigation would span more than just Cincinnati in order to find out where the "enforcement gaps" in the IRS's policies lie. Holder also added that groups paying for legal representation during the controversy would be reimbursed for legal costs.
On May 16, IRS Commissioner Steven Miller announced his resignation. He still testified at the hearings the next day. Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt organizations division throughout the targeting scandal retired on September 23, 2013, when an IRS review board informed her she would be removed from her position due to "neglect of duties."
In January 2014, the FBI announced no criminal charges would be filed over the IRS targeting scandal unless new evidence came to light. On April 9, 2014, emails from Lerner, expressing her interest in denying the Crossroads GPS 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, were released to the public, and a letter was sent by the House Ways and Means Committee urging prosecutors to hold Lerner accountable. Fourteen committee democrats voted against sending the letter with Rep. Sandy Levin stating the intention of the letter was to "declare this a scandal and keep it going until November."
On May 7, 2014, the U.S. House voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress due to her refusal to answer questions during her hearing. The criminal contempt charge carries a jail sentence and fine, but the Justice Department must first decide whether or not to pursue the charge. If the department opts not to pursue the charge, the House can bring up a civil suit demanding Lerner to testify or face time in jail. Lerner would not necessarily be forced to testify if the criminal charge is pursued.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee received information from the Justice Department that the IRS provided the FBI with a 1.1 million page database of information on tax-exempt organizations. The files, announced by the committee on June 9, 2014, were to be used by the FBI to investigate the political activity of the tax-exempt organizations. In a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote, "We were extremely troubled by this new information, and by the fact that the IRS has withheld it from the committee for over a year. We were astonished to learn days ago from the Justice Department that these 21 disks contained confidential taxpayer information protected by federal law." The IRS claimed most of the information was publicly available with the exception of 33 organizations for which it accidentally released non-public information to the FBI. Republican representatives are looking into whether any wrongdoing occurred.
Marc Rich pardon
As Deputy Attorney General at the end of the Clinton administration in 2001, Holder played a part in the presidential pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive of 17 years. Rich was charged with defrauding the IRS, mail fraud, tax evasion, racketeering, defrauding the Treasury and trading with the enemy. It is reported that Holder provided President Clinton with a favorable assessment on Rich's pardon, surprising the United States attorney in New York who was charged with prosecuting the case.
No information is available on Holder's net worth in 2012.
Based on executive branch financial disclosure forms and calculations made available by OpenSecrets.org, Holder's net worth as of 2011 was estimated between $3,807,056 and $8,363,000. That averages $6,085,028, which is the 5th highest in the executive branch.
|U.S. Department of Justice Annual Budget|
|Year||Budget (in billions)||% Difference from previous year|
- Note: 2014 only represents the Department's budget request, not an enacted budget.
Holder is married to Sharon Malone, and the couple has three children.
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- Media coverage:
- CNN, "Holder becomes attorney general," February 3, 2009
- United States Department of Justice, "Official Biography," accessed May 21, 2013)
- Politico, "Holder: I'll stay Attorney General 'well into 2014'," November 15, 2013
- Biography.com, "Eric Holder Biography," accessed May 21, 2013
- New York Times, "Senate Vote 32 - On the Nomination," February 2, 2009
- New York Times, "Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General," February 2, 2009
- Christian Science Monitor, "Eric Holder: Barring ex-felons from voting is unfair, counterproductive," February 11, 2014
- Politico, "Eric Holder to accord more recognition to same-sex couples," February 12, 2013
- CNN, "U.S. expands legal benefits, services for same-sex marriages," February 10, 2014
- NBC News, "Holder: 'New approach' to reduce mandatory drug sentences," August 12, 2013
- Department of Justice, "Smart on Crime: Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century," August 12, 2013
- Miami Herald, "A guide to voting rights lawsuits in Texas," July 25, 2013
- New York Times, "U.S. Asks Court to Limit Texas on Ballot Rules," July 25, 2013
- Washington Post, "Justice Department will challenge Texas Voter ID law," August 22, 2013
- Department of Justice, "Justice Department to File New Lawsuit Against State of Texas Over Voter I.D. Law," August 22, 2013
- Time, "Feds Raid Online Drug Market Silk Road," October 2, 2013
- Forbes, "End Of The Silk Road: FBI Busts The Web's Biggest Anonymous Drug Black Market," October 2, 2013
- Wall Street Journal, "Bitcoin Exchanges Probed Over Shuttered Drug Market," May 19, 2014
- Wall Street Journal, "Two Charged in Alleged Bitcoin-Laundering Scheme," January 27, 2014
- Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Charges Five in Chinese Army With Hacking," May 19, 2014
- L.A. Times, "China blasts 'absurd' U.S. charges of cyber-espionage," May 19, 2014
- CNN, "Operation Fast and Furious Fast Facts," August 27, 2013
- Fox News, "Issa Issues Subpoena to Holder in Fast and Furious Investigation," October 12, 2011
- New York Times, "House Finds Holder in Contempt Over Inquiry on Guns," June 28, 2012
- Politico, "Judge won't allow Holder appeal now in contempt case," November 18, 2013
- Roll Call, "Resolution to Impeach Holder Being Drafted, Yoho Says," November 6, 2013
- The Hill, "Twenty House Republicans call for Holder impeachment," November 14, 2013
- Huffington Post, "Ted Yoho Tells Of Republican Plan To Impeach Eric Holder," November 7, 2013
- Reuters, "Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans," August 5, 2013
- Reuters, "Holder pressed on U.S. drug agency use of hidden data evidence," August 26, 2013
- Fox News, "Four Americans killed since 2009 in drone strikes, Holder says," May 22, 2013
- Washington Post, "U.S. to reveal justification for drone strikes against American citizens," May 20, 2014
- News Day, "AP files complaint over federal wiretaps," May 13, 2013
- Washington Post, "A rare peek into a Justice Department leak probe," May 19, 2013
- Fox News, "DOJ seized phone records for Fox News numbers, reporter's parents," May 23, 2013
- Huffington Post, "DOJ: We Did Not Wiretap Reporters' Phones," May 22, 2013
- USA Today, "IRS knew of Tea Party profiling in 2011, report shows," accessed May 16, 2013
- Politico, "The IRS wants YOU- to share everything," accessed May 16, 2013
- Washington Post, "IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups," accessed May 16, 2013
- Los Angeles Times, "Holder pledges to probe IRS handling of conservative groups," May 15, 2013
- CNN, "'Angry' Obama announces IRS leader's ouster after conservatives targeted," accessed May 16, 2013
- Wall Street Journal, "Lois Lerner, at Center of IRS Investigation, Retires," September 23, 2013
- Reuters, "FBI doesn't plan charges over IRS scrutiny of Tea Party: WSJ," January 13, 2014
- Time, "Emails Point to IRS Official’s Role in Targeting Conservative Groups," April 9, 2014
- Politico, "Republicans dare White House to ignore Lerner contempt," May 7, 2014
- Wall Street Journal, "IRS Sent FBI Database on Nonprofit Groups in 2010, GOP Lawmakers Say," June 9, 2014
- New York Times, "A Pardon to Remember," November 24, 2008
- OpenSecrets, "Eric H. Holder, 2011"
- Department of Justice, "2014 Budget Overview," accessed January 21, 2014
- Department of Justice, "2013 Budget Overview," accessed January 21, 2014
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