Will New Fast and Furious Documents Cast Shadows Over AG Holder’s Exit?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder is on his way out. His legacy includes a broad expanse of work. Holder, who announced his retirement in late September at the White House, worked alongside President Barack Obama to put forth the My Brother’s Keeper program to help communities get kids through school safely, with futures in both work and higher education, and without threat of violence. He encouraged state attorneys general to refuse defense of state bans on same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, and worked to change prison sentences that predominantly and ineffectively punish young African Americans.

He was involved in restoring semblance of trust in Ferguson where protests over the shooting of Michael Brown took place and has made efforts to evaluate police force and to protect voting rights. “I chose [Eric Holder] to serve as Attorney General because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory. It’s a living and breathing principle,” said Obama. “Soon, Eric, Sharon, and their kids will be a bit freer to pursue a little more happiness of their own. And thanks to Eric’s efforts, so will more Americans — regardless of race or religion, gender or creed, sexual orientation or disability, who will receive fair and equal treatment under the law.”

As with any soon-to-be-retired political figure, he’s undoubtedly hoping to leave a legacy behind that will remain at the very least only moderately tarnished, and at the most, one to make his exit a smooth and dignified affair. The position is a difficult one, but a normal amount of tarnish on his copper record may be more than Holder can hope for. It’s no secret he’s been a controversial holder of the AG office, and even with only a few more months to go, it’s looking less and less likely he’ll leave under cloudless skies given the developments in the Fast and Furious gun scandal.

Background on the scandal

The Fast and Furious scandal, thus named because of the gun running and drug cartel’s connection to an underground car club, refers to an operation conducted by the Department of Justice/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which resulted in the misplacement of a segment of a large shipment of firearms.

The firearms, including AK-47s, were used in an undercover sale as part of an operation intended to help incriminate and catch high status members of Mexican drug cartels. However, the gun-walking attempt failed rather spectacularly in that only lower level members were arrested, and many of the guns went missing and have since resurfaced in shootings that led to death and injury. The scandal that resulted questioned the wisdom of the operation, something a number of involved parties did before and during the actual weapon exchange.

Recent events and documents released

Since then, there’s been efforts made by the Judicial Watch group, a conservative organization, to utilize the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to documents, and then later, during a resultant lawsuit between the Judicial Watch and the Department of Justice, to obtain a Vaughn Index. A Vaughn Index is a series of documents which defend the department’s refusal to hand over information in light of the use of the FOIA.

As a result of the recent release of said Index, a list of documents has become available, which is now reveal a list of documents that aren’t being shown. This information is revealing in itself, and includes a number of emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone which are protected under a claim of executive privilege. According to Judicial Watch, the documents include information on Holder’s “involvement in managing the Justice Department strategy on media and Congressional investigations.”

What this ultimately means for Holder is that further digging and speculation will likely continue, and Republicans will be especially eager to sully his name — as well as the Obama administration’s — for two reasons. The first has to do with the upcoming elections. With the race for Senate majority so close, many in Congress would like to see Democrats take a hit from the scandal; a series of bad PR newsflashes and increased speculation against the Obama administration goes a long way toward damaging Democratic candidates’ chances. The second reason has to do with Holder’s replacement, which Republicans may make a difficult matter, and this difficulty will be easier to justify if Holder’s reputation is messy when he departs the office. Ultimately, it’s likely history will remember Holder more fondly once time has passed, but the present moment is highly politically charged, and could make his exit a sloppy one.

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