Eric Holder

Holder: DoJ Probe Into Garner’s Death

Attorney General Eric Holder | Tami Chappell/Reuters

One hour ago:

The Daily Beast

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner. Earlier in the day, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. Not only will the Justice Department lead a probe into Garner’s death, but it will also “conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation,” said Holder. He said he spoke to Garner’s widow earlier in the day adn was in touch with President Obama and New york City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Holder acknowleged that the recent incidences involving law enforcement and minorities was not a “New York issue nor a Ferguson issue alone.”

Ted Cruz Wants To Fight Obama Over Immigration, But He Forgot About One Thing

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — 11-23-14 – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for congressional Republicans to fight back against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, saying they should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees until he reverses course.

“If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee — executive or judicial — outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists,” Cruz wrote in a recent Politico Magazine op-ed.

There is obviously some political risk in Republicans pursuing such a strategy, given the presidential election in two years and a Senate landscape that looks more favorable for Democrats to regain control in that election.

But during an interview with Cruz on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed out another potential downside to blocking Obama’s nominations: Attorney General Eric Holder, a constant source of irritation for Republicans, would get to stay in his job longer. Holder announced in late September that he planned to retire, and earlier this month, Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to take his place. Holder has stated that he will remain in his position until his successor’s nomination is confirmed by Congress.

“Are you saying that the Senate should refuse to confirm Loretta Lynch, the president’s new nominee for attorney general, and thereby leave Eric Holder, who you don’t like very much, in that position even longer?” asked Wallace.

Cruz largely avoided Wallace’s question, simply saying that Republicans “should use the constitutional checks and balances we have to rein in the executive.”

Wallace, however, persisted, and asked the question again. This time, Cruz still did not state directly that the Senate should block Lynch, but implied as much by saying that only positions of “vital national security” should get to the floor for a vote.

“In my view, the majority leader should decline to bring to the floor of the Senate any nomination other than vital national security positions,” the senator said. “Now, that is a serious and major step.”

In a prime-time address Thursday night, Obama announced that because Congress had failed to pass immigration reform, he would use his executive authority to bring deportation relief to 4 million or more undocumented immigrants.

The president’s executive action will protect undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, as well as immigrants who came to America as children and others with long-standing ties to the country, from being deported.

Obama defended his actions in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” that aired Sunday morning. “The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot,” he said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans.”

“But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration,” Obama added. “I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

For Next AG, Obama Picks a Quiet Fighter With a Heavy Punch

Joshua Lott | Reuters

More on President Obama’s Attorney General nominee…

The Daily Beast

Daughter of a librarian, sister to a SEAL. Why colleagues say America can’t ask for better than Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to succeed Eric Holder.

The woman tapped to become the new attorney general is the younger sister of a Navy SEAL from those days before fame and book deals, when America’s foremost warriors were known only as anonymous “quiet professionals.”

Loretta Lynch has taken much the same quietly professional approach as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Her father can attest to that, having seen her in action in a Brooklyn courtroom. He speaks of her much as he might of his elder son, the SEAL.

“Low-key, soft voice, but hard-punching attorney,” says Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a fourth-generation Baptist minister from North Carolina. “She was never a show person but boy she did hit hard.”

Her mother, Lorine Lynch, started life as a farmhand. Loretta Lynch recalled aloud at the swearing-in ceremony for her first stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999 that she once asked her mother why she had labored in the fields.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” her mother had told her.

The mother had left the fields to become a librarian and her love of literature passed on to her three children. Neighbors in Durham would marvel at the stacks of books little Loretta and her brothers would carry from the public library just down the street.

“Your books are taller than you are!” the father remembers people exclaiming.

Loretta’s uncommon brightness led to an early encounter with what some took to be racism when she took a standardized test at her largely white public school.

“She scored so high they said, ‘This is wrong, you have to retake it,’” the father recalls. “She retook it and scored higher the second time.”

When Loretta was not yet in high school, the family took a trip to Boston and her parents pointed across the Charles River to Harvard University. The father recalls, “She said, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’”

Another encounter with apparent racism came when she finished at the very top of her class at Durham high school. The authorities suddenly decided there had to be three valedictorians, which resulted in one of them being white. She did indeed go to Harvard, where she majored in English and delighted in reading Chaucer in Old English. She proceeded on to Harvard Law School.

From there, she joined a big Wall Street law firm and earned a six-figure salary. Her father figured that she was set, even if she more than once arrived to conduct a disposition only for the opposing lawyers to assume she must be the court stenographer.

Then she announced she was taking a 75 percent pay cut to become an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. She thereby declared herself less interested in making money than in making a difference.

The father came up from North Carolina to see her prosecute a Chinese gang. He returned when she took on the Abner Louima case, which was as momentous in 1999 as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson is now. Louima was a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by a cop with a wood stick in a precinct bathroom. Four other cops were also arrested in connection with the incident

“Don’t let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up,” Lynch told the jury during her closing argument that day in 1999.

The courtroom was completely silent when she was done.

“You could hear a pin drop,” the father recalls. “It was remarkable.”

He adds, “I wouldn’t want her prosecuting me.”

Soon afterward, President Clinton appointed her the U.S. attorney for the district, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. She was replaced by President Bush in mid-2001 and she returned to private practice.

In 2010, President Obama then brought her back for a second stint. She continually impressed her staff with her ability to quickly grasp the essentials of a case as her office wrangled multibillion-dollar settlements from various errant banks while prosecuting a wide range of terrorists, gangsters, and cybercriminals.

In recent weeks, she has overseen cases involving a dual Kazakh-Israeli citizen charged with money laundering, a man arrested for sexually abusing three girls at an Army base, an attorney convicted of a $5 million fraud, mobsters nabbed for a decade-old murder, a banker who faked his own death, a union delegate sentenced for extorting Christmastime tribute, a doctor collared for illegal distribution of Oxycodone, a scamster who engineered an Alaskan gold-mine investment scheme, another scamster charged with facilitating a $6 million food-stamp fraud, five 7-Eleven franchisees who victimized immigrant employees, a fugitive who got in a shootout with U.S. Marshals, a pharmacist charged with smuggling counterfeit medicines via a Costa Rican Internet distributor, a drug dealer convicted of two contract murders, six corporate executives indicted for orchestrating a $500 million offshore fraud, a man convicted of using stolen Social Security numbers to file thousands of false tax returns, and a civil dispute over a dinosaur fossil

She has also pressed ahead with the prosecution of Rep. Michael Grimm, who was reelected this week despite being under indictment for lying under oath and allegedly cooking the books of a now-shuttered health-food restaurant. Grimm is a Republican and he charged during the campaign that the prosecution was politically motivated. That suggestion turns absurd when you consider the long list of corrupt Democrat politicians Lynch has sent to prison.

And nobody can rightly say that she seeks headlines in the way of too many other prosecutors. Her single and singular goal in every case is to pursue justice as determined by the law.

“I think we should want an attorney general who doesn’t seek the limelight, but seeks justice,” says Ken Thompson, who prosecuted the Louima case with her and has gone on to become the Brooklyn district attorney.

Thompson knows her life story and goes on to say, “What she represents is the American dream.”

He believes she would serve as an inspiration and a role model to young people who are beginning their own struggle toward that dream. He described her as a super-smart, fiercely focused, unshakably honest, and supremely fair-minded champion who would make an outstanding attorney general.

“We can’t as a country ask for more than Loretta Lynch,” Thompson says.

According to numerous reports, the departing attorney general, Eric Holder, agreed. He had already named her the head of his advisory council. And he was said to be urging Obama to appoint her as his successor.

On Friday, her 82-year-old father was down in North Carolina, remembering that his daughter sneezed in his face when he was carrying her home from the hospital after she was born. She had since been only a delight.

“Highly inquisitive, highly playful, always cheerful,” he recalls. “She would play with anything. She would make a toy out of anything.”

The father had known tragedy with the death of his son, the former SEAL, when he was just 51. The father now seemed about to know triumph with the nomination of the family’s other quiet professional, 55-year-old Loretta Lynch, as the new attorney general.

In this age of selfies, the president had chosen someone who never seeks the spotlight and lets her work speak for itself. The father said Friday night that he would wait until he actually sees it happen at the official ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Saturday.

“I would be proud, but my late mother said, ‘Don’t count your eggs, son, until they hatch,” he said. “When I see Mr. Obama and my daughter standing beside him, I’ll say something is about to happen.”

H/t: DB

This Is What Eric Holder’s Legacy Will Be

The Huffington Post

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold the top law enforcement position in the United States, announced on Thursday that he plans to step down from his position as soon as a successor can be confirmed. If he remains in office until December, Holder will become the third longest-serving Attorney General in the history of the United States. Here are some key components of his legacy.

He decided not to defend DOMA

The Obama administration initially defended the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages. At first, Holder maintained that while the administration disagreed with the law, it was the Justice Department’sresponsibility to defend the laws that Congress had passed. (Some of the briefs written by Justice Department lawyers arguing that DOMA was constitutional were considered offensive by gay rights organizations.)

But Holder’s analysis changed. He announced in February 2011 that the Justice Department would no longer defend components of the statute because DOMA “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships — precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling in June 2013 that key portions of DOMA were unconstitutional.

He lost the fight to bring the Sept. 11 trial out of Guantanamo Bay and into New York City

In one of the biggest disappointments of his tenure, Holder ultimately lost the fight to try the key perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks in federal court in New York City. The plan, first announced by Holder in Nov. 2009, faced stiff resistance from many politicians in New York who feared the impact a high-profile trial would have on the city. Others objected because they believed that a military commission was a more appropriate venue for the terrorism trial. Holder ultimately announced he was reversing his decision to try the cases in New York and moved them back to the military commission in Guantanamo.

While the process in Guantanamo has hit numerous roadblocks, Holder’s Justice Department has gathered a string of wins against other terror suspects in federal court. Holder has remarked that the Sept. 11 defendants “would be on death row as we speak” if the case had been allowed to proceed in federal court.

He helped turn around the Civil Rights Division and fought for voting rights

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department was heavily politicized during the Bush administration. A 2008 inspector general report found the conservative leadership had hired lawyers with little to no civil rights experience into positions due to their ideological beliefs. The environment caused a massive exodus in the Civil Rights Division: more than 70 percent of its attorneys left between 2003 and 2007. Holder, who has long made civil rights a top priority, was widely credited with overseeing the turnaround of the division.

“I think Eric Holder put the ‘J’ back in DOJ, and in particular he restored the luster of the crown jewel which is the Civil Rights Division, and I had the privilege of having a front-row seat for that,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who headed the Civil Rights Division from 2009 to 2013, told The Huffington Post after Holder’s announcement on Thursday.

Holder oversaw several of the Justice Department’s successful voting rights lawsuits during President Barack Obama’s first term, as well as the agency’s continued efforts after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. DOJ is currently involved in several voting rights cases, including high-profile suits against voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas.

He addressed racism head on.

Shortly after his confirmation in 2009, Holder delivered a speech to Justice Department employees at an event commemorating Black History Month. In his remarks, he called out the U.S. as a “nation of cowards” when it comes to addressing race. He said Americans believe that “certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”

Those words echoed throughout Holder’s tenure at the DOJ as he fought back against laws that suppressed voting and defended the Voting Rights Act. He stepped in to request federal oversight of the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-friskpolicy, a program that has overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino individuals. More recently, he ordered a civil rights investigation into the largely white police force in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

“Will we yet again turn a blind eye to the hard truths that Ferguson exposed?” Holder asked during a speech this week, echoing his 2009 remarks. “Or will we finally accept this mandate for open and honest dialogue?”

He oversaw a crackdown on leaks and disappointed civil liberties advocates

Under Holder, the Justice Department has aggressively — some would say obsessively — pursued government leakers. Eight have been charged with violating the draconian Espionage Act of 1917, more than under all previous administrations combined. Journalists have also come under the gun: Holder’s DOJ subpoenaed AP reporters’ phone logs in a leak investigation, named a Fox News reporter as an “un-indicted co-conspirator” in another case, and is still trying to force Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his sources under threat of jail time.

All of that led Risen to call Holder’s boss, Obama, “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

One of the leakers charged, Edward Snowden, revealed another disappointment for civil liberties advocates: the DOJ’s intimate role in coming up with the legal rationale that underlies the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The FBI’s frayed relationship with Muslim communities, meanwhile, has seen little improvement under Holder. The bureau has continued to use sting operations, which critics say are tantamount to entrapment, to arrest Muslims involved in bogus terror “plots.” And NPR reported on Wednesday that the racial profiling guidelines set to be released soon will still allow the FBI to “map” the demographics of Muslim communities.

Perhaps most worrying for many across the spectrum, it was Holder’s DOJ that came up with the “drone memos” — the legal justification that the Obama administration leaned on to kill al Qaeda propagandist and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen without a trial.

He released the so-called “torture memos,” but didn’t go after their authors — Shadee

Two months after assuming office in 2009, Holder moved to publicly release a series of previously classified “torture memos” from the Bush administration that sanctioned specific acts of torture, including waterboarding, for CIA use against al Qaeda suspects.

“There is no reason we cannot wage an effective fight against those who have sworn to harm us while we respect our most honored constitutional traditions,” Holder said in March 2009 after releasing nine previously classified Justice Department memos.

Despite the release, which faced significant pushback from senior intelligence officials, the attorney general’s office never brought criminal charges against any government officials investigated for their involvements in over 100 cases of severe prisoner abuse.

While crediting Holder in other areas, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero issued a statement on Thursday noting “profound disagreements with the Attorney General on national security issues.”

“During his tenure, DOJ approved the drone killing of an American far away from any battlefield, approved the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, failed to prosecute any of the Bush administration torturers, and presided over more leak prosecutions than all previous Justice Departments combined,” Romero said.

He became the first-ever cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress

In 2012, Holder became the only sitting cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress after the White House claimed executive privilege over documents subpoenaed in relation to Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal investigation intended to combat gun smuggling. The documents that the Justice Department refused to turn over related not to the actual operation, but rather to how DOJ responded once Congress began investigating the matter.

Holder later dismissed the vote — led by the Republican-controlled House — as political theater, calling it “a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people.”

The White House also indicated in 2012 that Holder would not face any criminal charges in the matter since the documents being sought were protected by executive privilege.

He took on “draconian” drug sentences and slowly but surely scaled back the war on drugs.

In what Obama described as a “gutsy speech” in front of the American Bar Association in 2013, Holder outlined his plan for “sweeping, systemic changes” to how the Justice Department prosecutes drug-related offenses. While Holder initially faced a lot of internal resistance from career federal prosecutors as he attempted to rein in the so-called war on drugs, he pressed ahead, pushing for changes like allowing low-level and nonviolent drug offenders to avoid “draconian” mandatory minimum sentences and permitting the early release of some elderly defendants.

He continued to push for sentencing reform in March, lending his support to aproposal that would reduce penalties for some drug offenders and help cut prison costs.

“This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate,” he said.

Holder has also urged first responders to carry the heroin overdose antidote naloxone.

He oversaw a crackdown on marijuana shops, but allowed state legalization to move forward

During the first term of the Obama administration, Holder oversaw an expansive federal crackdown on hundreds of state-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries in states like Colorado and California, which was spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Agency and several U.S. attorneys.

But in a historic step, Holder announced in 2013 that DOJ would allow for Colorado and Washington to implement their groundbreaking new laws legalizing and regulating the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana.

While Holder never explicitly came out in favor of legalization or decriminalization, he has been more open to rescheduling marijuana, which is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I substance like heroin. Holder said the Obama administration would be “more than glad” to work with Congress to re-examine how cannabis is scheduled federally. He even said in April that he’s “cautiously optimistic”about how the historic changes in marijuana law were working out in Washington and Colorado.

And now, as he plans to step down from his post, he appears to be more open than ever to the possibility of classifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug. He said in an interview just this week that “we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin” adding that science should be used to make that determination.

He reached big settlements on pollution cases

The DOJ reached a record $4 billion settlement with BP in November 2012 over criminal charges stemming from the 2010 oil spill, which dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That included charges related to the deaths of 11 workers on the rig and the “misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers.” The DOJ is still pursuing civil charges related to the spill, but the agency recently scored a big win when a federal judge ruled that BP was grossly negligent in allowing the spill to occur — a ruling that opens the door to up to $18 billion in civil penalties that could be levied against the company.

The DOJ topped its own record fine this year, however, with a $5.15 billion settlementin April 2014 with Anadarko Petroleum over a decades-long legacy of pollution left by one of its subsidiaries.

He failed to hold Wall Street accountable for the financial crisis

Holder’s legacy is likely to be marred by what critics view as DOJ’s lax approach to investigating and prosecuting the alleged crimes that sparked, or exacerbated, the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Few Wall Street firms, and even fewer senior financial executives, were officially charged with breaking the law for conduct related to the crisis, despite what experts contend is a wealth of evidence — thanks to civil lawsuits brought by aggrieved investors, prior investigations by state authorities, and probes by Congress and the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission — that at the very least should have prompted the Justice Department to investigate further.

Holder’s approach to crisis-era wrongdoing stands in stark contrast to the playbook followed by federal prosecutors contending with the fallout of the savings-and-loan debacle of the late 1980s and early 90s.

“In striking contrast with these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis, and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that none will be,” Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote earlier this year in the New York Review of Books.

The lack of public evidence that Holder’s Justice Department thoroughly investigated crisis-era wrongdoing has contributed to the perception — one eagerly promoted by the defense bar — that perhaps few crimes were even committed in the runup to the financial crisis.

“But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud,” Rakoff wrote, “the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.”

10 things you need to know today: September 26, 2014

Eric Holder tears up as he steps down.

Eric Holder tears up as he steps down. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Week

Eric Holder resigns, Iraq warns of a possible terrorist plot to attack U.S. subways, and more

1. Eric Holder is resigning as head of the Justice Department
Attorney General Eric Holder, a leading liberal voice in the Obama administration and the first African-American in the powerful post, is resigning, the Justice Department announced Thursday. Holder has been a driving force behind the administration’s support for same-sex marriage and protecting voting rights. That record, along with controversies such as the so-called Fast and Furious gun trafficking scandal, have made him a focus of conservative ire. He will stay on the job until his replacement — whom President Obama has not picked yet — is confirmed. [The New York Times]

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2. Iraqi prime minister warns of alleged plot to attack U.S. subways
Authorities in New York City increased police patrols on Thursday after Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said his country’s intelligence network had uncovered a terrorist plot to attack subways in the U.S. and Paris. U.S. security officials said, however, that they were not aware of any credible evidence of a scheme to carry out such an attack. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio boarded city subways to show the added police presence would ensure riders’ safety. [The Associated Press]

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3. Ferguson police chief apologizes to Michael Brown’s parents
Ferguson, Missouri, Police Chief Tom Jackson tried late Thursday to join a march of people protesting the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by one of his police officers in August, but his presence set off scuffles and several arrests. Hours earlier, Jackson had released avideo apology to the Brown family, saying he was “truly sorry” for their child’s death. The killing touched off weeks of unrest, after witnesses said Brown had his hands up when he was shot. [NBC News, The Christian Science Monitor]

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4. Investigators reportedly have identified ISIS killer in beheading videos
FBI Director James Comey said Thursday that intelligence officials had identified the masked, knife-wielding ISIS militant who has been seen in videos of the beheadings of three hostages — including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff — kidnapped in Syria. Comey declined to reveal the man’s identity. A European government source said the man, who spoke English with a British accent, appeared to be from a community of Asian immigrants in London. [Reuters]

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5. Three NYC firefighters who breathed WTC dust die of cancer hours apart
Three retired New York City firefighters died within hours of each other this week from illnesses believed linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Daniel Heglund, 58, Robert Leaver, 56, and Howard Bischoff, 58, suffered from cancer, and died on Monday. Ninety-two emergency workers involved in the rescue and then recovery efforts have died in the years since. Hundreds more continue to suffer from respiratory problems after inhaling dust and smoke at the scene. [CNN]

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6. Detroit elected officials regain control over their broke city’s daily operations
Detroit’s City Council unanimously voted Thursday to return oversight of the financially strapped city’s daily operations to elected officials. Under the plan, a state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, would retain control over issues connected to Detroit’s bankruptcy case, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Orr already has been gradually returning financial authority to Detroit’s elected leaders. His 18-month contract ends this weekend. [Detroit Free Press]

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7. British lawmakers expected to approve airstrikes against ISIS
British Parliament is expected to approve Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to join the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq. Lawmakers are meeting in a specially convened session to consider the matter on Friday. Cameron moved carefully after lawmakers rejected airstrikes against Syrian government forces last year, a humiliating political defeat, but leaders across the political spectrum say Cameron has broad support to bomb the Islamist militant group. [NBC News]

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8. Obama approving huge expansion of Pacific marine reserve
President Obama plans to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday. The reserve, which Obama would establish using his executive authority, would protect some of the central Pacific Ocean’s coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that are among the “most vulnerable” to climate change, Kerry said during a meeting on preserving the world’s oceans. Obama’s move will expand the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000. [The Washington Post]

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9. Thirty states could soon have gas prices below $3 a gallon
The price of gasoline could fall below $3 per gallon in 30 states by the end of the year, according to a forecast from GasBuddy.com. Prices typically dip in autumn, and this year the trend is being magnified by falling fuel prices worldwide. The national average has already dropped to $3.35 per gallon, which is almost its lowest point this year and a dime below the same time last year. [The Associated Press]

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10. Jeter bats in the winning run in his last game at Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees star Derek Jeter smacked the game-winning hit in the final inning of the final home game of his 20-year career on Thursday night. The 6-5 victory against the Baltimore Orioles was Jeter’s 1,627th regular-season win in a Yankee uniform. Jeter called his final hit — his 3,463rd — “an out-of-body experience.” Next, Jeter will join the team for a season-ending series in Boston, but only as a designated hitter. “I’ve played shortstop my entire career,” he said, “and the last time I wanted to play was tonight.” [The New York Times]

Attorney General Eric Holder to step down

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a Sept. 4 news conference at the Justice Department in Washington. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

This is sad news for many people who thought AG Holder was a fine Attorney General…

The Washington Post

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., an original member of President Obama’s Cabinet, plans to leave the post as soon as a successor is confirmed.

President Obama will make an announcement about Holder later Thursday, according to White House officials.

“After serving for nearly six years as the head of the Justice Department, Holder is the first African American to be Attorney General of the United States and will be the fourth longest person to hold the position,” said a White House official, who asked not to be identified because the announcement had not been made yet.

“Holder’s accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system. Holder revitalized the Department’s praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few. He will remain at the Department of Justice until his post is filled.”

When Holder would leave office has been one of Washington’s great guessing games. He has had a combative relationship with congressional Republicans.

NPR first reported the news of Holder’s departure late Thursday morning.

Eric Holder Says Justice Department Has Moles on Wall Street

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Testifying on High Frequency Trading Before the House Appropriations Committee on April 4, 2014

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Testifying on High Frequency Trading Before the House Appropriations Committee on April 4, 2014 | No attribution

This is excellent news because those guys truly believe they are “The Masters of the Universe“.  Now let’s see a few of their bubbles burst…H/t: PamK741

Wall Street On Parade – 9-23-2014

In addition to hundreds of Federal bank examiners permanently stationed at Wall Street’s biggest banks by the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in an effort to eradicate a serial crime spree, an unknown number of Justice Department moles are now roaming about the mahogany corridors of power, chatting up potential criminals around the water cooler and hoping to make it out alive before being detected.

Avoiding detection as a mole becomes so much more challenging when the highest law enforcement officer in the land, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, comes to New York to address Wall Street’s lawyers and tells them, flat out, that he’s got moles stationed inside his Wall Street targets. (There were likely 100,000 text messages flying about Wall Street before Holder got to the next paragraph of his speech.)

The revelation by Holder came on September 17, not in off the cuff remarks, but in a carefully prepared speech delivered at NYU School of Law in Manhattan. Discussing an insider trading case, Holder stated:

“It was only because the government had a cooperating witness inside the company – a witness who had agreed to wear a wire – that the department was able to record a verbal account of these actions, to illuminate other obstruction, and to uncover illegal conduct that otherwise might never have come to light.

“Similarly, in our full-court press to investigate and prosecute the ongoing LIBOR matter – which is being led by the Criminal and Antitrust Divisions, and involved a wide-ranging scheme to rig one of the world’s benchmark interest rates – witnesses from inside some of the world’s leading financial firms have played important roles.  They have strengthened our ability to follow leads; to obtain guilty pleas from subsidiaries of major banks like UBS and RBS; and to pursue individual charges against nine former traders and managers at these institutions. Our ongoing investigation into the manipulation of foreign exchange rates has relied on similar investigative techniques involving undercover cooperators, as well.” [Italics added.]

We learn two things in that last sentence. Moles are now called “undercover cooperators” by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney General wants Wall Street to know they’re there.

One can just imagine the paranoia that has spread exponentially on Wall Street since September 17. Every question asked by a colleague is assumed to be a trap. Every wrinkle in those crisp, $400 Gekko shirts is assumed to be a wire. A pair of new eyeglasses might be equipped with a Justice Department mic.

So why would Eric Holder want to throw cold water on all that wonderful synergism on Wall Street — “The Cartel” and “The Bandits’ Club” in the world of foreign currency trading come to mind.

Based on the rest of Holder’s speech, one has the feeling that since multi-billion dollar fines have not worked; deferred prosecutions have not worked; the 849-page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act didn’t work; and perp walks of the lower ranks haven’t worked, the new crime deterrent strategy on Wall Street appears to be to spread the word of an army of moles hiding out in bathroom stalls, boardrooms, and perched on bar stools to record loose tongues.

Holder is nothing if not straight-forward. He came right out and acknowledged that  those jaded ways of Wall Street that collapsed the financial system six years ago are back. “…we are already witnessing a troubling return to some of the very same profit-driven risk-taking that contributed to the 2008 collapse,” said Holder.

Holder went to great lengths to explain how hard it is to prosecute Wall Street’s top dogs, saying it “is true for any number of reasons – from possible advice-of-counsel defenses; to the adequacy or inadequacy of written disclosures; to the difficulty to establish materiality and intent.  And in some instances, it is simply not possible to establish knowledge of a particular scheme on the part of a high-ranking executive who is far removed from a firm’s day-to-day operations.”

The new thinking at the Justice Department, according to Holder, involves incentivizing individuals. Holder told the audience of lawyers: “…no financial fraud case is prosecutable unless we have sufficient evidence of intent – we should seek to better equip investigators to obtain this often-elusive evidence.  This means, among other things, thinking creatively about ways to incentivize witness cooperation and encourage whistleblowers at financial firms to come forward.”

One way to do that, according to Holder, is to increase the bounty for whistleblowers on Wall Street to the one-third of recovered amounts that can be paid to whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, which is limited to fraud against government-funded programs. Holder said he would “implore” Congress to take that action.

Holder explained further:

“…the Justice Department has come to rely on a statute known as the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act – or FIRREA – a little-used law passed after the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.  Over the last few years, the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group – a part of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force – has been aggressive in using this law to develop the types of cases that have resulted in major settlements with JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America, among many others…

“Like the False Claims Act, FIRREA includes a whistleblower provision.  Butunlike the FCA, the amount an individual can receive in exchange for coming forward is capped at just $1.6 million – a paltry sum in an industry in which, last year, the collective bonus pool rose above $26 billion, and median executive pay was $15 million and rising.

“In this unique environment, what would – by any normal standard – be considered a windfall of $1.6 million is unlikely to induce an employee to risk his or her lucrative career in the financial sector.”

So the new plan at Justice to rein in an unrepentant Wall Street appears to be spreading moles about like rat traps in an infested basement while dangling the incentive cheese that they may be able to retire sooner and better off than their bosses.

Of course, there is also the less taxpayer-costly plan of simply breaking up these global behemoths so that they can’t ever again crash the economy by restoring the one law that actually worked for 66 years – the Glass-Steagall Act.

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.