Eric Holder on the out

Attorney General Eric Holder made sure to let the press, and the rest of the country, know this week that he is experiencing a "creeping sense of remorse" about his role in personally approving a search warrant into Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails and phone calls. By telling a Daily Beast reporter that the magnitude of what he has wrought finally hit him at his kitchen table when he read a story in The Washington Post about everything he already knew, Holder seems to be attempting some form of rehab on his toxic reputation, five years in the making.

And the obvious question is — so what?

That same reporter, Daniel Klaidman, who enjoys great Holder access, wrote last year in his book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama presidency, that Holder considered resigning as attorney general in 2010 following criticism of his handling of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed case but that White House adviser Valerie Jarrett talked him out of it. "The loss of his mother, the continuing criticism over [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], the lashings in the press and Holder's sense of isolation within the administration had turned his job into a grind ... he woke up on many mornings with a knot in his stomach, not sure if he'd be able to make it through the day. ... He told [his wife] Sharon he didn't know if he had the emotional strength to go on as attorney general," wrote Klaidman.

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If every previous challenge in Holder’s tenure – from the KSM case to the “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking operation investigation, or any other criticism he has ever received – was forgotten, it is hard to imagine how remorse over his complicity in a snooping operation has only now just crept in, and no monster stomach knot has yet prompted him to reconsider his emotional strength to weather this super storm.

Holder is now being questioned by the House Judiciary Committee over his May 15 testimony in which he may have lied under oath by claiming – when asked about whether the press could be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act – no knowledge of or personal involvement in cases where journalists have disclosed classified information. "This is not something I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy," he said at the time.

The New Yorker reported Tuesday that the department struggled to keep the search warrant Holder was involved in obtaining a secret, despite the opinion of several judges that Rosen be informed that his communications were being monitored. The administration argued the email account would have to be monitored for a long time because Rosen was the subject of a criminal investigation. This is not something Holder thinks would be wise policy.

Even partisan Democrats know these days are far worse for Holder than those in 2010 in which he considered resigning his job, and some – including liberal Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) – have expressed concern about the DOJ’s actions potentially violating the first amendment.

Yet his response, thus far, to an investigation into his own potential perjury, unprecedented damage to a free press and the credibility of the Department of Justice, is a public relations tour with the nation's top newsroom leaders, outreach to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to encourage media shield legislation, a promise of changes at his department and some private acknowledgment that yes, damage has been done.

If Holder remains attorney general, he is the one who will police all investigations into a scandal we now know he was personally involved in. President Obama values loyalty, and Holder has been nothing if not loyal. But it is high time Obama accept that what he has placed a premium on in his presidency hasn't always brought success or results. The White House declared this week, once again, that the president has confidence in Eric Holder. That pretty much says it all.


Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.