holderericHere is today’s column in USA Today calling for the firing of Attorney General Eric Holder (I have added a couple lines removed in editing). Holder is not the only individual who needs to leave federal office but he is the first. Equally responsible are his deputy, James Cole, and Ronald Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who played critical roles in the investigation of journalists with Associated Press and Fox News. Notably, Obama reportedly “fired” IRS Director Steve Miller (who was reportedly already leaving) over the IRS scandal though there is no indication of any knowledge on his part. In Holder’s case, he was personally involved in targeting journalists (in the Fox case) and launched an attack on the media that has been condemned by a wide array of public interest and media groups. Yet, Holder has been asked to hold a simple meeting with aggrieved media representatives by Obama.

Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the administration’s sweeping surveillance of journalists with the Associated Press. In the greatest attack on the free press in decades, the Justice Department seized phone records for reporters and editors in at least three AP offices as well as its office in the House of Representatives. Holder, however, proceeded to claim absolute and blissful ignorance of the investigation, even failing to recall when or how he recused himself.

Yet, this was only the latest attack on the news media under Holder’s leadership. Despite his record, he expressed surprise at the hearing that the head of the Republican National Committee had called for his resignation. After all, Holder pointed out, he did nothing. That is, of course, precisely the point. Unlike the head of the RNC, I am neither a Republican nor conservative, and I believe Holder should be fired.

The ‘sin eater’

Holder’s refusal to accept responsibility for the AP investigation was something of a change for the political insider. His value to President Obama has been his absolute loyalty. Holder is what we call a “sin eater” inside the Beltway — high-ranking associates who shield presidents from responsibility for their actions. Richard Nixon had H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. Ronald Reagan had Oliver North and Robert “Bud” McFarlane. George W. Bush had the ultimate sin eater: Dick Cheney, who seemed to have an insatiable appetite for sins to eat.

This role can be traced to 18th century Europe, when families would use a sin eater to clean the moral record of a dying person by eating bread from the person’s chest and drinking ale passed over his body. Back then, the ritual’s power was confined to removing minor sins.

For Obama, there has been no better sin eater than Holder. When the president promised CIA employees early in his first term that they would not be investigated for torture, it was the attorney general who shielded officials from prosecution. When the Obama administration decided it would expand secret and warrantless surveillance, it was Holder who justified it. When the president wanted the authority to kill any American he deemed a threat without charge or trial, it was Holder who went public to announce the “kill list” policy.

Last week, the Justice Department confirmed that it was Holder who personally approved the equally abusive search of Fox News correspondent James Rosen’s e-mail and phone records in another story involving leaked classified information. In the 2010 application for a secret warrant, the Obama administration named Rosen as “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” to the leaking of classified materials. The Justice Department even investigated Rosen’s parents’ telephone number, and Holder was there to justify every attack on the news media.

Ignoble legacy

Yet, at this month’s hearing, the attorney general had had his fill. Accordingly, Holder adopted an embarrassing mantra of “I have no knowledge” and “I had no involvement” throughout the questioning. When he was not reciting the equivalent to his name, rank and serial number, he was implicating his aide, Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Cole, it appears, is Holder’s sin eater. Holder was so busy denying responsibility for today’s scandals, he began denying known facts about older scandals. For example, Holder was asked about an earlier scandal in his administration in the handling of the “Fast and Furious” program where guns were allowed to be sold to criminal gangs. Holder insisted that Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, was not told to decline the prosecution of Holder for contempt of Congress after refusing to turn over key documents and that “[Machen] made the determination about what he was going to do on his own.” However, Holder’s deputy, Cole, wrote to Machen to inform him (before the contempt citation even reached his office) that Main Justice “has determined that the Attorney General’s response to the subpoena . . . does not constitute a crime.”

In the end, Holder was the best witness against his continuing in office. His insistence that he did nothing was a telling moment. The attorney general has done little in his tenure to protect civil liberties or the free press. Rather, Holder has supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process. This ignoble legacy was made possible by Democrats who would look at their shoes whenever the Obama administration was accused of constitutional abuses.

On Thursday, Obama responded to the outcry over the AP and Fox scandals by calling for an investigation by … you guessed it … Eric Holder. He ordered Holder to meet with news media representatives to hear their “concerns” and report back to him. He sent his old sin eater for a confab with the very targets of the abusive surveillance. Such an inquiry offers no reason to trust its conclusions.

The feeble response was the ultimate proof that these are Obama’s sins despite his effort to feign ignorance. It did not matter that Holder is the sin eater who has lost his stomach or that such mortal sins are not so easily digested. Indeed, these sins should be fatal for any attorney general.

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

May 29, 2013 USA Today

182 thoughts on “FIRE ERIC HOLDER

  1. I think these letters from congressmen to Holder was a request for Holder to investigate the unconstitutional activity of Mr. MUellers Orwellian FBI for investigating antiwar activists and critics of the establishment for exercising 1st amendment rights…when have these arrogant 30 year bureaucrats acting under color of law… at the FBI ever had a respect for constitutional rights….the bugging of MLK…the Geraldo program on Alexander Charns book on the FBI bugging the Supreme Court… .. …and the Writ of Certiori this writer filed with the Supreme Court on this same subject and the harrassment of this writer for this action…waco and the use of cs gas that resulted in the death of 25 children…dan burton investigation of fBI involvment with the Boston mafia…when are we going to have a congressional investigation of the unconstitutional activity of this orwellian agency and legislation that furthers
    legal recourse allowed under the 4th, 1st, and other amendments of the constitution…???????

  2. Bron 1, May 31, 2013 at 11:08 am

    “why is holder investigating anti-war activists? I would think they would generally be for Obama as they are most likely left wing orgs.”

    In your binary world, even perfectly legal, non-partisan investigations are somehow suspicious. The law in question has been around since the days of Saint Ronald. Now, however, since Obama is supposedly employing it, you are concerned.

    And, not for nothing, but what kind of mind-set automatically assumes that anti-war organizations are “left wing”? Wasn’t Ron Paul anti war? Are you unaware that principled Conservatives opposed U.S. participation in both WW I and WW II?

    If, as you appear to assume, Conservatism means the opposite of anti-war, is that not, in itself, the best argument against modern Conservatism?

    Can Conservatism even be called conservative when it presents itself, as you appear to do, as the party of constant war?


  3. woody voinche 1, May 31, 2013 at 10:04 am

    “Judge Suysan Illson has ruled that NSLs that allow the FBI to obtain information on average citizens from internet cos. without court oversight is unconstitutional……….”

    The law has been on the books since 1986.

    That doesn’t make it right, but it’s not Obama’s fault.


  4. Bron 1, May 31, 2013 at 8:25 am

    “what bad things did he do besides owning slaves?”

    Borrowed money, which he never intended to repay, using his human “property” as surety.

    Forced himself, many many times, on a person that he “owned”.

    Forced his way into public office by virtue of votes granted to that “property” owned by him and his fellow aristocrats.

    Attacked his own country for having the temerity of doing free trade with a country he didn’t like.

    Advocated and orginated the notion of secession from the Union.

    Acted directly to suborn the lawfully elected government of which he was Secretary of State.

    Attempted to undermine an actual treaty of that same government.

    Advocated slavery as a solution to the “problem” of slavery.

    Founder of the Republican Party.


  5. why is holder investigating anti-war activists? I would think they would generally be for Obama as they are most likely left wing orgs.

    This guy Obama [and holder] doesnt like any form of criticism apparently.

    When you start investigating your own because of some internal dissent, I think it is time to go. I can understand his willingness to investigate the tea party but anti-war groups? he is just out of control and over his head [Obama, holder is just his lap dog].

    this man has overstayed his welcome and usefulness.

  6. pbh:

    what bad things did he do besides owning slaves?

    I give him some leeway in the slave owning department based on the times.

    FDR was a whore monger so that discredits everything he did. I am pretty sure he did some other bad things too.

    And MLK and JFK, who could forget their trysts? PT109, the Bay of Pigs, JFK did do some really bad things.

    Maybe you just dont like human liberty?

  7. Bron 1, May 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    “I still find it hard to besmirch the man based on his many writings.”

    Personally, I prefer to think of his writing as a continued campaign of revisionist propaganda. I don’t care what he wrote. I care about what he did. Which was mostly a lot of very bad things.


  8. I’m mostly out of the loop recently and playing catch (up) as catch can, but I’d just like to say a big ol’

    “What Bob and mespo said”


    “Paul, based on your statements about Jefferson, you sound like the kind of guy who thinks the Mona Lisa sucks because it’s a tiny painting. There is a Chinese proverb you should learn and take to heart: better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.”

    I’ll be seein’ ya’ll around as events allow. Keep on keepin’ on, Bob and Mark. The good fight is always worth fighting.

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