Politics

Who Will Replace U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder?

| by Will Hagle

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced his resignation from the Cabinet of the Obama Administration. Holder has held the position of Attorney General since 2009, and his achievements include spearheading legal action against the banks responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. As the first African-American to be named Attorney General, Holder has also been an outspoken supporter of civil rights, most recently in regards to the civil unrest in Ferguson, MO. 

Holder will remain in office until his successor is named, which a White House official claimed could be “a long way” from being announced. In the meantime, the speculation as to who will take over for Obama’s remaining two years in office has begun. The New York Times listed five individuals as top candidates for the position. One of the individuals named — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — has already stated he has “no interest” in the position. The remaining potential candidates are outlined in more detail below. 

Kathryn Reummler

Speculation that Reummler could be a potential candidate for Attorney General grew after the former White House counsel was spotted dining with Holder at a restaurant in the Washington D.C. area last month. She has a history of serving under Democratic Presidents, as she began in the Justice Department as Assosiate Counsel during President Clinton’s final year in office, from 2000 to 2001. Still, as the Washington Post notes, she was considered an outsider to the Obama administration — less a personal confidante or old pal of Obama’s than most of the other members of the administration. Her outlook on legal issues still aligned with the President’s liberal views, as she was influential in the Supreme Court defense of the Affordable Health Care Act and issues like immigration. If tasked with approving Reummler, the Republican Congress may take issue with her handling of Benghazi, as she initially resisted demands to release records regarding the incident. Reummler stepped down as Counsel earlier this year to return to private practice. 

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Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Verrilli Jr. has served as U.S. Solicitor General since 2011. Prior to his nomination, he held multiple roles in the Obama administration, as Associate Deputy of the Attorney General and as Deputy Counsel to the President. Like Reummler, Verrilli Jr. played a major role in the successful passing of the Affordable Care Act, as he argued in favor of the law’s constitutionality in U.S. Supreme Court. Verrilli Jr. was the lone name mentioned as a leading candidate for Holder’s position by NPR. He holds his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review. 

Jennifer Granholm

Jennifer Granholm served as the 47th Governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011. She was the first woman to occupy that state’s office. Granholm also served as Michigan’s Attorney General, a position which likely could prepare her for the same role on the federal level. In 2012, she made a brief foray into TV political punditry, as she hosted Current TV’s War Room with Jennifer Granholm. Michael Shure ultimately replaced Granholm on that program before it was canceled in August 2013. Although her experience within the Obama administration is limited compared to the other potential candidates, Granholm was a part of the Obama administration’s transition team in 2009. Granholm obtained her J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse is a Democratic Senator representing Rhode Island. He has served in Congress since 2007. His previous federal experience includes a stint as U.S. Attorney from 1993 to 1998 and a position as Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1999 to 2003. He attempted to run for Rhode Island Governor in 2002, but was defeated in the primary by Myrth York, who ultimately lost the general elections. Whitehouse is a longshot for the nomination, but his progressive liberal views on issues such as health care and marriage equality likely would appeal to an Obama administration looking to make significant steps forward with only a limited time left in office. 

 Loretta E. Lynch

Loretta E. Lynch was appointed by President Obama in 2010 as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She held the same position from 1999-2001 after being appointed by former President Bill Clinton. Lynch is perhaps the most unlikely to assume the role of U.S. Attorney General simply because most of her work has been concentrated in Brooklyn and not in Washington. Her track record, however, is timely — as she has been responsible for the prosecution of several government and law enforcement officials for various instances of police brutality. Her most famous case involved the prosecution of the law enforcement officials who assaulted Abner Louima outside a Brooklyn nightclub in 1997. 

Whomever is ultimately appointed to the position will have a lot of work to do in the coming years. Holder’s resignation is also a reminder of the role the President plays in appointing individuals and attorneys to office that align with his goals and viewpoints. With a conservative Congress likely to take over and block any laws with a liberal political agenda, the decision may be more crucial than ever. Holder has not yet indicated his plans for the future.