Former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday he’s considering a run for president.
“I think I’ll make a decision by the end of the year about whether or not there’s another chapter in my government service,” Mr. Holder said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Holder is currently fundraising and flexing his political muscles as head of former President Barack Obama’s chief political operation, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, to try to put their party in better shape ahead of the redrawing of political maps after the 2020 census.
Asked if those were a prelude to running for office, he said “We’ll see.” Pressed again on whether that meant a presidential bid, he again said, “We’ll see.”
Mr. Holder served six years as attorney general under Mr. Obama and before that was deputy attorney general at the end of the Clinton administration. He had also been U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and a judge in the city.
In decades past, Mr. Holder had looked at a run for mayor in the District, but with a major national profile and no voting member from Washington serving in Congress, his electoral opportunities would appear to lie more at the presidential level now.
In his talk with reporters Wednesday, Mr. Holder had a number of complaints with how the new administration has handled the department he used to head, saying President Trump and his lieutenants have undercut the career professionals.
“I would hope that the president would rethink the way in which he has attacked career people at the FBI, career people at the Justice Department, career people in the intelligence community,” Mr. Holder said.
Delving into specific decisions, Mr. Holder questioned the apology the Justice Department offered last year to tea party groups targeted by the IRS.
“That apology was unnecessary, unfounded and inconsistent, it seems to me, with the responsibilities that somebody who would seek to lead the Justice Department should have done,” Mr. Holder said.
He’d ordered a criminal probe into the IRS’s handling of tea party applications after the 2013 revelation by an inspector general that the tax agency had subjected conservative groups to intrusive and inappropriate scrutiny when they applied for nonprofit status.
That initial probe eventually cleared the IRS, saying that while there was bungling, there was no ill intent. The probe specifically cleared former IRS senior executive Lois G. Lerner, saying rather than a problem, she was actually a hero, reporting bad practices when she spotted them.
The Justice Department last year reversed that finding, though, in settlements reached with tea party groups over the last year that singled Ms. Lerner out as having approved of the intrusive behavior and yet hidden the practices from her supervisors in Washington.
Mr. Holder also said Wednesday said that while he wouldn’t criticize the process used to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, President Trump’s decision to do so was a “misuse” of the power.
The case that eventually led to Mr. Arpaio’s conviction for criminal contempt of court was originally brought while Mr. Holder was in charge of the Justice Department. Mr. Holder said that prosecution was “appropriate,” and the court proceedings were fair as well, so the pardon bid was misplaced.
“I think it was a misuse of the pardon process in that regard,” he told reporters.
Mr. Trump issued a pardon last summer — still the only full pardon of his term — to Mr. Arpaio, who has since announced a run for Arizona’s vacant Senate seat.