Eric Holder

The Survivor: How Eric Holder outlasted his (many) critics.

Obama has resisted calls from inside and outside the administration to dismiss Holder. | Paul J. Richards/ AFP/Getty Images

Politico Magazine

Why the hell is Eric Holder still around? That’s a question many of Barack Obama’s political advisers have asked at various points throughout Holder’s tumultuous five years at the helm of the Justice Department.

For most of Obama’s presidency, in fact, if there’s been controversy, Holder was likely to be in the middle of it, from the failed efforts to close Guantánamo Bay and to prosecute alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a Manhattan court to his inability to send Wall Street executives involved in the mortgage meltdown to jail. His detractors in the West Wing of the White House, and there have been many, have seen the attorney general as a never-ending source of questionable decisions, tin-eared political missteps and off-the-reservation remarks. “If it was coming out of the Justice Department,” a former top adviser to Obama recalled to me, “it was bad news.”

Congress has it in for Holder, too: House Republicans howled for his scalp after voting him in contempt of Congress two years ago in a dispute over a gun investigation gone awry, making Holder the first Cabinet member ever to be sanctioned. And at least one Hill Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, suggested Holder step down after it was revealed the department had secretly obtained journalists’ phone records as part of leak investigations involving the Associated Press and Fox News. “Whenever you feel that you have lost your effectiveness … to the detriment of the job that you do,” Manchin told Bloomberg, “decisions have to be made.”

And yet Holder, an affable, ambitious and stubborn 63-year-old career prosecutor, has not only weathered these attacks but emerged, improbably, with greater leverage and more access to Obama than ever. How did he do it? To start, it helps that he is one of the few administration figures to cross the threshold from employee to friend of the famously reserved president. Holder, in fact, is one of the only Cabinet members Obama routinely invites over for dinner and drinks (Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a hoops buddy from Chicago, is another) and the only one who times his summer vacation to hang out with the president on Martha’s Vineyard. Their wives are even closer, and Michelle Obama is a not infrequent drop-in guest for Friday pizza night at Holder’s house. Besides, the attorney general is nothing if not a loyalist, an increasingly valuable commodity to a second-term president rattled by accelerating congressional investigations. Obama clearly respects Holder’s four decades of experience as an attorney and judge and supports Holder’s positions on LGBT rights and racial profiling, often telling his staff he recognizes it’s not all Holder’s fault: The job of attorney general is a “shit magnet” for the most intractable controversies.

But there’s another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.

“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”

Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.” Asked to describe Holder’s role, one of his former top aides described him as “Obama’s heat shield.”

There’s no question that Obama has resisted calls, from inside and outside the administration, to dump Holder, including quiet rumblings by some aides who wanted Obama to ease him out after the 2012 reelection.

But the president brushed off such talk, as he has done repeatedly with those who have tried and failed to come between him and his AG. From the start, the White House staff has been at odds with Holder—a conflict that, my sources told me, has been one of the longest-running hidden dramas of this White House. “He says he’s on Team Obama, but he’s really on Team Holder,” one top Obama aide told me.

The bad blood goes all the way back to a month into Obama’s first term—as the West Wing staff was working 18-hour days to keep the economy from collapsing—when Holder jolted Obama’s team seemingly out of nowhere. Tellingly, the subject was race. Holder informed the White House he planned to deliver a Black History Month speech but never got around to telling Obama’s aides what he would actually say, a habit that would infuriate the White House time and again over the years—and underscore Holder’s special standing in Obama’s world.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder declared to a gathering of Justice Department employees—a bombshell assertion that caused the predictable rage among Obama’s attackers on the right, who accused him of playing the race card.

Obama’s top political aides—white liberals to a man, and they were all men—didn’t necessarily disagree with Holder’s sentiment; they just thought it was a dumb way of saying it and dangerously ill-timed to boot. Obama was ticked off, too, and did nothing to stop his top advisers David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and Jim Messina from severely restricting Holder’s public utterances and imposing a ban on Sunday show appearances that stands to this day.

But the president’s anger only went so far, and Holder takes no small satisfaction in outlasting those early rivals. In interviews, many of the officials I spoke with offered a blunt explanation for his bond with Obama: For all the president’s success at breaking barriers, Obama is often the only black person in the room when a major decision is being made—unless Holder, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett or National Security Adviser Susan Rice is present. This isn’t just about skin pigment, and it’s not a phenomenon unique to Obama; all presidents draw close to them people who share common personal experiences and their deepest priorities, people they trust, who provide the elusive “comfort level” they seek in times of extreme stress. John F. Kennedy had his “Irish Mafia,” Ronald Reagan had his California buddies, Bill Clinton surrounded himself with pals from Arkansas.

Balanced against such bonds, Holder’s scraps with Congress, his battles with a press corps furious over the most leak prosecutions of any administration in history and the opposition of Obama’s palace guard—who view him as politically clueless—just can’t quite compete.

Ed. Note:  This is a very long magazine article…

Continue reading here…

Hannity And His White Pals Agree: Obama And Holder Should Just Shut Up About Racism!

NewsHounds

Instead of discussing the substance of recent comments on race by Attorney General Eric Holder and First Lady Michelle Obama, Sean Hannity used the opportunity to attack them. First, he gathered an all-white panel, then fed them race-baiting prompts.

First attack: Hannity compared Holder’s and Obama’s comments to Condoleezza Rice talking about how wonderful it was that, having grown up in the segregated south, she could now run for president. The implication was clear: that Obama and Holder are just resentful sourpusses who don’t love their country enough. However, both Obama and Holder, in their speeches, also made similar remarks marveling at the progress of race relations in their lifetimes. Funny how that got ignored, eh?

“Very interesting, isn’t it?” Hannity said about the cherry-picked clips. His innocent tone disingenuously hid the racial animosity he was clearly looking to engender.

Props to guest Deirdre Imus for immediately smacking down the agenda. “Everyone comes at life at a different angle and a different perspective… So I don’t think it’s fair to compare,” she said. “…Don’t deny that there’s racism and racial disparity!”

Hannity, perhaps trying to hide his own very ugly record on race, said, “There’s white on black racism, black on white racism but it is not the majority of Americans by any stretch.”

Well, that’s good to know. Because when Hannity’s pal, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson announced on Hannity & Colmes that “most blacks” in Tennessee are “so racist,” Hannity didn’t even let his other guest rebut. In fact, Hannity seems to have some kind of obsession with black racism – and a special affinity for white bigots. Check out the Fox Attacks Black America video below (I assisted in the making of it) and note which Fox host has a starring role.

Guest Katie Pavlich jumped at Hannity’s race bait. Which is no surprise given her blatantly condescending and hostile attitude toward African Americans. First, she sneered that Holder did not, like Rice, suffer segregation (suggesting he was more “black” than patriotic) and moved on to blame President Obama for opposing school choice (which, Pavlich questionably claimed, would erase school segregation). “So if anyone’s at fault here, it’s the Obama administration,” she said in a taunting, mean-girl voice.

But leave it to guest Gavin McInnes – who last week likened gay advocacy to sharia law – to be the most deliberately offensive. “That Eric Holder attitude is crippling for blacks. Because when you portray the world as ‘they’re out to get you. You can’t make it. It’s no use even trying,’ that’s much more harmful than any of this mythical racism.”

Well, that’s good to know, too. Because if there’s any group that continuously whines about their victimhood, it’s conservatives on Fox. So we’ll look for McInnes to speak out about their crippling attitude. But don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, Hannity quickly suggested Michelle Obama and Eric Holder were in some kind of racial cabal: “To me it was suspicious, her and Eric Holder, the same weekend? Why?”

Pavlich had a racially hate-filled answer at the ready: “Because they have to keep the bar lowered because they have a certain sector – voting block – that keeps them in office based on…” I couldn’t hear the rest of her answer but I think we can guess the gist.

Watch Hannity’s panel whitesplain racism in America below via Media Matters.

Scarborough: Obama And Holder Should Stop Playing The Race Card (VIDEO)

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AP Photo

Sure, Joe…just as soon as the entire GOP stop being racists.

TPM LIVEWIRE

A day after Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech that he and President Obama have dealt with unprecedented levels of criticism, MSNBC’s resident conservative mocked Holder for suggesting that racism is at play.

“Because of racism, I mean, Holder, that’s what Holder suggested, the attorney general suggested yesterday, right?” Scarborough asked Politico’s John Harris.

“There’s no question,” Harris said. “That’s what he’s trying to get at. I don’t see any other reading of it.”

From there, Scarborough was off.

He argued that Holder, the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress, has received the same treatment as Janet Reno, the attorney general under Bill Clinton.

Reno, he said, “was accused of murder by Republicans” after the Waco siege.

Scarborough went on to say that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), the tea party congressman who’sdabbled in birtherism, would have been just as hard on Reno as he was on Holder. Moreover, Scarborough contended that Clinton dealt with just as much hostility as Obama.

“So when you’re going to say that Barack Obama and Eric Holder have been treated worse than anybody else in the history of American politics because of their race, well, you’re not even going back 20 years let alone 200,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough later said he’s not “disregarding” the prejudice against Obama, but he continued to insist that other public figures like Richard Nixon, Edwin Meese and Robert Bork faced the same level of scrutiny.

“Again, and this goes past just what Eric Holder said yesterday. We’ve been hearing this for six years, suggesting that there’s race behind everything — no, no,” Scarborough said. “There’s really not. This is what happens in Washington, D.C.”

“It happens to people that step up to the stage,” he added.

Bobby Jindal Gets A Much-Needed History Lesson After Eric Holder Insult

The Huffington Post

The Department of Justice’s public affairs staffers think Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) could use a history lesson on the civil rights movement.

On Friday, the day after Jindal compared Holder to segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace at the Conservative Political Action Conference, DOJ employees mailed Jindal a copy of a book by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). They inserted a yellow sticky note on page 199, where Lewis writes about Vivian Malone, one of the first African-Americans to integrate the University of Alabama, who walked past Gov. Wallace that day.

Malone is Holder’s late sister-in-law, a fact that Holder has mentioned in countless speeches throughout his five years as attorney general, including as recently as Wednesday.

“Worth a read,” the note to Jindal says.

jindal“This should help the governor brush up on his history the next time he invokes the Civil Rights Movement,” Kevin Lewis, a DOJ spokesman, told The Huffington Post.

In his speech, Jindal said that Holder and DOJ were “trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education, the chance to go to better schools.” He was speaking about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s legal dispute with Jindal over Louisiana’s school voucher program, which DOJ believed may have violated decades-old school desegregation orders.

DOJ initially filed a motion to enjoin the school vouchers program, but later backed off. The agency is now just seeking detailed information about the racial composition of public schools. The federal judge in the case has also expressed concerns that the school vouchers program is taking away money from public schools.

Ohio Is Trying To ‘Suppress The Voting Rights Of African Americans,’ Congresswoman Claims

Most Americans knew this already but confirmation from an elected official adds a multitude of weight to the issues of suppressing early voting and the general election in Ohio…

Think Progress

Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D) has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review two voting measures making their way through the state legislature that she claims could “suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

The proposed bills (S. 238 and H.B. 269) would reduce the number of absentee-voting days by six, prevent newly registered voters from voting the day they register, and require voters to present valid identification — a driver’s license, a state or military ID card, or a passport — when casting a ballot.

In her letter, Fudge charges that the legislation violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which “prohibits any voting qualification or practice applied by the state which results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race.” “Recent estimates indicate that over 900,000 eligible voters in Ohio” lack the necessary ID, including as many as “one in four eligible African Americans,” the letter says. Same-day registration and voting “have recently been used at a higher rate by African Americans and lower-income voters.”

“With no indication that voter fraud is a widespread problem in Ohio, this proposal is a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the number of people able to exercise their right to vote,” she writes. “They are attempts to suppress the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities.”

Supporters of the effort argue that limiting early voting would free-up overstressed election boards “during their busiest time of year” and note that the legislation “allows for free photo IDs for people who can’t afford to purchase one and who are at or below the federal poverty level.”

“I think we can have a reasonable debate about policy here,” said State Sen. Frank LaRose (R), the sponsor of the early voting change. “To invoke the specter of a racial matter, I think, takes it too far. It is kind of shameful to do that. What we are talking about is a very modest reduction in the number of early voting days that still leaves Ohio as a leader in the nation, by far, for early voting.”

On Saturday, The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board came out against the limitation, writing that “absent compelling evidence of election fraud…there is no good, pro-voter reason to end the practice.” It also condemned a separate measure that would change absentee ballot rules.

During the 2012 presidential election, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) attempted to limit early voting to weekdays, and he defied a court order requiring early voting hours to be restored — although he eventually backed down.

Justice Department to challenge North Carolina voter ID law

Eric Holder is pictured. | AP Photo

The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil rights advocates. | AP Photo

Politico

The Justice Department will file suit against North Carolina on Monday, charging that the Tar Heel State’s new law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against African Americans, according to a person familiar with the planned litigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce the lawsuit at 11 a.m. Monday at Justice Department headquarters, flanked by the three U.S. Attorneys from North Carolina.

The suit, set to be filed in Greensboro, N.C., will ask that the state be barred from enforcing the new voter ID law, the source said. However, the case will also go further, demanding that the entire state of North Carolina be placed under a requirement to have all changes to voting laws, procedures and polling places “precleared” by either the Justice Department or a federal court, the source added.

Until this year, 40 North Carolina counties were under such a requirement. However, in June, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress used to subject parts or all of 15 states to preclearance in recent decades.

The justices’ 5-4 ruling outraged civil rights advocates, but did not disturb a rarely-used “bail in” provision in the law that allows judges to put states or localities under the preclearance requirement. Civil rights groups and the Justice Department have since seized on that provision to try to recreate part of the regime that existed prior to the Supreme Court decision.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the voter ID measure into law last last month.

“Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote,” McCrory said at the time. “This new law brings our state in line with a healthy majority of other states throughout the country. This common sense safeguard is common-place.”

A law mandating a photo ID for voting was not on the books in North Carolina during the 2012 presidential election. Such a measure passed in 2011, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Bev Perdue (D). The legislature failed to override her veto.

According to the source, DOJ’s lawsuit will object to the law’s photo ID requirement as well as three other key provisions: the elimination of the first 7 days of early voting that took place in 2012, the end to same-day voter registration during the early voting period, and the end to the option of provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong polling place.

The complaint will allege that the law was passed with discriminatory intent and as part of a deliberate effort to deny African Americans the right to vote, the source said. A North Carolina Board of Elections study in April of this year found that more than 300,000 registered voters in the state did not have a Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID. African Americans accounted for 34 percent of those who did not match with the DMV records, although they account for only about 22 percent of registered voters in the state.

DOJ moved in July to put Texas, which had been subject to preclearance statewide until the June Supreme Court ruling, back under preclearance requirements. That move came first in a pending lawsuit over redistricting in the state and later in another case over that state’s voter ID law.

Judges have yet to act on those requests. However, Gov. Rick Perry (R) complained that the Justice Department’s demand disrespected the Supreme Court decision.

“This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process,” Perry said in a statement.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that an Indiana voter ID law was constitutional. However, the justices did not deal with the question of whether that law or a similar law in another state might violate the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates have insisted that the Voting Rights Act puts a greater burden on states seeking to restrict voting when doing so disproportionately affects minority groups.

The Justice Department messes with Texas over its voter ID law

He’s a lot feistier than he looks…

The Week

The move comes in response to the Supreme Court striking down a key piece of the Voting Rights Act

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would sue Texas over its voter ID law, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling this year that made it easier for states to implement restrictive new voting laws without federal oversight.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a central piece of the Voting Rights Act that determined which jurisdictions had to receive “preclearance” from the DOJ before making any changes to their voting laws. Following that ruling, Texas and a handful of other states with a history of racial discrimination pushed forward with voting legislation that had previously been blocked by the Justice Department.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

The Justice Department had used its preclearance power to block Texas’ law, known as SB14, ahead of the 2012 election. The law would require people to prove both U.S. and Texas residency to obtain a voter ID card, a hurdle critics say would be onerous to poor and minority citizens.

But the court nixed Section 4 of the VRA. That piece established a formula to determine which states and localities were automatically required to submit to Section 5, the preclearance provision. The court did not touch Section 5 itself.

This time around, the DOJ said it would argue that SB14 violates a separate piece of the VRA, Section 2, that prohibits voting regulations adopted with the specific purpose of “denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” The DOJ also said it would argue that the law violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which guarantee all citizens the right to vote.

By arguing that the law’s intent was blatant racial discrimination, the DOJ is seeking a backdoor to a new preclearance authority over Texas.

The DOJ will now ask a judge to “bail-in” Texas under Section 3 of the VRA. Under that little-known, rarely used provision, if a judge determines that a jurisdiction has tried to discriminate on the basis of race, the court can force that jurisdiction to be subject to federal preclearance under Section 5.

That tactic has only been used 18 times in the past, according to the American Prospect, and then typically in much smaller cases involving school districts. As such, “it is not clear that the strategy will be a legal success,” Richard Hasen, a U.C. Irvine professor and election law expert, wrote in the National Law Journal.

“Texas bail-in may not look like a great tool compared to the old preclearance regime,” he wrote. “But it is not as if DOJ has a lot of other tools to protect minority voters in its toolbox. Holder is going for bail-in because it is better than nothing, and with congressional inaction, he’s got nothing left to lose.”

Texas Clarifies That It Discriminates Against Democratic Voters — Not Minorities

rick perry

Get real Texas…

Business Insider

The state of Texas has a pretty amusing response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s claims that the state’s redistricting plans discriminate against minority voters

DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.

Election law expert Rick Hasen posted this paragraph from Texas’ 54-page response filed in Texas federal court on his blog with the comment “Only in America.”

Holder has asked the court to force Texas to get permission from the Justice Department before it makes any changes to its election laws. Texas has intentionally redrawn its Congressional districts to dilute the Hispanic vote, according to the Justice Department.

Holder’s move to stop the redistricting comes after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which automatically required Texas and eight other states to get that permission.

The Supreme Court struck down Section 4, which determined the “coverage formula” that specified which states are subject to so-called pre-clearance requirements. Holder is suing under a lesser-known provision of the VRA that lets courts step in and subject a state to pre-clearance requirements if it discriminated against minority voters on purpose.

Holder’s “bold move” to use that provision could backfire by angering Republicans and destroying any chance that Congress will step in to come up with a new coverage formula to give the VRA its teeth back, Hasen wrote in The National Law Journal.

Fed’s Halt Return of Zimmerman’s Gun

ABC News

George Zimmerman can’t get back the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin, but nothing is keeping him from purchasing another gun if he wants, Florida police said today.

Federal and local authorities said plans to return Zimmerman’s Kel Tec 9 pistol were put on hold after the Department of Justice announced a new investigation to determine whether Zimmerman violated 17-year-old Martin’s civil rights.

“The Department of Justice put a hold on all of the evidence in the case. The evidence will not be returned until such time as they release the hold,” said Sanford Police spokesman James McAuliffe.

McAuliffe, however, told ABC News that there is nothing legally preventing Zimmerman, who was acquitted in Martin’s murder on Saturday, from purchasing a new firearm.

“I do not believe that there is” any legal reason Zimmerman would not be able to purchase another gun, McAuliffe said.

Zimmerman was acquitted by a jury of six women who found he acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed teenager in February 2012.

The verdict produced an outcry ranging from Martin’s parents to protests in cities across the country. Zimmerman, 29, immediately went into hiding following the verdict.

On Sunday, Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara said Zimmerman was entitled to get the gun back and needed it “even more” than before his acquittal, given the controversy surrounding the case and frequent threats to his life.

“I think that he feels truly in his heart that if he did not have that weapon that night he might not be here…. [He] would have continued to get beat even though he was screaming for help,” O’Mara told ABC News in an exclusive interview last week.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder called Martin’s death “unnecessary” and vowed to proceed with a federal case.

Zimmerman’s attorney was travelling and not available for comment on the decision to retain all evidence pending DOJ orders. Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, also declined to talk about the gun.

The Last Word – Attorney General Eric Holder questions ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws

Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments were poignant and yet, to African Americans very familiar.  The following video is a segment from The Last Word: