RECAP: Former Attorney General Eric Holder at the 8th annual Texas Tribune Festival

Possible EH image

On Friday, the 28th of September I had the opportunity to go to downtown Austin and see a one on one interview with former Attorney General Eric Holder who served under the Obama administration at the 8th Annual Texas Tribune Festival.

The Texas Tribune Festival

The Texas Tribune is a non-profit news outlet with a goal to communicate politics to the people of Texas. It’s CEO, Evan Smith, calls it non-partisan which I would more or less disagree looking upon the people they choose to bring in for TribFest. The festival itself is one full of panels that discuss a wide variety (i.e Politics and The Press, Economics, Education, et.al) and one on ones with prominent politicians such as the one I will be speaking about in this piece, Eric Holder, who had some pretty interesting things to say.

Eric Holder on his time in office as Attorney General

When asked by host Emily Bazelon what he was most proud of during his time in office, Holder specifically mentioned three things: the LGBT accomplishments, pushing acts of terrorism to the district-3 courts instead of them being handled in the military court system, and the criminal justice reform. The second accomplishment left me confused as to why they would move it and I had wished that Holder would have explained in further detail exactly why he chose to do that while in office. As for the reforms of criminal justice, in that interview was the first time I had heard of them. Had there been a little more time alloted for Holder to speak I would have wished that he delve into what exactly he had reformed within our criminal justice system. During his speech he brought up some statistics A) That black people spend 28% more time in prison for the same crime as their white counterparts and B) that due to the mysterious reforms, that not only have incarceration rates gone down, but that the crime rate itself had gone down as well by 4%. Which genuinely sounds great! Holder even admitted during his talk that he “assumed Hillary’s Attorney General would continue our criminal justice reform” which I found interesting. Was he implying that madame-not-the-president had not only already chosen her cabinet but that she had also shared that information with him and perhaps more people in power? Eric Holder had been the one who found Hillary innocent during her trial. Was there perhaps a deal struck between them? What more was yet to come? And does he think the Trump Administration isn’t capable of carrying on this progress? (I’ll get to that one later)

Holder also described some of what he regarded as failures while in office. The first to be brought up were the trials against the big banks regarding mortgages I’m assuming toward to beginning of Obama’s term. Holder said “we did our best, but there are standards we have to meet and we were unable to pull through” and went on about how these court cases hold so much weight and how they are career-defining. This explanation seemed incomplete and left me wondering. If these cases were so career-defining then how does Eric Holder still have a career after his term in office?.

Eric Holder also mentioned his distaste for the outcome of the Shelby County V. Holder case and the entirety of the case itself. When asked by the host he said “I wish my name wasn’t attached to that case.” and “Attaching my name to that case is like attaching my name to the Dred Scott case.” To summarize, the Shelby v. Holder decision entailed that article 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional which rendered article 5 useless as well. This decision allowed for the states to change their voting laws without approval of the federal government which is why that same year, Texas was able to enact voter ID laws that require you to show a government issued ID when you show up to vote. This law had been passed in 2011 and was still seeking federal approval. To this the host did inquire further about whether or not Holder had a role in it and had been pushing for a particular side to which he admitted to. So an important takeaway here is that Eric Holder did have involvement in the 2013 court case and did indeed also have something to do with the Dred Scott case and he wants his name to be attached to that one as well.

Other things he mentioned regretting not completing toward the end of his interview when taking questions from the audience were police brutality and the Citizens United case. Holder’s comments on police brutality were ones full of pathos. He said he “could have done more” to prevent members of the police force killing unarmed people of color. Holder added that as a black man knowing the history of his ancestors, that he still wonders if there was more he could have done. Meanwhile, the Citizens United vs. FEC case occurred back in 2010 over Citizens United promoting a film they had made that criticized Hillary Clinton shortly before the 2008 election. This strategy of airing an advertisement that would reach out to 50,000 people in the electorate was known as “electioneering communication” and was prohibited by federal law. Citizens United won the court case and the court ruling led to de-limiting the amount of money a corporation can donate to a political campaign and the development of Super-Pacs. Holder during his one-on-one said that it would be “worth the effort” to have this decision be reevaluated by either re-trying it in today’s supreme court or by passing a constitutional amendment that would federally prohibit the outcome of this court case in terms of equating money with speech. The audience (ironically full of lobbyists) cheered greatly to this.

What is Holder up to now?

Well for now we can be certain that Holder is not beholden to the issue of voter fraud saying that “You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be a victim of voter fraud.”  Instead he is focusing his efforts towards imposing a Supreme Court term limit of 18 years. For this I wished that he had given an in-depth reason for wanting to put term limits in place for the Supreme Court and why he feels that term limits would better suit the judicial branch rather than the legislative.

As you also may or may not know, the former Attorney General is also working with The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), an organization dedicated to redefining districts lines that have been changed due to gerrymandering and prohibiting it any further. According to Holder it was gerrymandering and a gridlocked congress that prohibited the Obama administration from getting anything passed during his two terms. The committee according to Holder is nonpartisan and supports candidates who will vote for nonpartisan redistricting and was very open about how the committee has been targeting democratic candidates and that in Texas alone this organization has donated over $250k to get democrats elected in Texas. He’s also been very focused on the role of DAs and championing such candidates “with progressive politics”. Holder is dedicated to this cause because of its effect on local elections which, I agree, have the most impact on our daily lives. Holder proposed that with this redistricting, the politicians would be more beholden to their constituents. Holder also believes that and I quote “There will be a blue wave and it will hit the wall that is gerrymandering” and that he is optimistic that the blue wave can overcome said wall. Pelosi this weekend also had some interesting things to say during her Tribune One-on-One that I will also cover in a separate post in the days to come!

Loosely tied but still relevant were Holder’s remarks against down-ballot voting as he believes “you need to know who you vote for because they impact a lot more” in reference to voting for local government. I would also agree with this as I find it unfair that voters can elect people into office, no matter at what level of government, without having ever seen their name.

Throughout all of Texas Tribune Festival, every distinguished speaker (and then some) discussed the current events surrounding Supreme Court Nominee, Kavanaugh. Holder being formerly in charge of the FBI was asked on whether or not all the accusers should have background-checks. Holder agreed and that they should have been conducted weeks ago then talked a little bit about how in-depth the background checks go. According to him these checks go so far in-depth as to ask if you’ve ever owned a race horse. Don’t worry guys! Eric Holder made sure as to let us know that he has never owned a racehorse!  He continued with his thoughts on the Kavanaugh trial by beginning with his thoughts on Dr. Ford. He said it was important that we listen to somebody as “credible” as she is. Please know that these quotations are not out of sarcasm but that Eric Holder did verbatim call Dr. Ford “credible”. Oh look! There are those silly quotations again! To continue on with his take of the situation he stated both that Drudge should have been brought into the trial and given a testimony as he was the only other person in the room during the act and that we also needed to be weary of whatever he says as it is public knowledge that Drudge had been an alcoholic when during that period of time. Drudge not being there was “one of several misrepresentations that went on” during the events on Thursday. When the conversation turned its attention to the SCOTUS Nominee Holder did not hold back. He claimed how drastically Kavanaugh changed from the first trial to Thursday’s trial and how Dr. Ford had conducted herself in a manner more suited for the supreme court. Holder also claimed that Kavanaugh’s change in behavior indicated that he was less of a judge and more of a political operative. I did not know what he meant by that quote nor did I understand it when former speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, said the same thing almost verbatim in two different events that she was speaking at. Holder also criticized Kavanaugh during his trial for bringing up the Clintons “I mean what does that have to do with anything?” I bet a couple women could’ve answer that question, Juanita Broaddrick in particular. Host, Emily Bazelon, brought up a possible second approach in which Holder agreed with that Kavanaugh should have tried to go for a redemptive narrative where he should have confessed to the sexual assault allegation and convinced the audience that he was a changed man. And he would have definitely been forgiven…

Everything he said about Kavanaugh eventually led to Holder giving his opinion on Trump saying “Everything Trump touches dies”. I’m assuming that everything doesn’t include our unemployment rates, our general economy, and the GDP. Leave a comment below if there’s anything else that YOU think Holder doesn’t include in the term ‘everything’!

This quote prompted Holder to talk more about his views towards the current presidential administration and that it “has been corrupt and congress has let it.” He let the audience know that there is factual proof this current administration has been corrupt but didn’t actually bring any of those facts up. It was a very CNN move if you asked me. I think one thing that Holder dislikes more than the Trump Administration is he current successor, Jeff Sessions. “Get a dictionary and look up the word ‘hypocrisy’ and you will see a picture of Jeff Session” was what Holder had to say. He expressed a couple trepidations regarding Sessions that perhaps in this upcoming census he may try and find a way to rig it and that he is possibly trying to find a way to suppress the vote in hispanic areas of the United States. The same areas that are more likely to commit voter fraud, but remember folks, voter fraud isn’t even an issue according to Holder.

What is Eric Holder’s take on the future and will he be running for president in the 2020 election?

Holder is very optimistic about the future for the Democratic Party. For all the goals he currently working toward as stated above he comes off as very confident. Holder said that he was thinking about it and that by the end of the first quarter of 2019, we will have an answer as to whether or not he will be so be sure to keep an eye on him for his announcement!

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