Are Eric Holder's Days Numbered?
This has not been a good week for Attorney General Eric Holder. He is now in the doghouse -- or perhaps somewhere worse -- after the White House was reported to be “nearing a decision” to reverse Holder on trying terrorists in a civilian court in New York City. According to the Washington Post, “President Obama’s advisers” are about to revoke Holder’s controversial decision and send the terrorists to a military tribunal. The Post also says they may scuttle plans for any civilian trials for terrorists.
The Post says the decision is being made by the president’s “advisers” -- Holder, apparently, has had little input on the reversal. If true, this morning’s report is a direct repudiation of the AG.
Holder’s decision has been sheer disaster for Democrats in New York, and the political backlash in one of the country’s most liberal states was not lost on the White House. The decision has also been unpopular throughout the nation, and at least one prominent activist who lost a family member on September 11 has asked for Holder's resignation.
Deborah Burlingame told PJM:
I think its time for Holder to step aside, because he’s botched so much at this point.
Burlingame cited a trio of recent controversies engulfing the attorney general: the KSM trial, the controversy over terrorist defense attorneys secretly working on the Justice Department detainee policy, and Holder’s decision to offer civil rights and lawyers to Christmas bomber Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab.
Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told PJM that the New York City trial reversal was “welcome news," but:
It appears that the consequences of having these trials on U.S. soil weren’t properly vetted before the original decision was made. This should be of great concern to the American people.
From another congressional source:
Holder has lost the trust of people on Capitol Hill that he is capable of making good decisions. ... It’s not clear that he can make sound decisions.
Burlingame also said that Justice should be stripped of the responsibility of creating future detainee policies, returning it to the Defense Department:
Frankly I would like [to see] the taking of the detainee policy out of the Department of Justice and putting it back [with] the Department of Defense, where it belongs.
Holder and the administration are getting heat from their political base, too. “If this stunning reversal comes to pass, President Obama will deal a death blow to his own Justice Department, not to mention American values,” American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
Senator Grassley told PJM that it was difficult for Americans to swallow the idea of granting greater legal rights to terrorists than to our own troops who face a military court martial:
The administration has had a difficult time justifying the rationale for giving the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on America more rights than our men and women in military, fighting to protect our homeland, who are court martialed.
Burlingame said Holder surprised local officials with his decision to try terrorists in New York, and he was deaf to public sentiment:
Eric Holder went about it in a wholly incompetent way, including choosing the venue. He knew it was problematic and yet he did not consult with people in New York City. He sprung this decision on them and earned their disfavor from the very beginning. I think he wanted the decision to be a fait acompli so the people could not object to it. And eventually it was his undoing.
Ms. Burlingame’s brother was the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which went down in Pennsylvania after being hijacked by 9/11 terrorists. She also is a central figure who has rallied 9/11 families in New York and who sits on the board of Keep America Safe with Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol.
Holder also got into trouble this week when all seven Republican members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee sent Holder a blistering letter regarding his evasiveness in explaining his decision to hire lawyers who had volunteered to help the legal defenses of terrorists. Holder has assigned these lawyers to advise the administration policy on detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
In a coming interview with PJTV, Senator Grassley said he thought Holder was “in trouble with the committee.” Grassley also said the policy of keeping the names, backgrounds, and assignments of the political appointees “was wholly inconsistent with the president’s promise of transparency.”
The Justice Department begrudgingly released the names of some of the appointees to Fox News after Keep America Safe released a video titled “Who Are the Al-Qaeda Seven?” -- a reference to the seven Holder lawyers who previously defended enemy combatants. The video asked viewers to call the Justice Department:
Tell Eric Holder Americans have a right to know the identity of the Al-Qaeda Seven.
A congressional source told PJM that a flood of telephone calls to the department following the TV commercial pushed the department to release at least some of the names. However, it is still unclear what kind of access they have to sensitive information and what policies they are deciding.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expecting to grill Holder on March 12, when he is scheduled to testify before the committee.
It is rare when the intersection of two powerful stories converge on a cabinet member in such a short time. But Holder’s twin audacious decisions -- to bring into his office lawyers who helped enemy combatants, and to award new civil rights to terrorists in a New York trial -- have just blown up in his face.
This is not the first time Holder has been soft on terrorists. In July 1998, as President Clinton’s deputy attorney general, Holder asked for clemency for 16 Puerto Rican terrorists. In making the recommendation Holder was opposed by the U.S. pardon attorney, the FBI, the federal prosecutor, and the victims.
The clemency recommendation also was unusual because, before the commutations, the terrorists were not required to repudiate their actions, and they were not asked to provide any information concerning the whereabouts of Victor Manuel Gerena, a co-conspirator and one of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, or the millions of dollars stolen by the group in a 1983 robbery of Wells Fargo in West Hartford, Connecticut.
The attorney general’s positions reflect those of many “progressives” who have criticized the war on terror. In a July 2008 speech before the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, Holder said:
This I think is a particular time in our nation’s history where the pendulum has starting to swing or has swung, and I think the notion of a progressive America, an America run by progressive has about to happen.
With this new administration that’s going to be starting in January … we’re going to be looking for people who share our values.
Traditionally, the attorney general is the closest cabinet official to the president. When President Kennedy was elected, he named his brother Bobby to serve as his AG.
President Obama, moreover, did not simply choose Holder out of friendship. The president is steeped in constitutional law. He once was a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago and was the president of the Harvard Law Review.
So he knew what he was doing when he green lit Holder’s actions.
In fact, Burlingame found the entire episode of Holder “acting on his own” disingenuous:
If he was tasked with making this (KSM) decision, it shouldn’t have been his decision alone. ... It was a commander-in-chief decision. Are we at war? And if we’re at war are they enemy combatants? This is a commander-in-chief decision.