In an interview on “The Rachel Maddow Show” aired Oct. 23 on the MSNBC television network, Holder, whose father Eric Sr. was born in Barbados, said he’s worried over Trump’s attempts to muddy the distinct boundaries between the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ), where he served as the first African American U.S. attorney general between 2009 and 2015.
Holder, in his first live television interview since last November’s presidential elections, called Trump’s interest in personally interviewing potential U.S. attorneys in certain states “unprecedented.” He also viewed the president’s recent public attacks on current AG Jeff Sessions as “unprecedented, unwise” and accused Trump of “lack of understanding” about the role of the attorney general. Trump, he believes, should know the AG works for the DOJ, not the president personally.
Holder said during his tenure as AG, under the presidency of Barack Obama, there was clear understanding of boundaries the White House and DOJ were not allowed to cross in their relationship with each other. Holder believes Obama’s background as a lawyer made it easy for the former president to recognize the importance of the AG’s office to be perceived as not being influenced by political bias.
“It wasn’t difficult with Barack Obama,” explained Holder, who returned to private law practice after leaving the Department of Justice. “… There were a whole range of law enforcement issues I didn’t share with him.
“There has to be a wall (between the White House and the DOJ),” Holder also said during the interview with Maddow.
Trump, however, has applied a different tactic, especially in interviewing potential U.S. attorneys, including those who would work in states that Trump has personal business and political interests. Holder is “hoping” the successful candidates will still be able to do their job fairly, but he blasted Trump’s approach.
“It’s just not the way things are done,” Holder said, adding that Trump’s actions “gives me concern.”
Holder, now 66, also sees “inconsistent ways” between the way Sessions has dealt with the White House when compared to other AGs.
The former AG didn’t rule out running for political office in the future, but said he’s currently working with Obama to fix some problems in the U.S. electoral system, including re-districting and gerrymandering of constituency lines which they believe corrupt the system.
“I think our democracy is under attack,” explained Holder, adding that re-districting and gerrymandering has helped cause “dysfunction” in Washington.
Holder also weighed in on the current investigations over Russia’s involvement in U.S. political process. He expressed “confidence” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s months-long probe, which has turned some of its focus on current White House occupants, including Trump, will be “conclusive” and allowed to be scrutinzed by the public.
“My hope is that he’ll (Mueller) do a thorough investigation,” said Holder, “… and share with the American people.”
During his tenure as AG, Holder, a former judge, was the target of heated backlash from political interests, especially in the Republican Party. He was at the center of a some highly controversial issues, including the “Fast and Furious” probe, which led to Holder being held in contempt of Congress.
Still, Holder, a native of the Bronx, New York, who was succeeded as AG by Loretta Lynch, expressed surprise at hatred towards him while he served as the top U.S. law enforcement officer.
“It’s something that kinda baffled me,” he told Maddow. “
… I never quite understood that.”