Despite role in pardon, Holder wins support
WASHINGTON - Former FBI Director Louis Freeh testified yesterday that Eric Holder played a role in a "corrupt" pardon. The Fraternal Order of Police chief said "we abhor" the clemency Holder supported for 16 Puerto Rican militants.
Nevertheless, they told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Holder would make a great attorney general.
As the panel questioned witnesses, Barack Obama's pick for the nation's top law enforcement officer won key support from another GOP senator. Senator Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, said he would vote for Holder on Wednesday. Martinez's support, combined with that of Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, should give Holder enough votes to avoid a filibuster challenge, assuming all Senate Democrats support him.
Freeh said Holder as a deputy attorney general had made "terrible mistakes" leading up to President Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Freeh called the Rich pardon "a corrupt act," but said the corruption was not Holder's.
"I don't think it's fair to put that blame totally on Eric Holder," said Freeh. "He takes responsibility and he will never make that mistake again."
Holder was also supported at the hearing by Frances Townsend, who was President Bush's homeland security adviser. She said she does not expect to agree with every decision Holder would make as the nation's top law enforcement officer, but called him "an honest, decent man of the highest ethical standards."
Senators then heard emotional testimony from Joseph Connor, the son of a man slain in a 1975 bombing in New York City by a militant Puerto Rican independence group called the Armed Forces for National Liberation. Clinton granted clemency to 16 members of that group, and Holder has been criticized for his role in the decision.