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After continuously being accused of playing the “race card” and racism…
Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black U.S. attorney general, is preparing to announce his resignation Thursday after a tumultuous tenure marked by civil rights advances, national security threats, reforms to the criminal justice system and 5 1/2 years of fights with Republicans in Congress.
Two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Holder, 63, intends to leave the Justice Department as soon as his successor is confirmed, a process that could run through 2014 and even into next year. A former U.S. government official says Holder has been increasingly “adamant” about his desire to leave soon for fear that he otherwise could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama’s second term.
Holder already is one of the longest-serving members of the Obama Cabinet and ranks as the fourth-longest tenured AG in history. Hundreds of employees waited in lines, stacked three rows deep, in early February 2009 to witness his return to the Justice Department, where he previously worked as a young corruption prosecutor and as deputy attorney general — the second in command — during the Clinton administration.
The attorney general told DOJ staff the news this morning and has called civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former AG Robert F. Kennedy.
The sources say a leading candidate for that job is Solicitor General Don Verrilli, the administration’s top representative to the Supreme Court and a lawyer whose judgment and discretion are prized in both DOJ and the White House.
Friends and former colleagues say Holder has made no decisions about his next professional perch, but they say it would be no surprise if he returned to the law firm Covington & Burling, where he spent years representing corporate clients.
The friends say Holder is also considering donating his papers to a university in Washington, D.C., or his native New York, where he could establish a civil rights center to work more on law enforcement interactions with communities of color and host public forums on those issues.
Even though the attorney general has his eyes on the door, the two sources say several more policy and enforcement initiatives are underway and could be announced soon. Holder is also expected to notify federal prosecutors in coming days that the Justice Department will no longer require defendants who plead guilty to waive their rights to appeal based on ineffective lawyering. Many U.S. attorneys now forgo that practice, but not all.
Long-awaited racial profiling guidelines for federal agents will be released soon, too. Those guidelines will make clear that sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion are not legitimate bases for law enforcement suspicion, but controversial mapping of certain communities — including Muslim Americans — would still be allowed for national security investigations, one of the sources said.