Swift confirmation seen for Obama’s attorney general pick

December 8, 2008

At least one key member of Barack Obama‘s Cabinet could be ready to be sworn into office just hours after Obama takes the oath as president on Jan. 20.

USA-OBAMA/ANNOUNCEMENTSenate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy says he’ll hold confirmation hearings early next month on Obama’s choice of Eric Holder to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer — attorney general.

Speaking to reporters after a private meeting with Holder, Leahy called the former Clinton administration deputy attorney general “a superb man” and “a prosecutor’s prosecutor.”

Leahy said he expects Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to press Holder on his role in former President Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich just before Clinton left office in 2001. Karl Rove, an ex-aide to President George W. Bush recently “gave marching orders” to do so, Leahy said.

At the time Clinton issued the pardon, Holder said his view toward it was “neutral, leaning toward favorable.”

While living abroad, Rich was indicted in 1983 on charges of tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. Rich’s wife was a large contributor to the Democratic Party and to the presidential library that was being built to house Clinton’s papers.

HOLDER/If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Holder would become the first black U.S. attorney general and head of the Justice Department, which was rocked by scandal during the tenure of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

With the next Congress set to convene on Jan. 6, Leahy said Holder’s confirmation hearing likely would be held the first week lawmakers are back, with the goal of a Senate confirmation vote on Jan. 20, the same day Obama is to become the 44th U.S. president.

The 57-year-old Holder is a former D.C. Superior Court judge whose good looks often set jurors’ hearts aflutter.

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Photo credit: Top: Reuters/John Gress (Holder listens as Obama announces his national security team Dec. 1 in Chicago); Bottom: Reuters/Larry Downing (Holder meets with Leahy on Capitol Hill Dec. 8  )

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