In 2013, the Justice Department had a budget of almost $27 billion and 114,000 employees. It has more employees today than it has ever had in its history, with a sharp increase in the number of staff occurring during the Obama administration. In essence, the Justice Department is the largest law-enforcement agency in the world, with investigators and agents, lawyers, and prison officials all combined in one government department.
The Justice Department’s motto, contained on the seal of the department, is “Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur.” It has been roughly translated to refer to the Attorney General as he who “prosecutes on behalf of justice.” But as we outline in our book, Eric Holder seems to have changed that motto so that it can be read to mean “the attorney general prosecutes on behalf of his political and ideological allies.” Eric Holder is almost certainly the most liberal attorney general of the modern era, but he has also liberally bent the rule of law and established internal practices that harm the cause of justice. His tenure at the Justice Department has been marked by one scandal after another and abusive behavior by Justice Department lawyers in unwarranted, ideologically driven prosecutions.
Holder is the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives for his unjustified refusal to turn over documents related to what may be the most reckless law-enforcement operation of the Justice Department ever conducted: Operation Fast and Furious. He has launched more investigations and prosecutions of leaks than any prior attorney general, yet he has studiously ignored high-level “friendly leaks” by White House officials in the Obama administration.
Holder has racialized the prosecution of federal discrimination laws and led an unprecedented attack on election-integrity laws, thus making it easier for people to commit voter fraud and facilitating the election of members of his political party. His handling of national-security issues has been dismal and he has filled the career ranks of the Justice Department with political allies, cronies, and Democratic-party donors, in clear violation of civil-service rules. Holder has treated Congress with contempt and has done everything he can to evade its oversight responsibilities by misleading, misinforming, and ignoring members of Congress and its committees. Holder has attacked pro-life protesters, trying to use federal power to restrict their First Amendment right to speak, has prosecuted American companies for engaging in behavior that is routinely done by government officials, and has on numerous occasions ignored his duty to defend the law and to enforce statutes passed by Congress.
For these reasons and many others, former career lawyer Christopher Coates, who served in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, says that in his opinion, “Holder is the worst person to hold the position of attorney general since the disgraced John Mitchell, who went to jail as a result of the Watergate scandal.”
— John Fund is the national affairs correspondent at National Review Online and Hans A. von Spakovsky is a former Justice Department official and contributor at National Review Online. This article is adapted from their new book Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department (HarperCollins/Broadside June 10, 2014).