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HOLDER HEARING: Witness Panel Readies to Discuss Rich and FALN Pardons

The second day of Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation hearings began today, featuring a large panel of witnesses to speak to Holder’s qualifications for the post.

Witnesses supporting Holder’s confirmation include: Louis Freeh, the former FBI director; Chuck Canterbury, the president of the National Fraternal Order of Police; John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Frances Fragos Townsend, a Justice Department veteran and former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush.

That list, in and of itself, is pretty significant and bipartisan — especially with Townsend’s inclusion. As she noted in her testimony today, the committee might have been a little “surprised” to see her there speaking in support of Holder.

What’s most interesting, perhaps, is what the minority witnesses reveal about their points of contention with Holder’s confirmation. Two of the three minority witnesses — Joseph Connor and Richard Hahn — talked mostly about the destruction caused by FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist organization, and Holder’s mistake in suggesting clemency for sixteen of the group’s members. Connor spoke primarily as a victim of FALN attacks (his father was killed in a bombing) and Hahn spoke from his experience as an FBI agent investigating the group.

This refutes some of the predictions prior to the hearings — that Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee would focus on Holder’s approval of President Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich. Perhaps unsurprisingly — considering the GOP’s love of harping on the “war on terror” – the FALN pardons were the center of attention instead. Despite the widely-held belief that the FALN pardons were a mistake, the minority is going to have a hard time holding this single incident against Holder in light of his long and impressive resume.

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