U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will announce on Thursday that he is resigning his post as the nation's top cop, according to a breaking news report from NPR.
Inside sources told NPR that Holder had made the decision against the desires of the White House, which would prefer to avoid the nasty confirmation process sure to ensnare any successor. It sounds very much like Holder, increasingly frustrated with congressional opposition and entrenched barriers to reform, wanted to make an exit as soon as possible rather than spend the next two and a half years in a thankless role:
Two sources familiar with the decision tell NPR that Holder, 63, intends to leave the Justice Department as soon as his successor is confirmed, a process that could run through 2014 and even into next year. A former U.S. government official says Holder has been increasingly "adamant" about his desire to leave soon for fear he otherwise could be locked in to stay for much of the rest of President Obama's second term.
In the end, the decision to leave was Holder's alone — the two sources tell NPR the White House would have been happy to have him stay a full eight years and to avoid what could be a contentious nomination fight for his successor. Holder and President Obama discussed his departure several times and finalized things in a long meeting over Labor Day weekend at the White House.
Working in a presidential administration is never as fun as The West Wing makes it look, but NPR's profile on Holder's departure, touching on what must have been immensely aggravating issues like being held in contempt of Congress over the Fast & Furious operation, makes it seem downright awful. (It also apparently puts a jump on a commitment Holder made earlier this year to stay through the midterm elections.) But Holder also put himself in the line of fire, shrugging off the media preparation sessions usually demanded of White House spokesmen and often addressing DOJ issues in gruff, confrontational terms. If he's leaving, it's not as some form of political concession to the right.
NPR says Solicitor General Don Verrilli is the leading candidate to replace Holder.
Holder will be around until his successor is finalized, a process that requires congressional confirmation, so if the House GOP really wants to send a final "screw you" to a guy they've fought bitterly since Day One, they could keep him in office as long as possible.