Attorney General Eric Holder sounded a lot like MSNBC host and civil rights activist Al Sharpton in an interview published on Friday in which he called for lower thresholds for prosecuting federal hate crimes.
Holder’s surprising suggestion came during a revealing interview with Politico’s Mike Allen as he prepares to leave the top Justice Department position.
On lowering federal hate crimes standards, Holder said, “it’s certainly something that I’m going to want to talk about before I leave.”
“I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the standard of proof that has to be met before federal involvement is appropriate, and that’s something that I am going to be talking about before — before I leave office,” he continued.
Those comments echo Sharpton, who has become President Obama’s go-to civil rights activist and visits the White House frequently.
Sharpton said during a radio interview earlier this week that federal hate crimes cases set “an impossible bar to reach.” He also suggested lowering the bar to consider whether “the results are race-based.” (RELATED: ‘Lower The Threshold’ For Federal Hate Crimes)
The calls for a change to how hate crimes cases are handled come after the Justice Department’s announcement that it would not pursue a case against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Holder’s agency is also reportedly poised to announce that it will not pursue a case against white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who shot Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, last August.
“Well, I think that if we adjust those standards, we can make the federal government a better backstop, make us more a part of the process in an appropriate way to reassure the American people that decisions are made by people who are really disinterested, and I think that if we make those adjustments, we will have that capacity,” Holder told Allen.
Holder plans to make a proposal of some sort on the issue of federal hate crimes standards before he leaves office, which he expects will happen next month. Loretta Lynch has been nominated to replace him.
In the interview, Holder also said that he is in the process of writing a personal letter to the parents of Trayvon Martin, though he declined to provide details.
Holder also made a surprising suggestion when asked which book he’d encourage young people to read: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
And when asked whether he believed that some of the pushback he received from Congress during his tenure as attorney general was motivated by racial animus, he said, “there have been times when I thought that’s at least a piece of it.”
“I think that the primary motivator has probably been political in nature…[but] you can’t let it deflect you from…your eyes on the prize.”