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Sources: Holder is Obama's choice for attorney general

  • Story Highlights
  • Eric Holder is a former deputy attorney general under Clinton administration
  • Sources say Holder was selected by Obama to become attorney general
  • Holder has said he would accept the job if it is offered
  • Holder would be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department
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From Ed Henry and John King
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for the position of attorney general, according to two prominent Democrats involved in transition matters.

Holder, who is still being vetted, has indicated he will accept the job if it is offered, the sources said.

If confirmed, Holder would be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department.

Holder, 57, co-chaired President-elect Obama's vice presidential selection process. A graduate of Columbia University and former federal prosecutor, he is a partner at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling.

Holder first joined the Justice Department in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, assigned to the newly formed Public Integrity Section in 1976 straight out of Columbia University Law School.

President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be an associate judge at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, where he served for five years.

He left that post to become the first African-American U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, chosen by President Bill Clinton. He served in that position until Clinton picked him to become deputy attorney general, the first African American to hold that position as well.

Four former Justice Department Democrats who worked for Holder during that time said they were pleased with the news that Holder would likely be attorney general, and all hinted that they may be willing to return to the department.

One such former Justice attorney and Holder acquaintance expressed strong support for the expected nomination.

"He's a great choice for attorney general," said the attorney, who asked not to be identified because the nomination is not yet official. "He'll be terrific."

The attorney declined to say whether he would apply to again work for Holder, but left little doubt of his interest. He said he had privately advocated for the Holder nomination.

"It's very far along," said another former Justice attorney who has professional ties to Holder and also asked for anonymity.

The Democratic attorney said he has spoken recently with Holder about the post.

He said Holder asked him, "If this were to come to pass, what are some of the things that you'd like to see done?" He said one thing he would expect under Holder would be strengthened relationships with police departments and more federal funding for local law enforcement, including more police officers.

The official also pointed to a strong, long-standing relationship between Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is expected to remain in that post. Mueller, who previously had a lengthy career in the Justice Department, returned to prosecution after a brief stint in private practice as an attorney in Holder's District of Columbia U.S. Attorney's Office, where he prosecuted homicides.

Holder pushed for Mueller to get the nod for U.S. Attorney in San Francisco when that job opened in 1998, and Mueller stayed in that position until President George W. Bush tapped him to head the FBI in 2001.

The former official also said he was confident a flap over Clinton's pardon of commodities trader Marc Rich would not be a major hurdle for Holder with a Democratic Congress.

Rich fled to Switzerland in 1983 while being prosecuted on tax evasion charges. Clinton pardoned him in 2001 just before he left office. Critics contended that Clinton issued the pardon because Rich's former wife had made substantial donations to the Democratic Party and Clinton's library.

Holder testified later before a Republican-controlled Congress and acknowledged if he had it to do over again, he would have handled it differently.

Holder has also served on numerous philanthropic boards and has won several awards and honorary degrees.

Holder's wife, Sharon Malone, is an obstetrician. The couple has three children..

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