Following to confirmation of Loretta Lynch on Thursday, Controversial Attorney General Eric Holder bid farewell to the Justice Department on Friday, offering a gleaming review of his tenure as the nation’s top lawyer in his speech.
“This department is restored,” Holder told the Justice Department’s employees in his brief remarks. “It’s restored to what it always was and certainly…and what it must always be: free of politicization, focused on the mission, and making sure that justice is done without any kind of interference from political outsiders.”
Holder saluted the “truly historic and big things” the department’s employees accomplished under his watch, nodding at a number of contentious battles that have defined his six-year tenure.
The debate over whether to try terror suspects in civilian courts or military tribunals “is over,” he declared, “and that’s because of the great work that the prosecutors in various districts have performed in putting together wonderful cases and then successfully trying those cases.”
Holder saluted “historic wins” in the effort to protect the environment from “companies that would have despoiled” it. He hailed the “huge amounts of money” the government recovered on behalf of consumers from financial companies responsible for the mortgage crisis. He saluted the fight for LGBT equality as “the civil rights issue of our time,” and he expressed optimism about an upcoming Supreme Court case that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
On a somewhat newsier note, Holder also noted the recent abandonment of an “extremely anti-competitive” proposed merger between Time Warner and Comcast, suggesting the antitrust division of the department deserves some credit for unraveling it.
Despite his congratulatory message, Holder also nodded at some unfinished business. On criminal justice reform, Holder suggested the effort to end the over-incarceration of Americans is only beginning. He also stressed the need to protect Americans’ right to vote after the Supreme Court invalidated a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
“When we celebrated Robert Kennedy’s 50th anniversary of his swearing-in in 2011, people said that was a golden age for the United States Department of Justice,” Holder recalled. “I think that 50 years from now…people are gonna look back at the work that you all did and say that this was another golden age. That’s how good you all are.”
Republicans, of course, couldn’t disagree more. More than any other cabinet official in President Obama’s administration, Holder has sustained intense and unrelenting fire from the GOP. From the “Fast and Furious” gun walking scandal in 2009 to Holder’s recent comments on the relationship between police and minority communities, Republicans have accused the attorney general of running interference for the president and sowing racial division. In 2012, the GOP-led house voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress, the first time such a step has been taken against a sitting attorney general in U.S. history.
If Holder is bothered by his critics, though, he certainly didn’t show it on Friday.
“I think we can officially say now that Eric Holder is free,” he said. “I love you all madly. Thank you.”