Before he was the United States’ top lawyer and congressional Republicans’ favorite punching bag, Eric Holder was a partner at a top D.C. law firm.
Now, after serving longer as attorney general than he wanted (remember, that endless Loretta Lynch confirmation process?), Holder has returned to his former perch as partner at Covington and Burling.
In a statement Monday, Holder said it was like “coming home.” Holder was a partner there from 2001 to 2009 before joining the Obama administration, where he served for six years.
Covington is the largest law firm in the District, with about 500 Washington attorneys. It has hired a string of high-ranking Justice Department officials over the last couple years.
Holder, doing the media rounds, spoke briefly with the Loop on Monday morning about his new job, missing the AG gig and not missing certain unnamed congressional Republicans (but we all know who they are.)
His official new job description describes vaguely that he’ll work on “complex investigations and litigation matters.” He said that will include the intersection of business and public policy, and matters ranging from antitrust to taxes.
As attorney general, he said he learned that mostly corporations “are trying to do the right thing, but often they operate in an advice vacuum where they seek counsel too late.” That’s where he hopes to be most effective, stepping in before Covington’s clients do the wrong thing.
In an interview with the National Law Journal, Holder said if Hillary Clinton became president and offered him a seat on the Supreme Court, he would turn it down, telling her, “Madame President, with all due respect, you need to pick somebody who’s a) younger and b) who’s a lot more interested.”
Holder reiterated to us that he would focus the rest of his professional life at Covington.
“I think in terms of public service I’ve done all I’ve wanted to do,” he said. He also still plans to open a separate institute on race relations sometime this fall.
Holder said he has missed the job in recent weeks during major news events like the Charleston shooting (it spurred him to join Twitter) and the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage. “It’s hard to look at those things and not be a part of them,” he said.
But he’s also used his post-AG time to unwind (learning the art of television binge watching series like “Homeland,” “House of Cards” and the first season of “True Detective”). He also read for pleasure again, instead of the presidential daily briefings.
“You miss it, and yet, that is very often where bad news resides and can have a negative impact on your day,” he said.
He also isn’t going to miss those interactions with Republicans in Congress, especially on the House side (ahem, Darrell Issa). He said many of them are perfectly collegial when having breakfast in his Justice office, but then “the lights go on and the cameras are there and their personalities change.”
But he said people would be surprised that there are some members with whom he had good relationships off camera. As examples, he named Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). (We’re pretty sure none of them would admit to that … )
There will be more insights on those relationships when he writes his book on his experience as attorney general. He said he’ll opine on his interactions with his biggest critics, and divulge some the feelings he had about them that he couldn’t quite say out loud while in the job.
“As attorney general, there is a certain level of decorum that you are supposed to adhere to,” he told us. “But my nature is: When people hit me, I want to hit back. That is not necessarily a productive thing in the congressional arena. The book will give me an opportunity to express myself more fully and in ways that I could not do as attorney general.”
Reserve us a copy.