Holder headed for confirmation as AG

January 16, 2009 12:04:37 AM PST
President-elect Barack Obama's pick for attorney general appeared headed for confirmation Thursday.

Attorney general nominee Eric Holder laid out a new course away from the Bush administration's handling of the Justice Department.

He agreed that water boarding is torture and assured the confirmation committee that Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay would be closed.

The biggest objection to Holder has been his involvement with the pardoning of financier Marc Rich, who was involved in trading arms for oil during the Iranian hostage crisis.

"Were you aware, Mr. Holder, of the atrocious record that Rich had in dealing with Khomeini and the Iranians," Sen. Arlen Specter asked.

"No I was not, and that was one of the mistakes that I made," Holder replied.

Critics suggested Holder would not be independent enough, prompting this line of questions from supporter Sen. Charles Schumer:

"Have you ever been President-elect Obama's personal lawyer?"
"Have you ever been a staffer to Barack Obama like Ed Meese for President Reagan?"
"And, by the way, has Barack Obama ever dispatched you to a hospital room of a sick government official to get a signature for an illegal wire tap?"

Sen. Dianne Feinstein also quizzed Holder about Alberto Gonzales, specifically an inspector general's report that found former assistant attorney general Bradley Schlozman had lied last year while being questioned by Feinstein during a 2007 hearing into allegations the Bush administration was politicizing the Justice Department.

Thursday Feinstein made it clear she wants Schlozman prosecuted.

"Clear lying to this committee and I believe that's a violation of law and I would hope the Justice Department would take action," Feinstein said.

Republicans picked over Holder's involvement with the Clinton pardons and Democrats went after Gonzales and a whole litany of complaints. In the end Republican Oren Hatch of Utah, the former committee chairman, told Holder, "you've acquitted yourself well," and Hatch added that he looked forward to Holder being confirmed.