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Attorney General Eric Holder announces resignation

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown | 9/26/2014, 8:41 a.m.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that he will resign after six years at the helm of the Justice Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that he will resign after six years at the helm of the Justice Department. (Pete Souza/White House)

— Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that he will resign after six years at the helm of the Justice Department.

Holder has agreed to remain in his post until the confirmation of his successor.

"In the months ahead I will leave the Department of Justice," Holder said at the White House, thanking President Barack Obama for the "greatest honor of my professional life."

Though he's stepping down, Holder said that "he will never leave the work."

"I will continue to serve and try to find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals," he said, without offering any specifics.

Obama stood next to Holder in the White House State Dining Room, praising the first African-American to serve as attorney general and who made civil rights and equal rights central components to his tenure at Justice.

The President noted that his department prosecuted hundreds of terror cases, "rooted out corruption and fought violent crime," tackled financial fraud and "attacks on the Voting Rights Act." Obama said Holder also helped to bring down the crime rate and incarceration rate by 10% over the last six years.

"Eric has done a superb job," Obama said. "I just want to say thank you."

In a telephone interview with CNN's Evan Perez before the official announcement, Holder said he never intended to stay for the duration of Obama's second term. He said now was the appropriate time to step down -- a time when things are going smoothly at the department.

"I'm confident we're in a good place," Holder said. "Now was a good time to go [with] those accomplishments in the last few years in place."

He points to Justice's role in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He has also stated that protecting voters' rights and gay rights, easing federal drug sentencing rules that he argues disproportionately burden minorities and defending the use of criminal courts to try terrorist suspects are critical issues.

"I think I go out having accomplished a great deal in the areas that are of importance to me. I'm satisfied with the work we have done," he said.

Holder has discussed his plans to step down personally with the President on multiple occasions in recent months, and finalized those plans in an hour-long conversation with Obama at the White House residence over Labor Day weekend, an Obama administration official said.

Holder noted that he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how -- under Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy -- the Justice Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement. During his tenure as attorney general, Holder has had Kennedy's portrait in his conference room.

Controversy

Holder also has been criticized as being overtly political, and some Republican members of Congress are shedding few tears over his resignation.

For instance, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina tweeted, "Good riddance Eric Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not be missed."