Holder Touts Social Justice, Ignores Law, In Exit Speech

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Departing Attorney General Eric Holder and his critics jointly described his scandal-wracked tenure as a series of political actions, not as the even-handed implementation of laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.

“Holder has placed ideological commitments over a commitment to the rule of law,” said Sen. MItch McConnell, the GOP’s leader in the Senate. “These are not the qualities the American people look for in the nation’s highest law-enforcement official.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior GOP member of the Senate’s judiciary committee, said that “Holder’s tenure has been strained by his lack of respect for Congress, the American taxpayer, and the laws on the books.”

“I have loved the Department of Justice,” Holder told President Barack Obama at a Sept. 25 press event in the White House.

“As a young boy, I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the department can – and must – always be a force for that which is right,” he said.

In his speech, Holder did not use the word “legal,” and only used the the word “law” once. “We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities they protect.”

“I am also grateful for the support you have given me and the department as we have made real the visions that you and I have always shared,” Holder told Obama.

“I often think of those early talks between us and our belief that we might help to craft a more perfect Union,” Holder told the president.

“As younger men, Eric and I both studied law,” Obama said in his speech at the event.

“I chose him to serve as Attorney General because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principle. It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives. It’s about whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our families; whether we feel safe in our own communities and welcomed in our own country; whether the words that the Founders set to paper 238 years ago apply to every single one of us and not just some,” he said.

“That’s why I made him America’s lawyer, the people’s lawyer,” Obama said.

“I welcome the news that Eric Holder will step down as Attorney General,” said a statement from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House’s judiciary committee.

“From Operation Fast and Furious to his misleading testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the Department’s dealings with members of the media and his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, Mr. Holder has consistently played partisan politics with many of the important issues facing the Justice Department,” Goodlatte said.

“I hope that the next Attorney General will take seriously his role as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, working with Congress to ensure that the laws of our land are followed instead of being a roadblock on the path to justice,” Goodlatte said.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee described Holder as a political activist.

“His politicization of the Justice Department was inexcusable, and his handling of issues—ranging from Fast and Furious to spying on reporters—was unacceptable,” said Priebus.

“Like the president who appointed him, Holder far too often disregarded the Constitution… Americans deserve an Attorney General who respects the Constitution, understands the limits placed on the president’s power, and can ably manage the Justice Department,” Priebus said.

Follow Neil on Twitter