The White House confirmed Friday that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is flying to Washington to have dinner with the president and first lady Michelle Obama, amid reports that he’s being considered to replace Eric H. Holder Jr. as the president’s attorney general in his second term.
The governor’s office said Mr. Patrick and his wife, Diane, are traveling to Washington “to have a social dinner” Friday evening with the Obamas at the White House. The governor campaigned actively for the president’s reelection, and told reporters the dinner will just be “fun.”
“It’s a social dinner,” he told reporters in Boston. “It’s a small group, but I don’t know all the people who are going to be there. We were told to come informal, and we were asked if steak was OK.”
He said Mr. Obama invited him Thursday night when the two spoke on the phone.
Mr. Patrick has been mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Holder, who said this week he is debating whether to remain for Mr. Obama’s second term as the administration’s top lawyer.
With speculation rampant about pending personnel changes following Mr. Obama’s re-election, Mr. Holder sparked more talk Thursday with off-the-cuff remarks while talking with law students at the University of Baltimore.
“Do I have some gas left in the tank?” Mr. Holder said during off-the-cuff remarks first reported by Reuters that were not included in his prepared speech. He told the students he needed to talk with President Obama and with his family before making any final decision.
Mr. Holder, the country’s first black attorney general, has come under increased scrutiny from House Republicans over his handling of the so-called Fast and Furious operation, during which more than 2,000 weapons, including AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles, were transported to drug smugglers in Mexico.
The Republican-dominated House earlier this year voted to hold the attorney general in contempt for what they said was his failure to cooperate and provide key records in the Fast and Furious probe. Mr. Holder has repeatedly defended his handling of the matter.
Obama administration officials have said the president would like Mr. Holder to stay, although several possible replacements, including Mr. Patrick, have been mentioned. Among them: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat; Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano; and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
In 1994, President Clinton nominated Mr. Patrick as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. At the Justice Department, he worked on issues including racial profiling and police misconduct.
In 1997, Mr. Patrick returned to Boston to join the law firm Day, Berry & Howard. He was later appointed by a federal district judge to serve as chairman of Texaco’s Equality and Fairness Task Force to oversee implementation of a race discrimination settlement at the oil company.
He won the governor’s race in Massachusetts in 2006, succeeding Mitt Romney, and won a second term in 2010. He began serving his second four-year term in January 2011.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president and Mr. Patrick are “good friends.”
“They’ve had meals frequently over the past several years,” he said. “I’m sure they’re just looking forward to catching up.”