Tearful Obama bids Holder farewell
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A tearful President Obama on Friday bid goodbye to outgoing Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election NYC voters set to decide Vance's replacement amid Trump probe Obama planning first post-2020 fundraiser MORE, one of his closest friends in the administration.

"I'll just come out and say it — he has been one of our finest," Obama said at the Justice Department, where Holder’s official portrait was unveiled.


"Having good men in positions of power and authority, who are willing to fight for what's right, that's a rare thing, that's a powerful thing," Obama said of Holder, wiping away a tear.

Holder is serving out his final days in Obama’s Cabinet, with the Senate expected to soon confirm Loretta Lynch to take his place as attorney general.

Obama ticked off a list of accomplishments for Holder’s DOJ, including hundreds of terrorism convictions, "the largest Mafia takedown in history" and the largest reduction in crime and incarceration rates in 40 years.

"With Eric Holder as its lawyer, America has become a better country," Obama said. 

"Which means saying goodbye is bittersweet," Obama said, turning to Holder and adding, "You have done a remarkable job. It's hard to let you go."

"I tried to talk him out of it," Obama joked to the crowd.

The ceremony included a surprise appearance from Aretha Franklin, who gave Holder a send-off with a full-throated rendition of "America The Beautiful," complete with piano accompaniment. 

The unveiling of Holder’s portrait sparked some ribbing from Obama.

"He has more gray hair than that. Clearly he posed early in his tenure," Obama joked.

The festive atmosphere was a stark contrast from the pressure cooker of controversies that have tested Holder during his tenure, including DOJ’s botched "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation.

Republicans have assailed Holder’s leadership of DOJ, accusing him of bending the department’s power to further Obama’s agenda. The House in 2012 held him in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to their “Fast and Furious” probe.

"I may have been cool in congressional hearings on the outside, but I was pissed off a lot of the time too," Holder said in an outgoing interview with MSNBC earlier this month. "It was a question of trying to rein in those feelings and make sure that on the outside I was cool."

Holder choked up at the cermony in thanking friends, family and professional colleagues who helped support his rise to become the nation's top litigator. 

"This has been my home, and you will always be my family," Holder said.

The attorney general said he hoped that Lynch would continue his work on criminal justice reform once she is at the helm of the department.

"Reform of our criminal justice system must continue," Holder said. "The historic wrong visited on our native people must be righted, the widening gap of income inequality must be reversed."

"And at all costs, all costs, the right to vote must be protected," he said.