WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama’s top choice for attorney general is Eric Holder, a former No. 2 Justice Department official in the Clinton administration and Obama campaign aide who would become the first African-American to serve as the nation’s chief lawyer.
The Obama transition team has gone so far as to ask senators whether they would confirm Holder, who reviewed Clinton’s controversial pardon of fugitive Marc Rich just as he was leaving office, an Obama official and people close to the matter said Tuesday.
But the Obama official said the decision has not been finalized.
In the past week, Obama aides have asked Senate Republicans whether they would support Holder. In particular, the aides questioned whether Holder’s confirmation would be delayed because of his involvement in the 2001 pardon of Rich.
One person involved in the talks said the Obama team has received some assurances that, while the pardon would certainly come up during hearings, the nomination likely wouldn’t be held up.
Holder has publicly apologized for what he said was a snap decision that he should have paid more attention to. Had he taken more time to review the case, he would have advised against a pardon, he said.
Holder, 57, also a former judge and U.S. attorney in Washington, is widely respected in legal circles and among Justice Department career lawyers. He has been on Obama’s short list to be attorney general since before the election.