US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced he will step down once a successor is nominated and confirmed.
Holder, the nation’s first black Attorney General, has held that post for all six years of President Barack Obama’s time in office.
The news of Holder’s resignation was first reported Thursday by NPR.
Holder, raised in New York City, became the 82nd Attorney General when he was sworn in on Feb. 3, 2009. He returned to the Department of Justice after previously serving as Deputy Attorney General under President Bill Clinton.
Holder’s time as AG has been tumultuous. He came under a deluge of criticism from New York City officials, police and the families of the Sept. 11, 2001 victims after proposing to prosecute those responsible in Manhattan. The uproar forced Holder to drop those plans.
Then, in 2012, Congress held Holder in contempt—the first such vote against a Cabinet official in history—for refusing to release documents related to the bungled “Fast and Furious” operation, which was a program involving weapons that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used to sting Mexican drug cartels. One of the guns that authorities lost track of was later used to kill a Border Patrol agent in 2010.
Holder has also had a contentious relationship with journalists. It was Holder’s Department of Justice that secretly obtained phone records from Associated Press journalists as part of a probe into a foiled al-Qaeda plot. And it was under his watch that more people have been charged in Espionage Act cases than under all previous administrations.
Still ongoing, and potentially most troubling for journalists, is the Justice Department’s repeated attempts to force New York Times journalist James Risen to testify and reveal the name of his source in one chapter of his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, which exposed “a failed attempt by the CIA to have a former Russian scientist provide flawed nuclear weapons’ blueprints to Iran,” according to court documents from Risen’s federal appeals court hearing.
Holder has said, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter will go to jail for doing his job.”
Holder has received praised by many in the minority community for his willingness to speak about racial issues—a subject Obama has largely avoided while in office.
Recently, Holder was dispatched to Ferguson, Mo., to speak with the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer, and to help calm the fears of members of the community who say they’ve been disenfranchised for far too long.
Holder’s resume also includes a stint as Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. President Ronald Reagan appointed Holder to that position in 1988.
In New York, the Attorney General has lent his support to a lawsuit claiming that public defenders in New York are “overworked and overmatched.”
The suit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union seven years ago and set for trial in October, names three upstate counties and Suffolk County as defendants.
In one case, Eric Witherspoon was held in jail for two years before his trial and went nine months without speaking with his Suffolk County public defender, according to the NYCLU report. He was eventually found guilty on burglary charges and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“To truly guarantee adequate representation for low-income defendants, we must ensure that public defenders’ caseloads allow them to do an effective job,” Holder said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to addressing the inequalities that unfold every day in America’s courtrooms.”
-With Spencer Rumsey