Eric Holder, political hack

After reading the LA Times and its report on Eric Holder’s role in the pardons issued to FALN terrorists, one can only come to the conclusion that Holder served as a reliable political hack at Justice for Bill Clinton — and that Barack Obama wants him there for the same reason.  The FALN pardons came at a time when Hillary Clinton wanted support from the Puerto Rican community in New York for her Senate bid in 2000, and Bill wanted to pardon terrorist conspirators.  Holder pushed hard to get the DoJ to change its mind about pardons to give the Clintons the necessary political protection to issue the pardons (via Michelle):

Attorney [G]eneral nominee Eric H. Holder Jr. repeatedly pushed some of his subordinates at the Clinton Justice Department to drop their opposition to a controversial 1999 grant of clemency to 16 members of two violent Puerto Rican nationalist organizations, according to interviews and documents.

Details of the role played by Holder, who was deputy attorney general at the time, had not been publicly known until now. The new details are of particular interest because Republican senators have vowed to revisit Holder’s role during his confirmation hearings next week. …

Holder instructed his staff at Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department’s original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners, according to these interviews and documents.

And after Pardon Attorney Roger Adams resisted, Holder’s chief of staff instructed him to draft a neutral “options memo” instead, Adams said.

The options memo allowed Clinton to grant the commutations without appearing to go against the Justice Department’s wishes, Adams and his predecessor, Margaret Colgate Love, said in their first public comments on the case.

“I remember this well, because it was such a big deal to consider clemency for a group of people convicted of such heinous crimes,” said Adams, the agency’s top pardon lawyer from 1997 until 2008. He said he told Holder of his “strong opposition to any clemency in several internal memos and a draft report recommending denial” and in at least one face-to-face meeting. But each time Holder wasn’t satisfied, Adams said.

Ironically, the stink arising from these pardons forced Hillary to publicly oppose them, creating a massive embarrassment for the Clinton administration.  Hillary won the race handily anyway, but enough questions remained from the FALN and Marc Rich pardons that Congress held hearings in 2001 to determine whether laws had been broken by the former president.  In the end, the Bush administration signaled that they wanted to leave the pardons issue alone, and Congress quietly dropped the matter.

The appointment of Holder to run Justice raises the questions all over again.  Why did Holder push so hard for support for these pardons?  The job of a Deputy AG doesn’t involve pressuring staff for politically satisfactory results, but to ensure that the law gets enforced properly and without bias.  In fact, no one at Justice should have any stake in the outcome of clemency reviews; the analyses should be unbiased and forthright, leaving the political decision (and responsibility) where it properly belongs — with the President.

This has even more irony following the shrieks of Congress over the replacement of US Attorneys during the second term of the Bush administration.  We heard nothing but how the White House wanted to “politicize” the DoJ, even though US Attorneys are in fact political appointments and serve at the pleasure of the President at all times.  What Holder did with the FALN pardons shows actual politicization of process and results at Justice by the Clinton administration.

And while we’re talking about Holder and political hackery, let’s not forget the job he agreed to do for Rod Blagojevich — which was such an obvious attempt at hackery that the Illinois Gaming Board refused to hire him.

Will the Senate confirmation hearings ask why Holder pressured the staff at Justice to give Clinton a rubber stamp to release terrorists?  Will we hear about the “politicization” of Justice in these hearings?  Not unless it comes from one of the Republicans, and even then, you’d better watch C-SPAN2 if you want to hear about it.

Jazz Shaw May 16, 2022 12:41 PM ET