Eric Holder recently announced that he will be stepping down as the United State's first black attorney general. Holder has had a mixed-legacy in the office, taking criticism from both sides of the aisle. President Barack Obama has called the announcement "bittersweet," but has yet to name a successor. Various names have been floating around to replace Holder, but whoever gets the job will face a number of challenges.
President Obama praised Holder for his handling of counter-terrorism, civil rights, public corruption, and white collar crime, stating, "Eric has done a superb job.
Others have been much less pleased with Eric Holder's handling of a number of issues. In June 2012, the House of Representatives found Holder in contempt for failing to provide Justice Department with documents related to the failed gun trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious. Republican Representative Darrell Issa called Holder, "the most divisive US attorney general in modern history."
Prior to President Obama coming out in support of same-sex marriage, Eric Holder opted to not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act in 2011, much to the ire of conservatives. He also successfully challenged state voter-ID laws, and pressed for federal investigations of police departments' accused of civil rights violations.
From the other side, Holder has taken hits from civil liberty advocates for his justification for killing terrorism suspects oversees, and defense of expanded drone strikes. Holder took controversial steps in prosecuting terrorism cases inside the US, however; the process of dealing with detainees at Guantanamo Bay is still unclear.
One of the most public criticisms of Eric Holder has been in his handling of financial fraud and prosecuting white collar crimes. No banker has faced criminal charges related to the 2008 financial crisis. In a Senate hearing in 2013, Holder said that the institutions have become too large. "It has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he said.
There may be a number of reasons Holder did not go after Wall Street executives. Some argue that the banking executives actions may have been reckless and extremely harmful, it did not meet the standards to prosecute criminally. In defense of his inaction, Holder has said, "sometimes a company's conduct may be wrong, may be hard to defend, but not necessarily be violative of the criminal law."
However, looking to the billion dollar settlements some of the banks entered into, point to evidence of wrongdoing. The banks did not formally admit to doing anything wrong in the civil cases brought by the Justice Department. When announcing some settlements, Holder statedthat these institutions knowingly sold toxic loans, and misrepresented investors.
Nomination of a replacement is not likely to take place before the November elections, and until someone else takes over, Holder will remain in the office. A long list of potential candidates has been floating around, with various news agencies picking out a short list of names. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is one possible candidate, who took over for Elena Kagan after she joined the Supreme Court. Labor Secretary Tom Perez is another possibility, who prior served as the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Others have suggested Holder's replacement will be a woman. One name includes former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who was the longest-serving counsel in the Obama administration. US Attorney Jenny Durkan, and current University of California President Janet Napolitano have also been suggested as possible contenders.
A number of key unresolved issues remain on the desk of the next attorney general, including banking fraud, Guantanamo detainees, and dealing with continued security leaks. Whoever is chosen to replace Holder will face some tough questioning from a decidedly divided Congress.