Archive for September, 2014
An Administration insider has revealed that President Barack Obama’s intelligence briefings have provided him with specific information since before he won re-election in 2012 about the growing threat of the terror group now known alternatively as ISIS and ISIL.
‘Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president’s daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate predictions about ISIL have been showing up in the Oval Office since before the 2012 election,’ said a national security staffer in the Obama administration who is familiar with the content of intelligence briefings.
The staffer declined to share anything specific about the content of those briefings, citing his need to maintain a security clearance.
But ‘it’s true,’ he said, ‘that the intelligence community was sending pretty specific intel up to us.’
‘We were seeing specific threat assessments and many of them have panned out exactly as we were told they would.’ The aide said he is familiar with some of the material regarding the Middle East that reaches Obama’s desk.
In a ’60 Minutes’ interview that aired Sunday, the president singled out James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, for blame in failing to understand the significance of the threat posed by the terror army that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
‘Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper,’ Obama said, ‘has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.’
This blame pointing by the president is not sitting well in the White House. ‘It’s starting to affect morale around here,’ he said. ‘Any time you’re hired by a boss to advise him about what to do in a high-stakes area, and he ignores you for a long time, it’s going to gnaw at you.’
And choosing a fall guy, he said, has a smell of desperation about it since the president was warned long ago what could happen if ISIS, formerly known in the West as Al-Qaeda In Iraq, were left alone to fester following a U.S. military withdrawal.
The last American boots on the ground were airlifted from Iraq in December 2011. In the months that followed, he explained, U.S. intelligence services compiled detailed information about what the groups he called ‘bad guys’ were doing to take advantage of the sudden power vacuum.
And those briefings were specific about both the breadth of ISIS’s aims and their ability to run roughshod over large swaths of two countries.
There’s ‘no way’ the president should blame the alphabet-soup of intelligence agencies for what resulted, the aide said.
‘He had enough to go on … He knew what was at stake. He knew where all the moving pieces were.’
‘By February 2014 we had generals basically reading out their memos to Congress,’ he added, referring to testimony from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Flynn predicted ISIS ‘probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.’ The Islamist terror group had already seized Fallujah and Ramadi, he said, had the ‘ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.’
By the time Flynn spoke on Capitol Hill, Congress had already heard the story at least once before.
Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in November 2013 that ISIS had been militarily active all year because of ‘a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed.’
‘It has also benefited from a sanctuary across the porous border in Syria, control of lucrative facilities there, such as oil wells, and regular movement of weapons and fighters between Syria and Iraq,’ McGurk said.
Asked whether the president heard that early warning and found it credible, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told an ABC News reporter that ‘nobody could predict … the (lack of) willingness of the Iraqi security forces to stand up and fight for their own country.’
But a source said that even McGurk’s warning bells were old news in the White House.
The president, he said, was hearing information about ISIS ‘long before that. It goes back to the autumn of 2012.’
Al-Qaeda in Iraq, he said, had already begun to metamorphose into ISIS before Obama ran for president the first time. In 2006 the group’s Mujahideen Shura Council declared an Islamic ‘state’ in western and central Iraq, a development U.S. military intelligence was aware of since they were stationed ‘in country.’
By the late autumn of that year the nascent self-proclaimed Sunni country was organized and holding open-air military parades.
President Obama ordered America’s military to pack up and return home at the end of 2011. By that time, the would-be nation ISIS’s goals had exploded to encompass controlling land in Syria. And its tactical toolbox had grown to include the kind of genocidal preferences that ISIS has showed in 2013 and 2014.
While the U.S. officially left no residual military force in Iraq, the aide said, small contingents of Special Operators and intelligence assets did remain behind. And the information they provided became part of the president’s briefings in the months that followed, right in the midst of presidential campaign season.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Still, Obama repeatedly claimed in his campaign speeches that his administration had left Middle Eastern terror groups hamstrung and hurting.
‘Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq and we did,’ he said during a Sept. 13, 2012 speech in Colorado. ‘I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan and we are.’ ‘And while a new tower rises above the New York skyline, al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.’
Those words came two days after a terror attack that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya.
The administration later claimed he was referring to ‘al-Qaeda core,’ the Pakistan-based mother ship once helped by Osama bin Laden. But ISIS’s roots as an al-Qaeda faction now make Obama’s pronouncements look questionable.
Since the president’s CBS interview aired Sunday night, a few intrepid whistle-blowers have poked their heads above Washington’s parapets to disagree with his claim that his intelligence advisers failed to pinpoint the growing ISIS threat.
One former senior Pentagon aide told The Daily Beast that ‘either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bulls***ting.’ He echoed the Pentagon veteran’s concerns about how the president digests the information that Clapper and others distill for him on a daily basis.
‘It’s pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,’ the aide said. ‘He gets them in writing.’
‘And it’s well-understood why. No one sits and watches him read them, and no one can come back later and tell Congress in a closed session that “I told the president this specific thing was likely to happen”.’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said late Monday in a statement that U.S. intelligence agencies have ‘specifically warned’ for ‘over a year’ that ISIS ‘was taking advantage of the situation in Syria to recruit members and provoke violence that could spill into Iraq and the rest of the region.’
In 2013, he said, his committee ‘formally pressed the administration for action to address the terrorist threat present in Syria.’
‘We all knew that former Iraqi Prime Minster Maliki had mismanaged his military and gutted the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) of its top commanders. Indeed, over a year ago, our Arab League partners sought U.S. support and leadership for a coordinated effort to address the extremist threat in eastern Syria.’
‘This was not an Intelligence Community failure,’ Rogers said, ‘but a failure by policy makers to confront the threat.’
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told a CNN audience on Monday that he was ‘puzzled by the president, some of his statements. … We predicted what would happen if we didn’t leave (a) residual force’ in Iraq.
‘The intelligence people are pushing back hard,’ McCain observed.
‘We predicted this and watched it, it was like watching a train wreck, and warning every step of the way that this was happening.’
President Obama acknowledged that the U.S. underestimated the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off the militant group in an interview that will air Sunday on CBS’s 60 minutes.
The president was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft about comments from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has said the U.S. not only underestimated ISIS, it also overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi military to fight the extremist group.
“That’s true,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s absolutely true.”
“Jim Clappper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said, blaming the instability of the Syrian civil war for giving extremists space to thrive.
The comments were among the president’s most candid to date about the rapid rise of the terrorist group that has ransacked much of Syria and Iraq in recent months.
“Essentially what happened with ISIL was that you had al Qaeda in Iraq, which was a vicious group, but our Marines were able to quash with the help of Sunni tribes,” he explained. “They went back underground, but over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you had huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.”
The group was able to “attract foreign fighters who believed in their jihadist nonsense and traveled everywhere from Europe to the United States to Australia to other parts of the Muslim world, converging on Syria,” the president said. “And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
He said their recruitment has been aided by a “very savvy” social media campaign. He also blamed remnants of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military, which were expunged from the Iraqi military after Hussein’s fall, for lending some “traditional military capacity” to the terrorist group.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to recognize part of the solution here is gonna be military,” he said. “We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters.”
The U.S. has been launching air strikes at ISIS targets in Iraq for weeks, and the administration expanded that campaign to include targets in Syria this week. The president also sought and received congressional authorization to equip and train moderate Syrian rebel groups to take the fight to ISIS on the ground.
But as he has before, the president said that a lasting peace can only be secured with a political solution.
“What we also have to do is we have to come up with political solutions in Iraq and Syria, in particular, but in the Middle East generally that arrive in the combination between Sunni and Shia populations that right now are the biggest cause of conflict, not just in the Middle East, but in the world.”
U.S. lawmakers on Sunday stepped up calls for congressional authorization of President Barack Obama’s war against the Islamic State militants, amid signs the United States and its allies face a long and difficult fight.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told ABC’s “This Week” that he believed Obama had the legal authority for strikes against Islamic State, but would call lawmakers back from their districts if Obama sought a resolution backing the action.
“I think he does have the authority to do it. But … this is a proposal the Congress ought to consider,” Boehner said, warning that the United States could eventually be dragged into another ground war in the region.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN that Congress should debate the issue because of uncertainty about how long the U.S. military would remain engaged in Syria.
“There are some serious questions that we have to ask,” Murphy said. “You need a realistic political strategy. And I just don’t think we have that today in Syria.”
The United States went to war again some time around Constitution Day, looking nothing like the constitutional republic the framers of the Constitution hoped they had created when they attached their names to that document on September 17, 1787.
The reasons for this are perhaps as numerous as the possible starting dates for the war, but all are grounded in a disregard for deliberative government and the rule of law–the essential hallmarks of a republic.
The distribution of the Constitution’s powers and the explanation of that distribution in The Federalist suggest that there are four key steps in a republic going to war:
- a case for war presented by the president to the Congress and, by extension, the American people;
- an expression of popular support in the approval of the House of Representatives as the (most) democratic part of the government;
- wise deliberation on war ends and means, especially in the Senate, whose structure and powers (like approving treaties) were meant to promote careful and reasonable reflection;
- secrecy and dispatch in executing the resolution approved, led by the president, relevant cabinet members, and the military chain of command.
The president is the key figure at the beginning and the end, but in between, the legislative branch is meant to add “reflection” and express “choice,” in the famous words of the first Federalist essay that is, to make the most solemn decision for the regime in a way consistent with the principles of the regime.
What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is a parody of this process. The president did speak, but he spoke to the American people, not the Congress, whose approval he claimed he did not need. Then the Administration spent two days publicly debating itself over what exactly he didn’t need approval to do–before deciding that “of course” it was war we’ve been talking about all along. Members of the House, eager to get back “home” to campaign and not at all eager to cast a controversial vote on their way to the airport, tacked a resolution supporting the arming and training of “moderate” Syrians onto a stopgap spending bill last Wednesday.
The next day, the Senate approved the House package, pushing any real deliberation on peace or war (not to mention federal spending) off for three months–until after the elections are over and the President has already made (his) war a fait accompli. All along the way, there’s been plenty of grandstanding, but no deliberating; lots of words, but few arguments.
This is the way of a hollowed-out democratic empire, not a healthy republic–where demagogues engage in political theater, while clear-sighted enemies impose on them new realities.
Last week, the former senators in the three highest positions in the US government provided an instructive if unintentional lesson in why this difference matters.
Ivy League-educated former US Senator from Massachusetts, under-the-radar adjunct professor of theology, and current Secretary of State John Kerry, offered to help Islamic peoples redefine their religion, making it more palatable to themselves and the West.
It really is that simple, isn’t it? Once we’ve got a bead on the Syrian moderates, we’ll get some Sunni and Shiite Muslims in a room, get that whole “religious foundation” thing squared away, and then “put the real Islam out there and draw lines throughout the region.”
Not to be outdone, teacher and knower of all things good, former community organizer and US Senator from Illinois, and current POTUS Barack Obama, in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson’s “I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men,” offered ISIS a lesson on terrorism.
Whereas Machiavelli counseled, “Never do any enemy a small injury for they are like a snake which is half beaten and it will strike back the first chance,” Mr. Obama, perhaps auditioning for a future role on the TED Talk circuit, advised ISIS to institute progressive best practices by kidnapping, releasing, and pinning notes on one’s released hostages saying “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.”
Meanwhile Vice-President Joe Biden, the Clouseau-like truth teller of the group, in perfect Joe Biden form, suggested in a meet-and-greet with nuns that our business in the region will not include “boots on the ground” until strategic failure requires “boots on the ground.” In other words, “overseas contingency operations” are made for winning only after missteps have produced predictable losses, with the caveat that one define “winning” as mutually assured stalemate.
In each of these instances, we see liberal internationalist fantasies at play, with no political course correction on the near horizon.
For John Kerry, the moral and ideational differences that divide peoples merely amount to delusional misinterpretations of religious and political principles that can be cast aside. Every religion is a Bahá’í faith waiting to be revealed, and every city of man is a city of peace waiting to be made. For Barack Obama, one overcomes the defect of better motives by conjuring up shared interests wherever imaginable. And for Joe Biden, a toothless dog is better than a dead lion.
Can anyone deliver us from this folly? Not easily, if the Senate persists in its role as the world’s least deliberative body. If it won’t debate budgets and war measures, what is it there for?
As the leading American diplomat of the day, John Jay wrote the Federalist essay on the Senate’s role in approving treaties (no. 64). He argued that because of its close connection with “war, peace, and commerce,” the power to make treaties should be delegated to those “who best understand our national interests . . . who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence.”
The Senate should be filled with such leaders, Jay argued, based upon its qualifications for office, the (state legislature-based) mode by which its members are chosen, the length of their term, and their rotating system of elections. If this is the case today, the Senate is much too diffident of displaying its virtues. Let us see a chamber of presidents-in-waiting debate the why and how of our new war.
Here’s how: our mentor, distinguished scholar of foreign affairs and one-time Senate aide Dr. Angelo Codevilla, has prepared a war resolution in the sort of plain declaratives that refuse to shelter sloppy thinking or calculated equivocations. Any Senator might propose it to the body. Not one, perhaps, would wish to vote for it as written. Then let them change it, explaining their reasons why. Let us see how they understand “our national interests” and how best “to promote those interests.”
Last year, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both reminded Americans that the Senate can be more than an elegant setting for Harry Reid’s Koch-induced temper tantrums. Senator Paul’s filibuster concerning the domestic use of drones and Senator Cruz’s speech against Obamacare drew national attention–to arguments on important policy questions.
Today, we very much need a real debate on the war with ISIS, because we very much need to win that war–in the real world.
David Corbin is a Professor of Politics and Matthew Parks an Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, New York City. They are co-authors of “Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation” (2011). You can follow their work on Twitter or Facebook.
The Russian foreign minister issued a blistering attack on the West and NATO on Saturday, accusing them of being unable to change their Cold War “genetic code” and saying the United States must abandon its claims to “eternal uniqueness.”
Sergei Lavrov’s assault appeared to be an extension of the increasingly anti-Western stance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is riding a wave of popularity at home with his neo-nationalist rhetoric and policies.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Lavrov said the crisis in Ukraine was the result of a coup d’etat in that country backed by the United States and the European Union for the purpose of pulling Kiev out of its “organic role as a binding link” between East and West, denying it the opportunity for “neutral and non-bloc status.”
Lavrov also said the Russian annexation of Crimea earlier this year was the choice of the largely Russian-speaking population there. Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred control over the strategic Black Sea region to Ukraine from Moscow in the 1950s.
Immediately before Lavrov spoke, the German foreign minister said Russia’s actions to retake Crimea were a crime.
“Russia has, with its annexation of Crimea, unilaterally changed existing borders in Europe and thus broke international law,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in his address to the world body. He spent considerable time speaking about what the West sees as Russian meddling in Ukraine, a nation on the verge of bankruptcy after a series of corrupt post-independence regimes.
Lavrov made no mention of Western allegations that Russia has sent troops and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebels there who have taken over a number of key industrial cities after the ouster of former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich. His departure followed months of demonstrations against his corrupt rule.
Russia routinely denies its forces are involved.
Lavrov rejected that Western economic sanctions would cause Russia to reverse course on the issue of Ukraine.
“Attempts to put pressure on Russia and to compel it to abandon its values, truth and justice have no prospects whatsoever,” Lavrov said.
The regime has been using the sanctions in a propaganda drive to build support at home, creating anger against the U.S. and Europe as a distraction from the pain that Russia’s citizens absorb from the punitive measures.
The Kremlin’s growing anger with the United States and Western Europe springs from long-standing and bitter complaints over the past two decades about NATO expansion into former Soviet satellite nations in Eastern Europe and some Baltic nations, once Soviet republics. Lavrov insisted Russia was promised, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that the expansion would not occur.
There now is a cease-fire, though routinely violated, in eastern Ukraine. Lavrov and other Russian officials now say they believe a settlement is possible, given the wobbly cease-fire and new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision to delay implementation of the country’s economic association agreement with the European Union.
But, Lavrov said, the Ukraine crisis should be a lesson to Washington and NATO against trying to break “the deep-rooted and fraternal ties between the two peoples” of Russia and Ukraine.
A Syrian rebel force of 12,000 to 15,000 will be needed to push back Islamic State militants in the country’s east, three times the number of fighters due to be trained by the United States, the top US military officer said Friday.
In offering the estimate, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said building up a viable rebel force on the ground would be vital to rolling back the gains of the IS group in Syria, but warned it would take time and patience.
“We’ve had estimates anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 is what we believe they would need to recapture lost territory in eastern Syria,” Dempsey told a news conference at the Pentagon.
The current plan for 5,000 recruits to be trained and armed by American instructors over the next year was never intended to represent the total number of troops forming the “moderate” rebel forces.
“Five thousand has never been the end state…,” he said.
It was the first time Washington had put a number on how big a rebel force might be required to prevail against the IS extremists in Syria.
The general said defeating the IS group would take more than air power and that “a ground component” was an important aspect of the US-led campaign.
“We believe the path to develop that is the Syrian moderate opposition,” he said.
The general said he was “confident” the training effort would be successful but pleaded for patience.
“We have to do it right. Not fast,” he said.
“We need to have military leaders that bind them together. They have to have a political structure into which they can hook, and therefore be responsive to. And that’s going to take some time.”
The US Congress last week approved President Barack Obama’s plan to train and equip up to 5,000 “moderate” rebel troops, and Saudi Arabia has offered to host the training.
Asked who was the head of the opposition that was receiving US assistance, Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel said there was no leader at the moment as Washington was vetting the recruits.
“We don’t have a head of it, in that we are vetting and will continue to vet through our regional partners, State Department, intelligence departments . . .,” he said. “We’re not going to instruct them as to who their leaders are.”
He said a total of 43 US-led air strikes in Syria this week and about 200 in Iraq since August 8 had damaged the IS group but there was a long fight ahead.
“I also want to emphasize that no one is under any illusions, under any illusions, that airstrikes alone will destroy ISIL,” said Hagel, using an alternative acronym for the group.
“They are one element of our broader comprehensive campaign against ISIL, a campaign that has diplomatic, economic, intelligence and other military components, working with coalition partners and a new government in Iraq.”
Hagel also said the cost of the air war for the United States was at about at $7 million to $10 million a day and acknowledged that the Obama administration would have to ask Congress for more funds to cover the operation in coming months.
The US government was still not certain if air attacks in Syria this week had killed senior leaders of the IS outfit or of the Khorsasan group, a collection of Al-Qaeda militants. Dempsey said.
“What we do is, we monitor various kinds of intelligence. We scan social media, which is normally the first place you find out, frankly. But it’s too soon to tell,” the general said.
Britain, Belgium and Denmark on Friday joined the U.S. led coalition of nations that are launching airstrikes on Islamic State group in Iraq, committing warplanes to the struggle against the extremists.
The European lawmakers flatly described the moves as critical to security on home soil, arguing that facing down terrorists has become a matter of urgency. British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea for action in drastic terms, noting that the militants had beheaded their victims, gouged out eyes and carried out crucifixions to promote goals “from the Dark Ages.”
“This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us,” he said. “There isn’t a ‘walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.”
Cameron told a tense House of Commons during more than six hours of debate that the hallmarks of the campaign would be “patience and persistence, not shock and awe,” a reference to the phrase associated with the invasion of Iraq.
That unpopular intervention has cast a shadow over the discussions because critics fear that Europe will be drawn into a wider conflict, specifically taking on the Islamic group’s fighters in Syria.
British lawmakers voted 524-43 for action after being urgently recalled from a recess. Belgian also overwhelmingly approved, voting 114-2 to take part, despite widespread concerns that more terrorism may follow in their homeland as a result.
In May, Belgium was shaken when a gunman opened fire at a Jewish museum in Brussels, killing four people. The suspect, French citizen Mehdi Nemouche, has been identified as a returning Islamic fighter from Syria, and leaders in Belgium and other European countries have expressed their fears that other returnees from Syria and Iraq may cause further havoc.
“We must fight against torture, against decapitations, so it’s time to act,” said Belgian lawmaker Veli Yuksel, a Flemish Christian Democrat
Denmark pledged seven F-16 fighter jets. Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said her government would send four operational planes and three reserve jets along with 250 pilots and support staff for 12 months. Lawmakers in Denmark must also approve, but that is considered a formality.
“No one should be ducking in this case” she said. “Everyone should contribute.”
Britain is expected to deploy Tornado GR4 aircraft, a handful of which are in Cyprus, within striking distance of northern Iraq.
The British resolution does not address any action in Syria, though many lawmakers tried to push the government to admit that this is the likely next step.
Cameron has justified action in Iraq as lawful because the Iraqi leadership has asked for help.
No European nation has yet agreed to join the U.S. and some Arab states in strikes in Syria.
The motion before Britain’s Parliament set no time limit, and that caused unease. Many lawmakers suggested the fight could stretch for years.
“ISIS is a death cult, it’s a gang of terrorist murderers. It’s not an army and it’s certainly not an army that’s going to be destroyed by aerial bombardment,” said legislator George Galloway, using a former name for the radicals.
Cameron ensured his success by keeping the motion narrowly tailored, staving off the defeat suffered a year ago when Parliament shot down the idea of intervening in Syria to thwart Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon later indicated that the government might later ask Parliament for support for Syrian airstrikes.
“ISIS is based in Syria, that’s where its headquarters are, that’s where its resources, its people are. To deal with ISIS you do have to deal and defeat them in both Iraq and in Syria,” he told BBC. “We are taking this in a calm, measured way, step-by-step, but it is clear to us that obviously ISIS, in the end, has to be tackled on a broader front.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black attorney general, will announce his resignation Thursday, ending a turbulent, six-year tenure in which his office addressed major issues, from banking scandals and terrorism to civil-rights cases. And the big question on everyone’s mind: Who will replace him?
Holder has been in his position since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term and is a close personal friend of Obama.
So who might be chosen to fill Holder’s shoes? Here’s a list of seven candidates who definitely will be in the mix for the job, in no particular order.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Deval Patrick is one of the names consistently floated as a hypothetical replacement for Holder. Patrick worked as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, and is a friend of Obama. The timing is also convenient for Patrick. He’s not seeking re-election in Massachusetts and will be out of his job come January. Patrick would likely face a tough confirmation in the Senate though, and particularly if Republicans take back control of the upper chamber in the midterm elections. Plus, he might have his eye on a bigger job. There has been speculation that he’s considering a presidential run in 2016. Obama said in an interview with a local Boston news station earlier this year that he thinks Patrick “would make a great president or vice president.”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.
The nation’s top lawyer, Donald Verrilli Jr., is another name mentioned as a potential new AG. Verrilli has served as solicitor general since 2011, and in that role he’s argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the administration, including the Affordable Care Act case. Before he took over as solicitor general, replacing Elena Kagan after her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Verrilli served as deputy counsel to Obama. One potential con for Verrilli though is that he is an older white male, and the administration may be looking to replace Holder with a younger or more diverse candidate.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris
A rising star in the Democratic Party, Kamala Harris is another person whose name will definitely be thrown into the conversation. Harris is the first female, the first African-American and the first Asian-American attorney general in California. Well-known in California for her legal work, Harris might be best remembered on the national level for the small controversy last year that occurred after the President referred to her as “the best-looking attorney general” at a fundraiser in California. Like Deval Patrick however, Harris would likely face a tough Senate confirmation, particularly in a Republican-controlled Senate, because she is seen as very liberal.
Kathy Ruemmler, former White House counsel
Ruemmler served as White House counsel from 2011 until earlier this year. She’s a close confidante of the president and very well-respected, Ruemmler is indeed a strong contender for the job. One potential strike against her, is her former role as the president’s lawyer might raise questions about how independent a Justice Department under her rule would be from the administration.
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York
Like Holder, Bharara has served in the Obama administration for six years. Bharara was nominated to serve as the U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District (which encompasses Bronx, New York and Westchester counties, among others) in May 2009. Bharara’s name is certainly on the list, but a potential factor working against him is that he’s not well-known to many people, including the President.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
Before he became the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security last year, Jeh Johnson was a lawyer for the Department of Defense. Working in Johnson’s favor: He was confirmed 78-16 to his current post. Working against Johnson: Removing him from DHS would put Obama in the position of finding a replacement, not ideal right now, given the new threats from ISIS and the Khorasan group.
Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York
In May, 2010 Lynch was appointed to serve as the U.S. attorney in New York’s Eastern District, which includes high-profile areas like Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, for a second time. She previously served in that job toward the end of the Clinton administration, from 1999 to 2001.