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Arlen Specter Compares Eric Holder to Alberto Gonzales

Republicans have made it clear that Attorney General-designate Eric Holder is the most problematic of President-elect Barack Obama cabinet nominees. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave a scathing floor statement on Holder Tuesday, laying out many of the GOP’s lines of attack: the 1996 “campaign finance violations” of Al Gore, the 2000 Elian Gonzalez saga, and the 2001 pardon of March Rich.

On the nomination of Mr. Holder, President-elect Obama chose not to seek my advice or even to give me advance notice in my capacity as Ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, which is his prerogative. Had he done so, I could have given him some facts about Mr. Holder’s background that he might not have known.

Specter’s big worry: That Holder could be as rotten at the top of DOJ as Alberto Gonzales.

After our recent experience with Attorney General Gonzales, it is imperative that the Attorney General undertake and effectuate that responsibility of independence. Mr. Gonzales left office accused of politicizing the Justice Department, failing to restrain Executive overreaching, and being less than forthcoming with Congress … I am convinced that many of Attorney General Gonzales’ missteps were caused by his eagerness to please the White House. Similarly, when Mr. Holder was serving as DAG to President Clinton, some of his actions raised concerns about his ability to maintain his independence from the president.

Specter alleges that “serious questions” were raised about Holder’s “candor” during the Marc Rich hearings, and that Holder may have been responsible for “deviation from normal pardon procedures.” In some of the cases, Specter talked about, Holder “appear[ed] to be serving the interest of his superiors. There is an underlying issue about Mr. Holder not following the recommendations of career attorneys.” His conclusion:

I am prepared to give Mr. Holder a full opportunity to explain his past actions and convince the Committee and the Senate that his record warrants confirmation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) couldn’t have written fainter praise.

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