A Rush to Judgment

Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 1, 2001

Eric Holder wishes he had focused for three minutes when he heard the name Marc Rich connected with the word pardon. He might have understood that the Justice Department needed to take a stand. He might have discussed it with his staff and opposed clemency for the fugitive businessman.

He might have left office with his reputation intact.

Six weeks later, the pardon of Rich by then-President Clinton is the subject of two congressional inquiries, a federal criminal investigation and too many front-page headlines to count. Holder finds himself marooned in the maelstrom, under attack for giving advice he never fully considered.

When Holder reached home after a bruising Senate Judiciary Committee appearance last month, he says he wanted to "crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head."

"I'm done. Public life's over for me," Holder says. "I had a moment in time. That moment has passed."

This was not supposed to happen to Eric H. Holder Jr., who occupied one of Washington's most enviable glide paths. He had been a public corruption prosecutor, a D.C. Superior Court judge and the U.S. attorney in the District. In 1997, he ascended to second-in-command at the Justice Department, where virtually every major federal law enforcement matter in the land crossed his desk.

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