Justice Department scandal: Will Obama toss Eric Holder?

Attorney General Eric Holder has ties to several controversial issues, including the IRS scandal, aggressive probing of journalists, and drone attacks. Republicans and now some on the left are calling for Holder to resign. So far, President Obama is sticking with his man.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Attorney General Eric Holder glances back at invited guests while leaving after speaking during the Office of Inspector Generals annual awards ceremony, Wednesday at the Justice Department in Washington. Holder faces increasing calls for his resignation.

President Obama is dipping in public opinion polls, no surprise given the string of scandals – or at least P.R. problems – he’s been having lately.

One of those political problems is his Attorney General, who’s doing even worse in the polls.

Just 25 percent of likely voters have a favorable opinion of Attorney General Eric Holder, while 47 percent view him unfavorably, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll out Friday. Asked if he should resign, a 42 percent plurality says “yes.”

Republicans have been calling for Holder’s head since last year when the “fast and furious” gun-tracking fiasco was revealed, and the more recent secret tracking of journalists’ phone records has revived those calls.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that Holder "has trampled on the First Amendment and failed in his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution,” and as a result “the president should ask for his immediate resignation.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and other lawmakers are among those in Congress saying it's time for Holder to go.

But calls for Holder’s resignation are coming from the left as well, and that has to be more troubling to the White House.

“The attorney general has done little in his tenure to protect civil liberties or the free press,” writes George Washington University law professor Jonathon Turley, who describes himself as “neither a Republican nor conservative.”

“Rather, Holder has supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process,” Mr. Turley writes in a USA Today column. “I believe Holder should be fired.”

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, has called for Holder’s resignation as well.

In an interview on Democracy Now! Mr. Rothschild listed several reasons: Justice Department probes of Associated Press writer and editors and James Rosen of Fox News, “essentially waging war on whistleblowers under the Espionage Act,” and providing the legal justification for what critics see as an assassination program using drone aircraft.

“That’s not due process, and that’s not what the Justice Department should be doing,” Rothschild said. “Certainly the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of this country, should know better than that.”

James Goodale, a First Amendment lawyer who was chief counsel for the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers, says Holder should resign for his role in the James Rosen case.

“He signed off on a search warrant to Rosen, a Fox News reporter,” Mr. Goodale writes in the Daily Beast. “This warrant treated Rosen as a common criminal. It sets a terrible precedent. Holder should resign to erase this precedent.”

A Quinnipiac University national poll out Thursday brought more bad news for Obama.

He gets a negative 45-49 percent job approval rating, compared to a 48-45 percent positive in a May 1 survey conducted before allegations surfaced that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted tea party and other conservative groups.

The news here for Holder is not good either.

"There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't exactly think highly of him. Holder gets a negative 23-39 percent job approval rating." 

Will Obama let Holder go? So far, he’s expressing “full confidence” in his Attorney General.

But the drip-drip-drip of criticism and political pressure continues.

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