President-elect Barack Obama has his sights set on Washington attorney Eric Holder to serve as his attorney general. According to the Associated Press, Obama’s transition aides have gone so far as to ask senators whether he would be confirmed.
Holder, a former U.S. attorney who served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, would be the nation’s first black attorney general.
Also a former judge and U.S. attorney in Washington, Holder is widely respected in legal circles and among Justice Department career lawyers. He has been on Obama’s short list to be attorney general since before the election, and already has had private conversations about how he would run the department.
A potential snag in Holder’s confirmation would be his involvement in the 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Clinton at the end of his presidency.
Rich was a wealthy commodities dealer who had spent years running from tax charges. Holder said he was “neutral, leaning toward favorable” on the pardon. Clinton later cited that as among the factors that persuaded him to issue the pardon.
Among Holder’s fans is Rev. Al Sharpton, who issued a statement Tuesday praising Obama’s attorney general choice as “a great step toward bringing responsible change to this country at this juncture in history.”
“When he served as deputy attorney general we worked with him on his review of the Amadou Diallo police shooting case in New York and other civil rights cases down through the years,” said Sharpton. “He has been balanced in his support of law enforcement as well as his support for accountability of law enforcement. I think that his appointment is one that both the law enforcement and the civil rights community can exhale and says that someone that is fair and open will take the top law enforcement seat in Washington.”