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Strong support for Holder, but Rich questions emerge

Less than 24 hours after news broke that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Eric Holder to lead the Justice Department, the focal point for Senate lawmakers is Holder’s role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich on the last day of the Clinton Administration.

Senate members on both sides of the aisle yesterday touted Holder’s credentials for he job. Holder held the number two spot at Justice under President Clinton, confirmed to the position without a single negative vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy and GOP committee member Orrin Hatch said they would support Holder based on his past reputation and experience.

But GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley, while noting Holder is qualified, said he would have to look into Marc Rich matter more closely before he decides.

“It’s going to be much more controversial than a new administration ought to try to put forth,” Grassley said according to The Washington Post.

Holder has said that, in the last days of Clinton’s administration when he was serving as acting attorney general, he didn’t look closely enough at the petition of Rich, who had fled the country to avoid charges of evading millions of dollars in taxes. Rich’s wife, Denise, was a hefty donor to Clinton’s campaign. Holder supported the pardon, an opinion Clinton later said he relied heavily on, but later regretted the dicision, calling it “bad judgment.”

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