Eric Holder was sworn in as attorney general late Tuesday morning, making him the 82nd attorney general of the U.S. and the first African American in the country’s history.
Holder was confirmed 75-21 by the Senate Monday night, with opposition coming from Republicans. Republicans had previously indicated that they would put Holder’s nomination under a lot of scrutiny because of his role in the pardon given by President Bill Clinton eight years ago to Marc Rich, a rogue financier who fled the U.S. to avoid prosecution.
Holder is well-versed in the operations of the Justice Department. In his previous role as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, he focused on healthcare fraud, computer crimes, software piracy, and investigation of high-level federal officials.
As attorney general, Holder will inherit a Justice Department that has been plagued by Bush administration scandals over politically inspired hirings and firings, according to the Associated Press. He has pledged to restore its reputation. He also will play a major role in the future of terrorism detainees.
During his first days in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison within a year. He also named Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to serve as co-chairs of a new task force to review detainee policy.
Holder will also have to decide whether the Obama administration should reverse former President George W. Bush’s order that three of his former top aides – Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Josh Bolten — not be forced to testify before Congress about firings of U.S. attorneys.
Holder had previously been a partner at law firm Covington & Burling, handling complex civil and criminal cases, domestic and international advisory matters and internal corporate investigations.
After graduating from Columbia Law School he joined the Department of Justice as part of the Attorney General’s Honors Program. He was assigned to the newly formed Public Integrity Section in 1976 and investigated and prosecuted official corruption on the local, state and federal levels.
In 1988, Holder was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to become an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Over the next five years, Holder presided over hundreds of civil and criminal trials and matters. Many of the trials involved homicides and other crimes of violence.
In 1993, Clinton nominated Holder to become the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. As U.S. Attorney, Holder created a Domestic Violence Unit to more effectively handle those types of cases, implemented a community prosecution project to work with residents and local government agencies in order to make neighborhoods safer, supported a renewed enforcement emphasis on hate crimes so that criminal acts of intolerance would be severely .
Four years later Clinton appointed Holder to serve as Deputy Attorney General, the number two position in the United States Department of Justice. He became the first African-American to serve as Deputy Attorney General. Holder briefly served under President George W. Bush as acting attorney general pending the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Holder was born in New York