(CNSNews.com) - Eric Holder, the only U.S. attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress, emerged from relative obscurity Wednesday night to denounce "spurious attacks" on the FBI and Justice Department.
Holder, a close friend of his former boss, President Barack Obama, appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show Wednesday night, ostensibly to discuss his congressional redistricting project, but also to criticize the current president and attorney general for "discrediting" the FBI and Justice Department.
Holder emerged just as Republicans seem to be making progress in their efforts to investigate apparent anti-Trump, pro-Clinton bias in the FBI and Justice Department; and at a time when Republicans are focused on apparent surveillance abuses at the FBI, where political opposition research was used, at least in part, to get a FISA court to surveil Trump associate Carter Page.
It is the role of an attorney general to "shield your people from political pressure," Holder told Maddow:
And one of the things that disturbs me the most is the fact that this attorney general has, for whatever reason, been relatively silent. When attacks are going against career people at the FBI; career people at the United States Department of Justice, I have to think that the leadership at the department knows that these are spurious attacks, that they're inconsistent with the reputations that these people have, the way in which they've conducted themselves over the years.
And those voices, those leadership voices, need to be heard in defense of the people who they supervise. It's a privilege to be the attorney general of the united States. What you have to do if you are the AG is protect the values that define the institution and the people who define that institution.
What if an AG doesn't "take that heat?" Maddow asked Holder:
Well, you know, our institutions are strong. Our norms are being tested, but they are also strong. The people who work in the (Justice) Department, the people who work at the FBI are strong. And they will continue to conduct themselves in appropriate ways. They will make tough decisions and conduct investigations. But they do so under a pressure that I think is in some ways unnecessary, in the sense that an attorney general might blunt some of it.
But the real problem here is the president. The president going after named career people. The president saying things about the integrity of those two institutions, the justice department, the FBI. No other president has ever said those kinds of things, conducted himself in that way. And he's doing long-term harm to the reliability and integrity of the Justice Department and to the FBI. Long after he's gone, we will see the impact of these attacks.
Maddow asked Holder if he would "make a better president" than Donald Trump.
"I think any one of my kids would make a better president than Donald Trump," Holder replied.
"But, you know, I think there are any number of people who would be a better president than the person we now have in the White House who has, as I said, broken through those norms, conducted himself in a way that's inconsistent about what's best about this nation, you know, labeled people in very inappropriate ways, used inappropriate terms when talking about countries, turning his back on our immigrant heritage. Yeah, there are any number of people I think would be better president than Donald Trump."
Holder said he's focused right now on being chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which aims to elect people who will undo Republican gerrymandering when new congressional districts are drawn in 2021.
But he added that he will "make a decision at the end of this year about what I want to do with regard to higher office."
Holder said he's focusing his efforts right now on being chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which aims to elect people who will undo Republican gerrymandering when new congressional districts are drawn in 2020.
In June 2012, Holder became the first Cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress for his failure to hand over subpoenaed documents in the "fast and furious" gun-walking scheme.
And when he left office three years later, Holder declared that the U.S. Justice Department, under his leadership, had done "historic and big things."
"This department is restored," he said in his farewell remarks to staff. "It's restored to what it always was...and what it must always be -- free of politicization, focused on the mission, and making sure that justice is done without any kind of interference from political outsiders."