Eric Holder Jr. met today with two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as he prepared for the confirmation process to become attorney general.
And one of those senators made clear that the process would move quickly.
“I intend to start hearings the first week we come back,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, referring to the beginning of the 111th Congress on Jan. 6. Leahy laid out a timeline that would have the Senate voting on Holder’s nomination and those of other top Justice Department nominees shortly after President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Leahy (D-Vt.) met with Holder in his office for about 30 minutes. Speaking to reporters afterward, he described Holder, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and deputy attorney general, as a “prosecutor’s prosecutor” who will improve both morale at and the public’s trust in the Justice Department.
Asked about Holder’s lukewarm endorsement of a pardon for commodities trader Marc Rich in 2001, when Holder was deputy attorney general, Leahy argued that Holder’s involvement was minimal. “It wouldn’t have made any difference what Eric Holder said about Marc Rich. ... There was no question Bill Clinton was going to give that pardon,” Leahy said.
Media attention on the pardon, Leahy added, is due to “the finesse of a Karl Rove.”
Leahy then walked Holder to the office of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking GOP member of the Judiciary Committee. Holder and Specter met for an hour.
“It went well. I think we had some good meetings, some good exchanges of ideas,” Holder said afterward, declining to answer most other questions from reporters. Specter’s questions, he said, were “very tough, but fair.”