This seems a bit unusual, but not unprecedented. At the State Department, for example, portrait unveilings in recent years — for former secretaries Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright — have occurred between six and eight years after the secretaries have gone. Hillary Clinton hasn’t had her’s hung yet.
At Justice, however, the time between departure and unveiling is shorter. For example, Holder did the honors for immediate predecessor Michael Mukasey only about nine months after Mukasey left office, and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales unveiled predecessor John Ashcroft’s painting just shy of two years after he left.
And the portrait is going to be unveiled while Holder is still there as attorney general , since nominee Loretta Lynch, though she was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, won’t be confirmed by the full Senate until next week or the week after.
There is some precedent for that, since Janet Reno, the second-longest serving attorney general, was still in office — though with only five days to go before the Clinton administration ended — when her portrait was unveiled.
(We should note that, since 2014, Congress, on a year-to-year basis, has prohibited the use of federal money for these portraits. But there is no permanent ban.)
Justice folks were suspiciously hush-hush this week about who was going to do Friday’s presentation. Naturally, turns out to be President Obama.