President Barack Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett has played a “very important” role in Attorney General Eric Holder staying in office, the author of a new book detailing Obama’s war on terror tactics and intra-administration relationships told The Daily Caller.
“Obviously, Valerie Jarrett is an extremely influential person inside the White House,” Daniel Klaidman, the author of the forthcoming “Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency,” said in a phone interview. “She’s got the trust and confidence of the president and first lady — it’s a relationship that goes way back.”
“She’s been a very important source of counsel and advice to Holder and also has kind of helped him sort of navigate the politics and personalities of the White House,” he continued. “Any cabinet secretary, they all know that the power center is in the White House and they need to have those kinds of relationships.”
“You can be loyal to somebody while, at the same time, sometimes being critical,” Klaidman added. “I think one of the reasons that Holder valued his relationship with Jarrett is because of her candor. When he screwed something up, she was willing to tell him ‘you didn’t do this right.’ To be able to hear that directly from someone is important.”
Klaidman’s new book reveals for the first time that Holder considered resigning during the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) scandal. Klaidman, a Newsweek investigative reporter, lays out how Holder was depressed and was going to quit in the fall of 2010 — until Jarrett talked him out of it.
“The loss of his mother, the continuing criticism over KSM, the lashings in the press and Holder’s sense of isolation within the administration had turned his job into a grind,” a book excerpt first published on Saturday in Politico’s Playbook by Mike Allen reads. “He woke up on many mornings with a knot in his stomach, not sure if he’s be able to make it through the day. … He told [his wife] Sharon [Malone] he didn’t know if he had the emotional strength to go on as attorney general. He thought seriously about returning to his Washington law firm.”
Klaidman told TheDC his book lays out in more detail the “sources of that depression.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Eric Holder)
“He obviously had been going through a difficult time, largely because of the criticism he was getting from the outside on the KSM decision — from Republicans, from Democratic critics as well, in the press, and I think he was also very kind of tired of the internal battles that he was engaged in with the White House,” Klaidman said.
“And, I think, a sense of isolation within the White House,” Kladman continued. He always thought that the president was continuing to support him, but there were a lot of other people in the White House who were not happy about the decision he made and kind of seemed like they were trying to marginalize him or freeze him out. So you have that as a kind of a backdrop and then in the middle of all of this, his mother dies.”
“The combination of the sort of what was going on in his job in Washington and the criticism and sort of tense relations, and the really devastating blow of losing his mother, just put him in this funk,” Klaidman added. “He just was not enjoying being attorney general. He wasn’t communicative with his staff and he was having a hard time being engaged.”
Klaidman said Holder bounced right back, though: “He [Holder] does have very powerful regenerative powers. I think he is a guy who basically sees the glass as half full rather than half empty — fairly optimistic — but was a really rough patch for him. And, as the book lays out, he was talked into staying by Valerie Jarrett who was, once again, there for him at a difficult moment. I think he has no regrets that he stayed.”
Holder has faced two major scandals where members of Congress have demanded his resignation: The KSM scandal and Fast and Furious. While Jarrett encouraged Holder to stay on as attorney general during the heat of the KSM scandal, it’s unclear whether Jarrett has done same during Fast and Furious. Jarrett hasn’t publicly said anything about it and would not, given multiple opportunities, offer verbal support for Holder to TheDC through White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
Klaidman said he thinks Jarrett still supports Holder but he’s not absolutely sure. “I think that relationship is strong and I imagine that she continues to defend him,” Klaidman said. “But, I don’t know because that’s [Fast and Furious] not my story. My story is the Obama administration and terrorism. Fast and Furious started really at the tail end of my reporting that story. So, I just don’t really know what the interaction has been — I don’t know at all what the interaction has been between Valerie Jarrett and Eric Holder on Fast and Furious.”
Klaidman said he doesn’t think Obama or Jarrett will end up throwing Holder under the bus in the end, though. “I think the president — for the most part — and Valerie Jarrett have his back.”
Klaidman also told TheDC that the possible altercation between Holder and senior Obama political adviser David Axelrod — where they were reportedly about to fight each other in the White House before Jarrett broke it up — was an “isolated incident” and had happened in May 2009.
“In terms of a kind of an altercation with Axelrod, it was an isolated incident,” Klaidman said. “I don’t know, frankly, that they had any other arguments beyond that one. But, I would say, it was reflective of a lot of tension that existed between him [Holder] and a number of people in the White House, particularly on the president’s political team.”