In two days, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) will begin the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Eric Holder, former Clinton deputy attorney general who is President-elect Barack Obama’s highly controversial nominee to the office of Attorney General. Holder, best known for playing a major role in the Clinton pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, will face skeptical Republicans, including ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
Specter has run into a Leahy roadblock in his attempts to get some of the background documents on the nomination. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has refused to sign off on document requests by Republicans relevant to the hearing from the Department of Justice and the Clinton administration archives at the library in Little Rock.
This is — according to Republican staff sources — enormously frustrating to Specter. He cannot make document requests unilaterally using the power of the Committee. Only if Leahy joins in the request will it likely even be answered. Those staffers said that they cannot recall any instance in which Specter refused a Leahy request when the Republican was chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
According to Republican committee staffers, Leahy declined to sign these requests for production of documents. The initial letters were sent in early December. Late Monday, the DOJ finally dumped 600 pages of documents in response, noting that Republicans on the committee could receive more documents “in the future” related to this request. There have to date been literally no documents produced by Republican requests to the Clinton presidential archives. Under this shadow of the appearance of a possible cover-up, Senate Democrats are still attempting to expedite Holder’s nomination.
Chairman Leahy should be aware that his refusal to put the force of his committee chair behind the Republican request for documentation results in the request carrying little more weight than a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from the general public — which has proven in the past to take as long as 10 years for fulfillment. Republican Judiciary Committee staffers could not recall any instance where then Chairman Arlen Specter denied Democrats any request for documentation on a Bush nominee.
Another Clinton administration retread, Holder was at the epicenter of some of the largest Clinton presidential scandals. Document requests to the DOJ and Clinton archives include information on Holder’s role in matters such as the Waco-Branch Davidian massacre, the Elian Gonzales snatch and grab, pardons of Weather Underground domestic terrorists and FALN Puerto Rican terrorists, the DOJ investigation into fundraising activities involving representatives of the Chinese government by then Vice-President Al Gore, and the DOJ investigation by the Clinton administration into the dual-use nuclear and communications technology transfer to China by top Democrat donor Loral Space Corporation.
Most notable of Holder’s pardon scandals was his leading role in the Marc Rich pardon; Rich — on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for millions of dollars in federal income tax evasion and violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act for Rich’s business dealings with Iran — was pardoned by President Clinton on his last day in office.
Adding further appearance of impropriety, according to Senate staffers, Holder has also neglected to fully complete his nominations questionnaire in areas related to his opinions and published opinions.
To further complicate matters, reports came to light on Monday evening of a more extensive connection between Holder and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich which Holder did not fully disclose. Holder claims that he did not perform any “substantive” work for the disgraced Illinois governor in a gaming board licensing matter that was clouded by charges of corruption. Yet in response to a request for documentation from Republican Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Illinois governor’s office has produced an April 22, 2004 letter from Holder himself on his firm’s letterhead which states that Blagojevich hired him for oversight on the entire investigation. Reports show Holder’s firm was paid $300,000 in legal fees. This latest development may be the first crack in the wall of secrecy erected by Senate Democrats around Holder’s confirmation process.
From the truth is stranger than fiction file, Holder in private practice was the attorney for Fernando Aquirre, CEO of Chiquita Brands International wherein Holder acquired a $25 million settlement for the corporation when its top executive was charged with paying $1.7 million to a Columbian death squad that killed thousands of people, including hundreds of labor leaders and workers organizing banana picking laborers in Columbia.
Given the extent of the multitude of controversies swirling around this nominee, it is fair to ask why Senate Democrats are attempting to push this nomination through in an expedited manner while withholding participation in the fulfillment of requests for documentation. What are Senate Democrats trying to hide?