WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder's fate in Washington has never seemed more precarious. Republicans hate him, and revelations that the Department of Justice has conducted spying campaigns on the media even have some on the left questioning whether it's time for Holder to go.
But given his close relationship with Obama, the fact that DOJ is "reviewing" its media spying policies, and the White House's support for an aggressive anti-leak attitude, don't look for Holder to go anywhere anytime soon.
Matthew Miller, a former top aide and spokesman for Holder, said he still has the full "confidence" of President Obama.
"Eric Holder will continue to serve for as long as he wants to," Miller said, adding: "Progressives understand that this is an attorney general who has faced a lot of Republican attacks and earned a lot of scars … they're going to give him the space he needs to reform the Department's rules going forward."
Jessica Brady, press secretary for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, said a new attorney general nomination battle is not something the committee expects at this point. "I don't think this is something the chairman needs to comment on, since right now the attorney general is in place."
Leahy has become increasingly critical of Republican treatment of Obama's nominations, saying in February that Republicans have waged an "unprecedented campaign of obstruction" against President Obama's judicial nominees.
In fact, Republicans aren't hiding their plan to make a replacement for Holder run a difficult, and drawn out, gauntlet before confirmation.
"Any future Obama AG pick will be held up and grilled over 'Fast and Furious,' IRS and AP scandals until we get answers," a Senate GOP leadership aide said.
"Republicans could really bring up all the DOJ's failures in one largely publicized hearing," says another senior Republican Senate aide. "And it would not be easy to get a nominee through. Remember what happened to [Chuck] Hagel? And he was a former Republican senator," the aide added.
Some on the Hill point to Obama's loyalties as to what's keeping Holder off the chopping block. "Holder is a disaster for the administration. He has been held in contempt, is constantly making mistakes and getting the entire administration in hot water over and over again" said a senior Republican aide. "But Obama is exceedingly loyal, it would be hard for him to get rid of someone so close."
"Either way, you don't want to have Holder free to speak his mind," the source added, before joking, "Your phone isn't tapped, right? I don't want to get audited."
Political consultant Cory Crowley sees the administration keeping Holder on as a huge mistake similar to one Obama's predecessor made. "Bush made a fatal mistake by keeping Rumsfeld at the height of his controversy," Crowley notes. "This fueled the '06 mid terms and led to a nightmare grilling for Gates once Rumsfeld's resignation was finally accepted."
Crowley, a 10-year aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley who is a ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, acknowledges that the Senate could hold up another Obama AG nominee "as long as they wanted to," but cautions it would be to Republicans' political advantage to avoid the brand of a "do-nothing" Congress.
"McConnell is dealing with the perception of a do-nothing Congress," Crowley said. "Holding up another nominee is only going to add to that perception."