A group of former senior officials of the Department of Justice is strongly defending Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in response to a recent Washington Post column that criticized Holder's "mediocre performance" in the job.
Holder is "a leader with deep integrity, excellent judgment, and an unwavering commitment to do the right thing without regard for partisan preferences," the 24 officials said in a joint letter to the editor of the Post, set for print publication in abbreviated form on Sunday. The short version of the letter has already been published online; the full statement is here.
Among those signing the letter were former deputy attorney general David Ogden, former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, and former assistant AGs Lanny Breuer, David Kris, Ignacia Moreno, Spencer Overton, Sharis Pozen, Laurie Robinson, Christopher Schroeder and Ronald Weich.
The officials joined to write the letter after the column by David Ignatius appeared June 6. Under the heading "Attorney General Eric Holder is not up to the task," Ignatius catalogued what he said were "mistakes in management and judgment," including his recent handling of leak investigations and Associated Press phone records, as well as older controversies stemming from the prosecution of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the BP oil spill, marijuana laws and plans to try terror suspect Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian court in New York. "'Feckless' is the word one disappointed Washington legal insider used to describe this and other Holder decisions," Ignatius wrote, referring to Holder's reversal on Khalid Sheik Mohammed.Katyal said the column triggered an immediate response among those who worked in the department. "There was a huge spontaneous outpouring of support from every corner of former DOJ officials. People felt that the criticism didn't reflect the man they knew, and I think that accounted for the massive cross-section of former DOJ officials. It was truly a group product, with lots of people lending their voice. The hard thing was keeping it short and to the point."
The joint letter stated, "It is odd that Mr. Ignatius criticizes Attorney General Holder, on behalf of unnamed sources, for, among other things, the Senator Stevens case – a holdover matter with an array of problems from the prior administration where Holder made the difficult decision to throw out the case even after the jury had convicted Senator Stevens – and then followed up with a wide-ranging effort to improve training and policies for Department prosecutors."
The group added, "People should freely express their disagreement with the Attorney General's decisions, but impugning Holder’s motivations only adds to the coarse tone that has plagued Washington for too long. In our collective experience, Attorney General Holder has proved to be principled, fairminded, thoughtful, respectful of others, inspiring of loyalty and steadfastly committed to the Department's mission."