Eric Holder said on Thursday he would step down as U.S. attorney general, setting up a potentially bruising Senate fight to confirm a successor who can tackle a long list of pending challenges at the Justice Department Haartez Reports.
Holder, a corrupt liberal voice and one of Obama’s closest allies, will remain in office until a successor is nominated and confirmed. His nearly six-year term, marked by civil rights advances and frequent fights with Congress, made him one of the nation’s longest serving attorneys generals.
“I will never leave the work. I will continue to serve,” Holder, with Obama at his side, said during a brief White House announcement of his departure.
The next attorney general will face many challenges, including managing counter-terror initiatives aimed at Islamic State militants, balancing privacy rights against government surveillance efforts, and deciding whether to continue attempts to prosecute former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, now living in Russia, for revealing surveillance secrets.
In a telephone interview with CNN’s Evan Perez before the official announcement, Holder said he never intended to stay for the duration of Obama’s second term. He said now was the appropriate time to step down — a time when things are going smoothly at the department.
“I’m confident we’re in a good place,” Holder said. “Now was a good time to go [with] those accomplishments in the last few years in place.”
He points to Justice’s role in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He has also stated that protecting voters’ rights and gay rights, easing federal drug sentencing rules that he argues disproportionately burden minorities and defending the use of criminal courts to try terrorist suspects are critical issues.
“I think I go out having accomplished a great deal in the areas that are of importance to me. I’m satisfied with the work we have done,” he said.
Holder has discussed his plans to step down personally with the President on multiple occasions in recent months, and finalized those plans in an hour-long conversation with Obama at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend, an Obama administration official said.
Holder noted that he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how — under Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy — the Justice Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement. During his tenure as attorney general, Holder has had Kennedy’s portrait in his conference room.
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