On Day 1, Holder Promises Break With Bush Policies

On Attorney General Eric Holder's first day on the job, he signaled a clean break with past policies of the Bush administration and promised to hold Wall Street accountable if any major financial institutions engaged in fraud that contributed to the global financial crisis.

Vice President Joe Biden swore in President Barack Obama's choice — the first African-American to hold the post — in a Tuesday morning ceremony before dignitaries and department employees.

The lanky, 58-year-old former prosecutor, federal judge and No. 2 official during the Clinton administration vowed to begin a new era at the Justice Department, which was wracked by Bush administration scandals over politically motivated hirings and firings.

Holder has pledged to restore the agency's reputation.

"This is a place that has I think been hurting, but I think it's ready to heal," he told reporters.

"I am determined to ensure that this shall be a new day for the dedicated career professionals that I am so honored to call my colleagues," Holder said after taking the oath. He said he was committed to remaking the department "into what it once was and what it always should be."

Biden said the department, under Holder, would return to a past standard of "no politics, no ideology. Only a clear assessment of facts and law."

In an interview with The Associated Press, the new president of the NAACP said his organization — the nation's oldest civil rights group — was excited about Holder becoming attorney general.

"Not only do we believe he's extremely well-qualified and a great believer in effective law enforcement, he's also a great believer in civil rights," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

Shortly after the ceremony, Holder was asked about Wall Street, reviled by some Americans for extravagant company bonuses while seeking taxpayer dollars to remain solvent.

"We're not going to go out on any witchhunts, and yet we'll drill down and see" to what extent the economic troubles are the result of fraud or misconduct, Holder said. "We'll find it and hold people accountable."

Holder was confirmed Monday evening by a 75-21 Senate vote, with all the opposition coming from Republicans.

His first official act as attorney general will be to attend a national security meeting, then head to the White House for a meeting on homeland security, aides said.

His inbox is already overflowing with pressing legal issues from the prior administration.

For starters, the new attorney general will learn the secrets of the Office of Legal Counsel, whose lawyers justified the use of controversial interrogation tactics and even declined to provide Bush administration documents to internal Justice Department investigators.

Holder will also play a major role in the future of terrorism detainees.

Obama, in a major policy shift, signed an executive order to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. He also created a special task force to review detainee policy; Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will serve as co-chairs.

That panel will look at options for apprehension, detention, trial, transfer or release of detainees and report to the president within 180 days.

Holder promised senators he would review why career prosecutors in Washington decided not to prosecute the former head of the department's Civil Rights Division. An inspector general's report last month found that Bradley Schlozman, the former head of the division, misled lawmakers about whether he politicized hiring decisions.

Another key question facing Holder is how to advise Obama on the order by President George W. Bush that three of his former top aides — Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten — should not testify before Congress about firings of U.S. attorneys. Rove and Miers were former aides when Bush gave his order.

If Obama reverses Bush's policy, it would create a new legal issue: whether a former president's order against testifying would still be valid.

The Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program is certain to come under Holder's scrutiny.

After a lengthy and heated debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks, Congress last year eased the rules under which the government could wiretap American phone and computer lines to listen for terrorists and spies.

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  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Feb 5, 2009 at 12:30 AM
    Nothing this crook does is going to be clean.
  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Feb 4, 2009 at 04:38 PM
    Sorry @@@, I have full control of my guns. I'll bet you think that a country with out guns will stop thugs from getting guns? Good luck @@@.
  • by Honorable Bloggie Location: NC on Feb 4, 2009 at 03:10 PM
    I wish we could get more interesting stories posted. I'm becoming bored with what I'm seeing. Neither the stories nor the comments are mentally stimulating at all.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Feb 4, 2009 at 10:03 AM
    I guess Obama gives more rights to detainees (killers of US Citizens) than US Citizens. Or they should at least have our rights since they killed thousands on our soil. He's your baby now!
  • by @@@ on Feb 4, 2009 at 08:37 AM
    It is about time they take full control of the guns in this country.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 4, 2009 at 06:03 AM
    The headline of this story reads, "On Day 1, Holder Promises Break With Bush Policies." This is true, Bush's policy of defending America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, is now officially over. These clowns holding leadship positions are sure to preside over the downfall of this country. No coercive interrogations of terrorist suspects? Should we just release them after they deny knowing about the next planned attack on America? Reality has not sunk in yet for the new administration.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Feb 4, 2009 at 05:20 AM
    Oooops! To correct my ealier post... the bill is H.R. 45, not HR 25. There is another bill floating around to control ammo and reloading components. Have you tried to buy ammo or certain components lately? Specifically 9mm, 45ACP, .223, .308 ammo or bullets for reloading? They will even go so far as to have identification on every shell casing for which you will have to account for, limit to 3 boxes of ammo or 3 pounds of powder. (one pound of powder reloads approx. 70 rounds of rifle hunting ammo.)
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Feb 4, 2009 at 04:56 AM
    It looks like Karl Rove will have to testify without his buddy Bush around to protect him. This will be all kinds of fun! I predict this guy will have the worse memory of anyone ever to testify LOL. Still should be great entertainment watching him dodge and weave. I don't know if there will be any justice in the end though. Hard to come by in Washington.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Feb 4, 2009 at 03:39 AM
    While holding Wall Sreet accountable is admirable, let's not overlook H.R. 25 making it's way through Congress which would charge the AG with licensing all gun owners and tracking all guns. "For the first time in history a modern nation has full gun registration." Adolf Hitler, 1935

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