WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation, but says he will remain at his post until a successor is confirmed. Holder’s planned departure has evoked wildly differing reactions from the legal community and U.S. lawmakers.
Appearing alongside President Barack Obama at the White House, America’s first African-American attorney general said it is time to move on.
"In the months ahead I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never leave the work," he said. "I will continue to serve and try to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals.”
Obama paid tribute to Holder, one of the president’s last remaining original Cabinet members, whose three decades of federal service are coming to an end.
“He has shown a deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people: equal justice under the law," he said. "He believes as I do that justice is not just an abstract theory. It is a living and breathing principle.”
Holder has served as the nation’s top law enforcement official at a time of politically-charged domestic and international legal controversies.
As attorney general, Holder argued for the closing of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for trying foreign terror suspects in U.S. civilian courts. He oversaw the Justice Department’s response to a Supreme Court decision striking down a key portion of a watershed voting rights law, and ordered a federal probe of last month’s police shooting of an unarmed black youth in Ferguson, Missouri.
George Washington University Law Professor Stephen Saltzburg says Holder fought to protect civil rights.
“It will be remembered as one of the most-important tenures of an attorney general in a long time," he said. "We have had a lot of issues in this country involving race and justice.”
But Richard Kelsey, who teaches law at George Mason University, sees Holder as the prime enabler of an administration that ignores the law and bypasses Congress.
“He did exactly what you are not supposed to do as the chief law enforcement officer in the United States: pick and choose on a political basis which laws he felt like enforcing,” he said.
Holder regularly incurred partisan ire on Capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers demanded his resignation over a federal program that led to weapons sales to Mexican drug cartels.
Reacting to news of Holder’s resignation, Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan tweeted: “Good riddance.”
Republicans tweeted their reaction to news of his resignation. Congressman Jeff Duncan wrote “Good riddance,” while Senator David Vitter tweeted: “Anyone sad to see Eric Holder stepping down? Not me.”
Good riddance Eric Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not be missed.— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) September 25, 2014
Anyone sad to see Eric Holder stepping down as AG? Not me. I can’t think of any AG in history who has attacked Louisiana more than Holder.— David Vitter (@DavidVitter) September 25, 2014
By contrast, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, issued a statement lauding Holder for “convicting terrorists and disrupting threats to national security” while “protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”
Once named, the president’s pick to replace Holder will likely face Senate confirmation after the November midterm elections.