The hearings on January 6th have had many riveting moments where former Trump officials detailed their efforts to convince former president Donald Trump that legal and factual claims of a stolen election were unfounded and unsupportable. From Vice President Michael Pence to Attorney General Bill Barr to an array of Justice and White House lawyers, there were many profiles of courage that emerged from the testimony. There have also been glaring disconnects like Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) chastising those who refused to accept the results of the 2020 elections and sought to challenge the certification in Congress. Thompson challenged the election of George W. Bush. (His fellow Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) sought to challenge Trump’s certification in 2016), However, one of the most glaring disconnects came yesterday when Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) cited former Attorney General Eric Holder as an example of the ideal of an apolitical and independent Attorney General. Holder was one of the most political attorneys general in history and Kinzinger previously denounced him for his abuse of office as a partisan. He was held in contempt over his obstruction of the Fast and Furious investigation.
Kinzinger featured Holder as an example of integrity and independence, showing a clip from his confirmation hearing in 2009, telling Congress:
“I will be an independent attorney general. I will be the people’s lawyer. If, however, there were an issue that I thought were that significant that it would compromise my ability to serve as Attorney General in the way that I have described it, as the people’s lawyer, I would not hesitate to resign.”
Many of us are familiar with the clip because it was often played to highlight the hypocrisy in how Holder actually carried out his office. Holder would later described himself as President Barack Obama’s “wingman” and was later held in contempt by Congress.
Holder has demanded that Attorney General William Barr release the report despite the contrary precedent of Holder himself in refusing to disclose critical information in the “Fast and Furious” scandal. Holder previously declared that Mueller was certain to find criminal obstruction by Trump.
I have been a long critic of Holder whose tenure at the Justice Department was marred by political influence from his role in the Clinton pardon scandals to his defiance of Congress (leading to his being held in contempt). Whether it is his call to “kick” critics or his political actions, Holder’s record is at best checkered.
Fast and Furious was a legitimate matter for congressional oversight after the ATF arranged for illegal gun sales to Mexican drug cartels for the moronic purpose of tracking weapons. Instead, it simply gave criminals low-price, high-powered weaponry– over 2000 in number including the one used to kill Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. There should have been no question about the obligation to share information with Congress, but Holder was defiant and encouraged Obama to assert sweeping executive privilege claims. It was an abusive use of privilege, precisely what the Democrats are accusing former Trump and others of doing in these hearings.
Moreover, the current Democratic leadership supported Holder after his defiance of congressional oversight authority.
Citing “substantial separation of powers concerns,” Holder insisted “I am very concerned that the compelled production to Congress of internal Executive Branch documents generated in the course of the deliberative process concerning its response to congressional oversight and related media inquiries would have significant, damaging consequences.” Imagine if Bill Barr were to quote the same language to the Congress on the current report.
Notably, Kinzinger called out Holder for his obstruction. He signed a “no confidence” motion in 2011. The motion included the charge that Holder “has been intransigent, obstructionist, and obdurate” in fighting disclosure of the evidence in the scandal.