This week, the only attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress accused the sitting attorney general of being “unfit to lead the Justice Department.” Yes, Eric Holder said William Barr is too political to serve as attorney general. Talk about projection!
“When appropriate and justified, it is the attorney general’s duty to support Justice Department components, ensure their integrity and insulate them from political pressures. His or her ultimate loyalty is not to the president personally, nor even to the executive branch, but to the people — and the Constitution — of the United States,” Holder wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Virtually since the moment he took office, though, Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage,” Holder argued. He concluded that “William Barr has proved he is incapable” of putting the facts and the law above politics. “He is unfit to lead the Justice Department.”
To be sure, Barr has made many partisan statements in defense of President Donald Trump, and he has even suggested that police should consider not keeping the peace in communities that do not respect law enforcement. Holder pointed to recent remarks Barr gave at a Federalist Society event defending Originalism and accusing the left of “the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.” This statement is very defensible given the history of American jurisprudence, but it remains partisan nonetheless.
Eric Holder should know. Few attorneys general have been as shamelessly partisan in support of their president as he was.
When Holder announced his retirement from DOJ in 2014, Nick Gillespie, the libertarian editor-in-chief at Reason.com, bade him good riddance. “Holder’s tenure has been marked by a disturbing mix of duplicity, incompetence, and obliviousness,” Gillespie wrote.
The libertarian faulted Holder for telling Congress that federal agents wouldn’t raid and arrest people who ran medical marijuana dispensaries in compliance with state laws, but the administration averaged 36 medical marijuana prosecutions per year through 2013 — higher than George W. Bush’s 20 prosecutions per year. “Either Holder directed the Department of Justice and was lying to Congress or he was an administrator whose subordinates routinely disobeyed him. Neither possibility is comforting,” he said.
Most notoriously, Holder was held in contempt by a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives in 2012. The attorney general had refused to testify about the “Fast and Furious” scandal involving the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The scandal involved government agents allowing the illegal sale of guns that were later found at the scene of the murder of a Border Patrol agent. The tragedy seems to have followed a cockamamie scheme to demonize gun ownership and provide a pretext for the subversion of the Second Amendment.
Gillespie also condemned Holder for signing off on the secret monitoring of Fox News reporter James Rosen and other journalists, along with Holder’s staunch defense of National Security Agency surveillance programs. “It took a 13-hour filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to get Holder to acknowledge in plain language that there were in fact limits to the president’s secret kill list (the existence of which is itself deeply disturbing),” the libertarian wrote.
These criticisms are notable because they came from a libertarian who celebrated Holder’s politically-motivated decision (at the behest of the president) not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which was settled law, signed by former President Bill Clinton.
As PJ Media’s Matt Margolis noted, Holder should never have been confirmed as attorney general in the first place. In 1970, he was the leader of a black separatist group at Columbia University called the Student Afro-American Society (SAAS). He joined that group in a five-day armed takeover of an abandoned ROTC office on Columbia University’s campus. As deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton, he played a major role in pardoning the Weather Underground terrorists.
As Obama’s attorney general, Holder decided not to prosecute the New Black Panther Party over voter intimidation during the 2008 election. Holder’s stonewalling — in addition to his refusal to testify in “Fast and Furious”—prompted 47 out of 73 inspectors general to write a letter to Congress about the systemic obstruction. When the DOJ sued big banks for discrimination or mortgage abuse, Holder allegedly required these banks to direct billions of dollars to left-wing groups.
Holder’s statements also revealed his partisanship. In 2013, he described himself as “the president’s wingman.” At an American Constitution Society event in 2004, Holder said conservatives have “made a mockery of the rule of law.” He described the “conservative agenda” in these terms: “social division, mindless tax cutting, and a defense posture that does not really make us safer.”
Many attorneys general have been partisan defenders of the current president, but few have a record so sycophantic as that of Eric Holder to Barack Obama. William Barr may go too far in defending President Trump, but Eric Holder is arguably the least credible person to make that accusation — save perhaps his successor, Loretta Lynch.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.