Holder Is Obama's Pick For Attorney General

Washington attorney Eric Holder has been chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to be the next attorney general. Holder, a former U.S. attorney who served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Department under President Clinton, would be the nation's first black attorney general.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. President-elect Obama has selected Eric Holder to be the next attorney general. He is a former Deputy Attorney General, and while there has been no public announcement of the decision, NPR has confirmed that the job has been offered and accepted. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg joins us now in the studio. And, Nina, tell us a little bit about Eric Holder.

NINA TOTENBERG: Well, Robert, he went to your high school, Stuyvesant High School in New York, which is one these meritocracy-track things. It's really hard to get in.

SIEGEL: Very hard.

TOTENBERG: Very hard. He went to Columbia College, Columbia law school. He's a son of an immigrant. His father was from Barbados. His mother was a secretary, father sold real estate.

He spent 25 years in public life and law enforcement before joining the prestigious law firm of Covington & Burling in 2001. And prior to that, he worked in the Justice Department as a career lawyer. He was a local judge here in D.C., and in 1993, he became the first African-American United States attorney here in the nation's capital, where he prosecuted, among others, long-time Democratic Congressman Dan Rostenkowski on corruption charges. In 1997, President Clinton named him to the number two job in the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General.

SIEGEL: And it was in that position that Eric Holder finally got what amounts to a bad grade.

TOTENBERG: That's exactly right. On the last day of the Clinton administration, he was asked to review a proposed presidential pardon for fugitive financier, Marc Rich, whose ex-wife had given a lot of money to the Clinton campaigns. And according to his later testimony, he did not pay the matter all that much attention and wrote neutral, leaning towards favorable.

In short, he signed off on the pardon when he should have raised a red flag, and he later said he wished he'd done some things differently, but expressed frustration at being what he viewed as the fall guy for a White House decision.

SIEGEL: Well, do you think that'll be a problem at his confirmation hearing?

TOTENBERG: I think that, from what I heard today, they must have gotten some readings on Capitol Hill that, while it would be discussed, it would not be a problem, that he would be easily confirmed.

SIEGEL: What has Eric Holder been doing since 2001?

TOTENBERG: Well, he's a big-time partner, doing everything from conducting the NFL investigation of dog-fighting charges against Michael Vic to negotiating a plea deal for Chiquita with federal prosecutors.

SIEGEL: Chiquita bananas?

TOTENBERG: Chiquita bananas. And his role in the Obama campaign has been very significant. He's done - he's been friends with Obama for some years. He's done everything from fundraising to, in the end, being the head of the vice presidential vetting team, the guy that really had to...

SIEGEL: Uh hmm.

TOTENBERG: Review everybody to make sure they were on the QT. Bue he said he had no plans to be in the administration, and he deflected questions about prospects by noting that he's married to a quote, "wonderful woman," OB-GYN doctor Sharon Malone, who, as he puts it, tells me I won't be going anywhere except back to my law firm.

Well, after the election, he told friends something a little different. He said, I just really want to be part of this. And, now apparently, he's going to be.

SIEGEL: And the news, again, is that Eric Holder evidently has been offered the position of attorney general by President-elect Obama and he's accepted. Thanks, Nina.

TOTENBERG: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: NPR's Nina Totenberg.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.