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US Attorney General Holder to stay until successor in place

US President Barack Obama (R) hugs US Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., in the State Dining Room of the White House September 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Eric Holder is stepping down but has agreed to stay on until a successor is named and confirmed.

"With his typical dedication, Eric has agreed to stay on as attorney general until I nominate a successor and that successor is confirmed by the Senate," Obama told a news conference with Holder at his side.

Holder's departure after nearly six years sets up a potentially tense confirmation battle with Republicans in a lame-duck US Senate session scheduled after the Nov. 4 midterm elections, when Republicans hope to capture a Senate majority that would take office in January.

Names floated for the job include Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, Solicitor General Don Verrilli, former Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Brooklyn US Attorney Loretta Lynch and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

Holder is close to Obama and has forcefully embodied many of the president's most liberal positions, including support for more gun control, criticism of America's prison system and a desire to try terrorism suspects in civilian instead of military courts.

Despite a drumbeat of Republican criticism since he became attorney general in 2009, Holder stayed on to be among the longest-serving attorneys general ever. He is one of three original members of Obama's Cabinet who remain, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Republicans responded to Holder's decision with harsh assessments of his tenure, and they hinted at the difficulties Obama will face in getting a successor confirmed.

"I hope the president will nominate someone who will uphold the basic standards of honesty, transparency and accountability that have been so glaringly absent in this Justice Department," said John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Holder made civil rights a cornerstone of his tenure, bringing a series of cases against local police for using excessive force, suing the state of Arizona over a law aimed at Hispanic immigrants and successfully blocking many state voter ID laws before the 2012 election, likening them to Jim Crow-style poll taxes.

He visited Ferguson, Missouri, last month, promising a Justice Department investigation after the shooting death of a black teenager by a white policeman led to violent clashes with police.

While Holder has no immediate plans once he steps down, the Justice Department official said, he has told friends that he wants to find a way to help restore trust between law enforcement and minority communities.

Holder built a name more on the people he did not prosecute than on those he did, which is unusual for an attorney general.

Among his final projects was a scaling back of the prosecution of nonviolent drug offenders, so that some would no longer face long, mandatory prison sentences.

Holder had previously signaled his plans to step down by the end of the year, and the Justice Department said he finalized his decision at a White House meeting earlier this month.

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Tags:  World  US  Obama  Eric Holder  Justice  





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