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Last Build Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2009 14:10:32 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2009 POLITICO

Holder: "We don't want to criminalize policy differences" with Bush administration

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 11:59:00 EST

Eric Holder said that the Obama administration would not seek to "criminalize" policy disputes with the Bush administration.

Holder was responding to questions from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) about whether he, as attorney general, would authorize criminal prosecutions of Bush Justice Department lawyers who approved "extraordinary redition" and the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

"We don't want to criminalize policy differences that may exist between the outgoing administration" and the incoming Obama administration.

Holder's view echoes that expressed by President-elect Barack Obama, who has so far indicated that he is not interested in pursuing such investigations.

Yet Holder did not completely absolve Bush administration officials if they did break the law.

"We will follow the facts where they go," Holder said.

Holder doesn't support military commissions to try Gitmo detainees

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 11:39:00 EST

Holder does not believe that the military commissions process for trying Guantanamo detainees is adequate, and he expressed personal support for using the Army Field Manual as the standard for detainee interrogations.

Holder also committed, under questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to review the Justice Department's decision not to pursue criminal charges against Bradley Schlozman, a former DOJ official, after an Inspector General report found Schlozman may have lied to the Judiciary Committee about politicization within DOJ.

"I don't think that the military commissions have in place all the due process requirements that I would like to see them have," Holder told Feinstein. "They would have to be, I think, substantially revised to provide all the due process that we have as Americans."

Holder, though, would not commit to moving some Guantanamo detainees to federal prisons within the United States, or trials for these detainees in federal courts.

"I think we want to leave our options open," Feinstein said. "I don't know what system we would have in place to try these people."

Holder, though, said whatever arrangements are made to try such detainees "will be seen as fair," both in the United States and internationally.

In regards to Schlozman, Feinstein complained over a recent DOJ IG report that stated that Scholzman used political affiliation in evaluating hirings, a violation of federal law, but that prosecutors had declined to pursue a criminal prosecution against him.

"I will review that determination," Holder told Feinstein.

Holder: "Guantanamo will be closed'

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 11:00:00 EST

Eric Holder said that President-elect Barack Obama intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but he would not commit to a timetable for doing so.

Holder also expressed concerns over "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on detainees, and he committed to resigning from office if he were ever asked to approve a presidential action that, in his view, violated the Constituton.

"Guantanamo will be closed," Holder said in response to a question from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)."Steps are being taken as we speak."

Holder, though, warned, "this will not be an easy task."

Roughly 250 detainees remain incarcerated at Guantanamo, and Holder said that some of them will be sent to other countries, while others will be tried in U.S. courts.

Holder said the fate of of potentially dangerous detainees who cannot be tried or deported will slow closure of the facility.

Holder said interrogation techniques approved by the Justice Dept. under his aegis will "reflect who we are as Americans."

However, Holder passed up a chance to criticize the Bush administration's approval for enhanced techniques like sleep deprivation.

Specter grills Holder over Marc Rich pardon scandal

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 10:48:00 EST

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is grilling attorney general nominee Eric Holder over Holder's involvement in the Marc Rich pardon scandal.

Holder admitted under questioning by Specter that he was not fully aware of Rich's record, including allegations of arms dealing, before recommending a pardon to former President Bill Clinton.

But Holder denied an allegation made by House committee that had probed the incident that he recommended Jack Quinn, former White House counsel, be hired by the Rich family to represent the financier.

He also disputed some of Specter's recitation of the fact surrounding the Rich pardon application, which was granted right before Clinton left office in January 2001, including whether he told Quinn to go directly to the White House to seek action.

"That is not correct," Holder said when asked whether he had recommended Quinn as Rich's lawyer.

"I never told Quinn to go to the White House with the pardon application," Holder added.

It was a tense exchange, and Specter promised that he would revisit the issue when the committee begins its next round of questioning.

Holder: Marc Rich scandal will make me a better attorney general

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 10:39:00 EST

Looking to defuse a GOP line of attack against him, Eric Holder told Sen. Patrick Leahy that his involvement in the Marc Rich scandal will make him a better attorney general.

Holder, as deputy attorney general in early 2001, overrode objections within the Justice Department over granting a pardon to the fugitive financier. Rich's ex wife, Denise, was a major donor to the Clinton presidential library.

"My conduct, my actions, in the Rich matter is a place where I made mistakes," Holder said.

Holder called the controversy over the Rich pardon "the most intense, most searing experience I've ever had as a lawyer."

Holder then argued that, "as perverse as this sounds, that I will be a better attorney general because I had the Marc Rich experience."

Holder: Waterboarding is torture

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 10:28:00 EST

Under questioning from Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Eric Holder, the attorney-general nominee, said waterboarding is torture.

"I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture," Holder said in what amounts to a dramatic reversal of the Justice Department's policy under President Bush.

Holder also rejected the argument made by Bush administration officials that the president's power in an a national emergency overrode constitutional restrictions.

"No one is above the law," Holder said.

Leahy also questioned Holder's view on the Second Amendment, specificially whether the right to bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right. The Supreme Court ruled as such in a recent case striking down the District of Columbia's handgun ban.

"The Supreme Court has spoken," Holder said. "That is now the law of the land."

Specter bashes Leahy over Holder hearing

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 09:57:00 EST

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member on Judiciary, said he will closely question Eric Holder over his involvement in Clinton-era scandals at the Justice Department, and he bashed Sen. Patrick Leahy for not giving GOP lawmakers enough time and resources to prepare for today's hearing.

"There's has been questions raised whether the questions I have raised for Mr. Holder are political in nature," Specter said in his opening statement, referring to concerns he mentioned on the Senate floor regarding Holder's role in the Marc Rich pardon controversy.

"As I said on the floor, I have an open mind, but I think there are important questions to be asked, and important questions to be answered," Specter said.

Specter went on to list a number of national security topics that he wanted to review with Holder, including the nominee's view on the Patriot Act and detainee interrogations.

Specter also said he wanted to explore Holder's views on fighting violent street crime, reducing white-collar crime and protecting attorney-client privilege.

The Pennsylvania Republican complained that Democrats had not given GOP lawmakers enough time to prepare for today's session.

Specter said there has been "insufficient time" for Republicans to gather materials on Holder, noting that Leahy refused to support his request for records from the Clinton presidential library.

Holder: "I made mistakes."

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 09:32:00 EST

Eric Holder's opening statement reflects the historic nature of his nomination as attorney general. If confirmed, he will be the first black attorney general in U.S. history.

Holder also sought to defuse GOP criticism over the Marc Rich pardon and other controversies during his earlier DOJ service under former President Clinton.

"My decisions were not always perfect," Holder said. "I made mistakes. I hope that enough of my decisions were correct to justify the gratifying support I have received from colleagues in law enforcement in recent weeks. But with benefit of hindsight, I can see my errors clearly and I can tell you how I learned from them."

"I could not have arrived at this moment without the sacrifice and example of so many others," Holder added in his prepared statement.

"I served almost 30 years as a prosecutor, judge and senior official within the Department of Justice," Holder said. "President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden asked me to assume this responsibility because I know they will fight terrorism with every available tool and reinvigorate the department's traditional missions of protecting public safety and safeguarding our precious civil rights."

Holder made reference to his late sister-in-law, who personally faced segregation in Alabama during the early 1960s.

"One of those who on the front lines in the struggle for equality was my late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963," Holder said. "In an atmosphere of hate almost unimaginable to us today, she and fellow student James Hood faced down Gov. George Wallace, and in the presence of then-Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, they enrolled in the University."

Holder pledged to pursue a "very specific set of goals" if approved as attorney general: fighting terrorism; working "to restore the credibility of a department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference"; "reinvigorate the traditional missions of the Justice Department," including combating financial fraud, defending civil rights and protecting American consumers.

"President-elect Obama and I respect Congress," Holder said. "And we respect the federal judiciary. We will carry out our constitutional duties within the framework set forth by the Founders, and the humility to recognize that congressional oversight and judicial review are necessary, beneficial attributes of our system of government. In particular, I know how much wisdom resides in this committee from your collective decades of service in government, and I will be sure to draw on it."

Holder nomination hearing today could be a long one

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 09:26:00 EST

Today’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider the nomination of Eric Holder to be attorney general could be a long one.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is strongly backing Holder’s nomination, intends to keep the committee in as late as possible today in an attempt to make sure Holder doesn’t have to come back on Friday. "Did you bring your dinner?" joked one Obama transition official.

But Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), ranking member on Judiciary, said before the hearing that he wants Holder for two days.

Leahy will open the hearing, and Specter may be asked to make a statement then.

Former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) will then make opening statements in support of Holder, and then the nominee will make his own statement, which Democrats described as a "real tearjerker." It will include references to Holder's late sister-in-law, who was prevented from attending school in Alabama by George Wallace.

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Wed, 14 Jan 2009 23:43:00 EST

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