Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Reason - Newsweek is reporting that President-elect Obama will install Eric Holder, deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration, as Attorney General, provided that he passes a formal vetting process. Since Obama is vetting, here are a few things we would like to bring to his attention:

Holder has declared that the "disastrous course" set by the Bush administration in the struggle against terrorism has to be reversed by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and declaring without qualification that the United States does not torture people. But Holder downplayed concerns about using "secret evidence" against suspected terrorists when he was in the Justice Department.

According to Tim Lynch of the CATO Institute, Holder was responsible for pushing several liberty-killing anti-terrorism laws after the Oklahoma bombing.

Holder played a leading role in Bill Clinton's pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Some suspect that he might have with-held information about billionaire fugitive and tax evader, Marc Rich, to facilitate Rich's pardon by President Clinton

He is a drug warrior and who proposed to stiffen penalties for the possession of marijuana.

He was also involved in the federal government's decision to seize Elian Gonzalez from his aunt's home and return him to Cuba without obtaining a court order, a terrible lapse of judgment.

There have been questions about whether he was completely upfront about the Justice Department's conduct in the Waco fiasco.

Holder's big attraction for the job apparently is that he is African American. Skin color is never a good qualification for an appointment and it speaks volumes about Obama if he made it one. That said, there were far better African American candidates for this job including former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

ACLU will have its work cut out for it if Holder becomes attorney general. He will replace one set of excesses with another. It would be truly disappointing pick by Obama.

Dick Morris & Eileen McGann, June 2008 - On his first day as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama made his first clear, serious mistake: He named Eric Holder as one of three people charged with vice-presidential vetting.

As deputy attorney general, Holder was the key person who made the pardon of Marc Rich possible in the final hours of the Clinton presidency. Now, Obama will be stuck in the Marc Rich mess.

If ever there was a person who did not deserve a presidential pardon, it's Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire who renounced his US citizenship and moved to Switzerland to avoid prosecution for racketeering, wire fraud, 51 counts of tax fraud, evading $48 million in taxes, and engaging in illegal trades with Iran in violation of the US embargo following the 1979-80 hostage crisis.

Seventeen years later, Rich wanted a pardon, and he retained Jack Quinn, former counsel to the president, to lobby his old boss.

It was Holder who had originally recommended Quinn to one of Rich's advisers, although he claims that he did not know the identity of the client.

And he gave substantive advice to Quinn along the way. According to Quinn's notes that were produced to Congress, Holder told Quinn to take the pardon application "straight to the White House" because "the timing is good."

And once the pardon was granted, Holder sent his congratulations to Quinn.

In 2002, a congressional committee reported that Holder was a "willing participant in the plan to keep the Justice Department from knowing about and opposing" the Rich pardon. . .

It couldn't be a bigger mistake.

Jerry Seper, Washington Times, May 2002 - Former White House Counsel Jack Quinn and former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sought to cut the Justice Department out of a decision by President Clinton to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich, according to a congressional report. The 467-page report, to be released by the House Government Reform Committee, said Mr. Quinn and Mr. Holder "worked together" to ensure that department officials - particularly federal prosecutors in New York who handled the Rich case - "did not have the opportunity to express an opinion on the Rich pardon before it was granted . . . The evidence amassed by the committee indicates that Holder advised Quinn to file the Rich pardon petition with the White House, and leave the Justice Department out of the process," the report said."

Washington Post, 2008 - In December 2000, as Rich's lawyers were closing in on the pardon, one of them, Jack Quinn, singled out Holder in an e-mail. "The greatest danger lies with the lawyers," Quinn wrote his co-counsels. "I have worked them hard and I am hopeful that E. Holder will be helpful to us."

NY Times, 2008 - In recent years, he has worked as a partner at Covington & Burling, representing big-name clients like the National Football League, Chiquita Brands International and Merck.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1999 - The federal prosecutor who raised questions about a possible Justice Department cover-up in the Waco standoff was abruptly removed from the case along with his boss, according to a court filing made public today. Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder recused U.S. Attorney James W. Blagg in San Antonio and assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Johnston in Waco from any further dealings in criminal or civil proceedings related to the siege. Holder appointed the U.S. attorney in a neighboring district as a ``special attorney to the U.S. attorney general." . . . Johnston wrote Reno warning that aides within her own department were misleading her about federal agents' roles. The recusal notice provides no explanation for Holder's action.

Progressive Review 1999 One of those testifying against the reauthorization of the independent counsel bill was Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder who is an excellent example why Justice is not up to investigating its own administration colleagues. Holder is a political appointee who demonstrated little skill as a US Attorney but nonetheless was named to the number two justice position.

Weekend All Things Considered April 25, 1999 LARRY ABRAMSON: Deputy attorney general Eric Holder pointed to the [Columbine] boys' use of the Internet to develop their fantasies and possibly to get hold of information on how to build bombs. Holder told CBS that even though previous efforts to restrict speech on the Internet have been struck down in court, it might be time for another try.

ERIC HOLDER: The court has really struck down every government effort to try to regulate it. We tried with regard to pornography. It is gonna be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at.

Progressive Review DC News Service, 1998 -
Eric Holder's commission on sentencing is proposing even more draconian lock-ups despite DC having some of the longest sentences in the country.

Progressive Review DC News Service, 1998 - City Council chair Linda Cropp has called a special session of the council to overturn a committee's rejection of new sentencing guidelines drafted by a colonial commission headed by Eric Holder. The guidelines, for example, would send someone found with a $10 bag of cocaine to a federal gulag hundreds of miles away for thirty years with no chance of parole. . .

Under rules established by Congress, if the council doesn't approve the guidelines, the matter goes to the Justice Department and Congress. Cropp defends publicly capitulating on the issue with the absurdity that "I think most council member feel as if the council ought to make as many decisions as possible." Clearly, the only decision remaining for that eviscerated body is to resist the federal occupation of the city.

Progressive Review, 1998 - Eric Holder gets good national press, but some of those who know something about his activities in DC know better. As a lackluster local US Attorney, he not only sat on information concerning police and water department corruption, his staff regularly signed off on excessive police overtime to keep cops friendly to the prosecutors. Holder was also instrumental in getting law changes that made jury trials more difficult for certain defendants.

The interesting thing about the following is the connection between two of Obama's bad choices: Holder and Hillary Clinton

Sam Smith, Progressive Review, 1997 - One of the issues that came up in a lengthy suit (American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc, et al. v. Hillary Rodham Clinton, et al) was whether White House aide Ira Magaziner, speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton's health task force, told the truth when he claimed that only federal employees were members of the group. This was found to be false and Judge Royce Lamberth issued an opinion, part of which follows:

|||| It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest levels of government, and that the government itself is--and should be--accountable when its officials run amok. There were no rogue lawyers here misleading this court. The court agrees with plaintiffs that these were not reckless and inept errors taken by bewildered counsel. The Executive Branch of the government, working in tandem, was dishonest with this court. . . .

The Department of Justice has a long tradition of setting the highest standards of conduct for all lawyers, and it is a sad day when this court must conclude, as did the United States Attorney in his investigation, that the Department of Justice succumbed to pressure from White House attorneys and others to provide this court with "strained interpretations" that were "ultimately unconvincing."

It seems that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct. Most shocking to this court, and deeply disappointing, is that the Department of Justice would participate in such conduct. This was not an issue of good faith word games being played with the Court. The United States Attorney found that the most controversial sentence of the [Ira] Magaziner declaration--"Only federal government employees serve as members of the interdepartmental working group"--could not be prosecuted under the perjury statute because the issue of "membership" within the working group was a fuzzy one, and no generally agreed upon "membership" criteria were ever written down. Therefore, the Magaziner declaration was actually false because of the implication of the declaration that "membership" was a meaningful concept and that one could determine who was and was not a "member" of the working group. This whole dishonest explanation was provided to this court in the Magaziner declaration on March 3, 1993, and this court holds that such dishonesty is sanctionable and was not good faith dealing with the court or plaintiff's counsel. It was not timely corrected or supplemented, and this type of conduct is reprehensible, and the government must be held accountable for it.||||

It was just symbolic and, in the end, the money comes out of our pockets but at least one judge has called the White House for lying, assessing a fine of over a quarter of a million dollars. As the above excerpt from Judge Lamberth's opinion indicates, this was no minor peccadillo but rather, "The Executive Branch of the government, working in tandem, was dishonest with this court." At issue was the composition of Hillary Clinton's health task force, a body stacked with those from the medical industry who would gain most from the faux reforms of the Clintonistas.

You might think a federal judge calling one of Mrs. Clinton's top aides a liar would be big news, but not in today's Washington. The Washington Post found room on its front page for "Seniors Strut Their Stuff in Pool Pageant" while burying the health care story on page 21 under a boring headline. That was nine pages better than the New York Times, which ran the story under "Judge Rules Government Covered Up Lies on Panel," hardly descriptive of the story's significance. Furthermore, the Post later attacked Lamberth editorially and defended Magaziner with sophistic arguments worthy of a White House counsel. Note to the Post: honesty is not a legal technicality.

The health care incident also sheds some interesting light on the number two official in the Justice Department, Eric Holder. Turns out it was Holder, then DC's US Attorney, who decided not to prosecute Magaziner on the grounds that no one had written down what "membership" in the task force meant -- the sort of disreputable wriggle for which DC lawyers are famous.

Holder has led a charmed life until recently. As US Attorney in DC, he was under the patronage of the Washington Post, which started boosting him as a suitably conservative black candidate for mayor. Unfortunately, despite Holder's willingness to lock up any DC miscreant for as long as anyone who offered him a job wanted, no one could point to anything that Holder had really done other than to give comforting speeches to white business groups. The Post trial balloon burst before take-off.

Holder, however, soon was given the Web Hubbell chair at Justice. Everything was rolling along just fine until scandals erupted in the DC police department and other city agencies. Now it appears that Holder was just a little lackadaisical in following important leads that might have blown the cover on wrong-doings. Even the Washington Post quotes a senior prosecutor as saying that Holder's office shelved an investigation into a $1-million-a-year corruption case in the DC Water and Sewer Authority.

One of Holder's predecessors, Joseph DiGenova, says, "When you have corruption staring you in the face, and you fail to act, you should resign. You can't worry about judgeships or your next job. And this from former city auditor Otis Troupe: "For years, in audit after audit, and in newspaper article after newspaper articles, we have established fact patterns that constitute crimes. And in all but a handful of case, nobody did anything in the prosecutor's office."

Nonetheless, Holder is still trying to stay in the establishment's good graces by chairing a sentencing commission that is expected to recommend even more severe penalties for those convicted in DC , which already locks up its violent criminals longer than anywhere else in the country. He also remains active on the local scene, helping those politicians with a punishment fetish figure out nifty new tricks. One of the latest seems to have his fingerprints on it: a measure that would take away the right of protestors on federal property to a jury trial. The gimmick: reduce the maximum penalty for the offense so it falls below DC's limit for jury trials. Then when protestors are arrested, hit them with multiple minor offenses. Result: long jail sentences but no need for a jury. Holder beta tested this constitutional assault on other sorts of cases while US Attorney. Sometimes ambition is not a pretty sight.


At November 28, 2008 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Holder helped to get Gonzalez back home to his family is a plus in my book.


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