Attorney General designate Eric Holder’s prominent role in Former President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich probably won’t derail his nomination but it will become an embarrassment for Senate Democrats and possibly even new President Barack Obama.
Senate Republicans are planning to use Holder’s involvement in the Rich matter to hold Democrats and the new President up for scrutiny during hearings on the nomination.
In addition, some comments by prominent Democratic Senators could come back to haunt them as the hearings progressed.
For Republicans, the process will be fun. For Democrats, it could leave some of them red-faced and scrambling to find rationalizations.
Eric Holder’s role in the pardon of Marc Rich is unlikely to derail his nomination as attorney general, but it will give Senate Republicans a chance to make their Democratic colleagues squirm.
With a confirmation hearing at least a month away, aides to Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee are already stockpiling statements in which Democratic senators criticized Holder and his then-boss, President Bill Clinton, for the 2000 pardon of the billionaire financier.
“I don’t think there is anything [in Holder’s record] that would disqualify him,” said an aide to one GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee. “Certainly there are opportunities to make some of the Democrat senators a little red faced.”
For instance, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of Democratic leadership and one of the most outspoken members of his caucus, said of the Rich pardon in 2001 that “there can be no justification in pardoning a fugitive from justice.”
He added: “Pardoning a fugitive stands our justice system on its head and makes a mockery of it.”
Although Holder played a critical role in the Rich pardon, Schumer now says that Holder is a “classy and historic pick for attorney general,” and nobody with his “experience and integrity” would have any trouble being confirmed.