Law & the Courts

Eric Holder Claims Barr is ‘Unfit’ to be AG in Op-Ed

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, D.C., September 15, 2018 (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Former Obama attorney general Eric Holder wrote an op-ed Wednesday accusing attorney general William Barr of “plainly ideological” and “nakedly partisan” actions in response to Barr’s framing of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe.

Barr’s statements, made in a series of interviews this week, were “so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office,” Holder wrote.

“When appropriate and justified, it is the attorney general’s duty to support Justice Department components, ensure their integrity and insulate them from political pressures. His or her ultimate loyalty is not to the president personally, nor even to the executive branch, but to the people — and the Constitution — of the United States,” Holder — who called himself former President Barack Obama’s “wingman” while serving as attorney general — wrote in The Washington Post.

Holder’s comments come after Barr slammed the FBI on Monday after the release of the Inspector General report detailing the agency’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia, telling NBC News on Tuesday that the FBI had not cleared the bureau of political motivation in its investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Regarding Barr’s comments, Holder wrote that “it was infuriating to watch him publicly undermine an independent inspector general report — based on an exhaustive review of the FBI’s conduct — using partisan talking points bearing no resemblance to the facts his own department has uncovered.”

Holder also criticized U.S. Attorney John Durham’s “unusual statement” on the IG report, which seconded Barr’s assessment by saying he did “not agree with” the report’s conclusions on predication.

Holder warned Durham, saying “good reputations are hard-won in the legal profession, but they are fragile; anyone in Durham’s shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost.”

In June 2012, Holder was found in contempt of Congress over his actions in the fallout of the “Fast and Furious” gun scandal. The DOJ operation, which was intended to track illegal gun sales, ended up arming Mexican cartels. After news of the operation emerged, Holder’s assistant attorney general sent a letter to Congress declaring that the Obama administration had no knowledge of the operation, which Holder later admitted was “inaccurate.”

When Congress subsequently subpoenaed documents from the DOJ after hearing of department retaliation against whistleblowers, Holder tried to arrange a deal to not hand over all the subpoenaed documents related to Fast and Furious. President Obama then invoked executive privilege the same day Holder was found in contempt after 15 months of negotiations.

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