Scandals Call Eric Holder's Legacy into Question
WASHINGTON -- One day after the president accepted Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation, the search is on for his replacement.
Holder,63, was the first African-American to serve in the post and one of President Barack Obama's most liberal cabinet members.
He's been controversial, plagued by scandal, a constant thorn in the side of conservatives, and one of the president's top allies in Washington.
"Thanks to his efforts, since I took office the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have gone down by about 10 percent. That's the first time that they've declined together at the same time in more than 40 years," Obama said Thursday.
Holder was recently called on to focus on an issue close to his heart: civil rights.
He oversaw the federal response to social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the recent shooting of a black teen by a white police officer.
But his critics say Holder turned the Justice Department into an arm of the president's political operation, using his power as top cop to deny justice in some cases, and even punishing some journalists for digging too deep.
"The Department of Justice has been this block of not allowing the truth to come out so I'm glad he's leaving," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said.
Sekulow was referring to, among other things, the Justice Department's refusal to turn over documents related to "Fast and Furious," the gun-running scandal in which the ATF lost some 14,000 guns in Mexico.
Two of those weapons surfaced at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
His actions led Congress, for the first time, to hold an attorney general in contempt.
Holder also refused to defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He even encouraged state attorneys general to follow his lead if they found traditional marriage laws to be discriminatory.
And for many critics, his list of offenses continues, including his investigation of the IRS's targeting of conservative political groups applying for tax exempt status.
"He was in charge of the Justice Department when they were running guns into Mexico to illegal gangs and that the IRS, right under their nose, was engaged in illegal activity. I think that's the legacy of the attorney general," Sekulow said.
Holder's legacy will be debated for years, but for now the commander in chief must find a replacement for the remaining two years of his term. Holder will remain in office until his replacement is found.