U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will resign from his position as the country’s top law enforcement official, NPR reported on Thursday.
President Obama is set to make an announcement Thursday afternoon, according to White House officials.
“After serving for nearly six years as the head of the Justice Department, Holder is the first African American to be Attorney General of the United States and will be the fourth longest person to hold the position,” a White House official, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Washington Post in an email.
“Holder’s accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system,” the official continued. “Holder revitalized the Department’s praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few. He will remain at the Department of Justice until his post is filled.”
The official did not say who Obama will nominate to replace Holder nor did the official speculate as to what prompted Holder’s decision to step down.
Holder’s stint as attorney general was marred by controversy, including his role in the fatally-flawed gunrunning program known as Operation Fast & Furious in which ATF agents allowed straw purchasers to buy firearms from gun shop dealers near the border and sell them directly to Mexican drug cartels. Upwards of 2,000 firearms went missing as a result of Fast and Furious and at least one was recovered at the crime scene of slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Many lawmakers questioned Holder’s leadership as a result of the operation and criticized him for his refusal to turn over to Congressional investigators internal DOJ documents relating to the operation.
To that end, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA.) had some rather strong comments on Holder’s departure Thursday.
“Eric Holder is the most divisive U.S. Attorney General in modern history and, in a vote supported by 17 Democratic House members, has the dubious historic distinction of being the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives,” Issa said in a statement.
“By needlessly injecting politics into law enforcement, Attorney General Holder’s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system than any Attorney General before him,” Issa continued.
“Through strong arming reporters, practically ignoring high level wrongdoing, blocking his own agency Inspector General’s access to information, and overseeing a Department that attempted to stonewall Congressional oversight with denials of what is now established fact, Attorney General Holder abused his office and failed to uphold the values of our Constitution,” the California Republican added.
“While President Obama and the Senate should work expeditiously to find a replacement, time and care must be taken to ensure that our next Attorney General recognizes and does not repeat Mr. Holder’s mistakes,” Issa concluded.
Holder will remain attorney general until Obama announces his replacement.