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Attorney General Eric Holder to step down

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Thursday his plans to step down following the confirmation of a successor.

By Gabrielle Levy
Attorney General Eric Holder to step down
Attorney General Eric Holder will announce his decision to step down Thursday. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Eric Holder will announce his plans to step down as Attorney General Thursday, and will depart the Department of Justice as soon as his successor is confirmed.

Holder, who is the first black person and the fourth-longest serving in the role, will make an announcement with President Obama at the White House Thursday at 4:30 p.m. He is one of the longest-serving members of Obama's cabinet, and a close confidant of the president, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

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"Holder's accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system," a White House official said, confirming the news. "Holder revitalized the Department's praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few."

The news was first reported by NPR.

The approval process will likely take several months to complete. According to a former government official, Holder has been "adamant" about leaving soon so as not to be forced to stay through the end of Obama's term.

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Ultimately, Holder's decision to step down was a personal one, and sources told NPR he has held several long discussions with Obama. His decision was finalized over Labor Day weekend, and he reportedly told staff at the Department of Justice of his plans Thursday morning.

He also called civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Insiders say they expect Solicitor General Don Verrilli to be the leading contender to replace him.

Holder's tenure, which began in February 2009, has been marked with strong stances on civil rights issues and deep controversies on executive actions.

He oversaw rapid advances in gay rights, and opened the door for last year's major Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act when he refused to defend the law. He has launched investigations to defend voting rights as states have passed voter ID laws and the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, and scrutinized abuses of police departments. Holder has also tackled minimum prison sentences, particularly for non-violent drug offenses.

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But Holder's tenure has also been marked with his battles with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which led to him becoming the first Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress. In October 2011, the House voted to hold him in contempt over the Operation Fast and Furious gun walking scandal.

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