UPDATE (5:00 p.m.): President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder formally announced Holder's intention to resign on Thursday afternoon in a joint and at times emotional appearance at the White House.
In saluting Holder, the president hailed a close personal friend that he called "the people's lawyer."
"Eric has done a superb job," Obama said, as he recited a long list of accomplishments in civil rights, gay rights, sentencing reform, counterterrorism, and crime reductions.
For the first time in decades, the president said, both crime and incarceration rates in the U.S. had dropped simultaneously, each by around 10 percent, under Holder's watch.
Holder wiped away tears as Obama concluded his remarks and struggled to contain his emotions as he delivered his own.
"We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that," Holder said. "I’m proud to call you my friend."
Neither man overtly mentioned the unrelenting attacks on Holder's tenure by Republicans, which continued even as he announced his resignation.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement saying he had made the right decision in opposing Holder's nomination six years ago. The attorney general, he said, "has placed ideological commitments over a commitment to the rule of law."
Holder's chief nemesis in the House, Rep. Darrell Issa, called him "the most divisive U.S. attorney general in modern history." He noted the House's vote in 2012 to hold him in contempt.
Holder referenced none of that in his remarks Thursday.
"I hope I have done honor to the faith you have placed in me, Mr. President," he said.
In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never — I will never leave the work."
ORIGINAL: President Obama will announce Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation on Thursday afternoon, a White House official confirmed to The Wire.
Holder, who has led the Justice Department for the entirety of the Obama presidency, will stay on until his successor is confirmed.
National Public Radio first reported his resignation on Thursday morning.
The attorney general is a close personal friend of the president's but has been a lightning rod for Republicans for much of his time in office. The Republican-led House voted to hold him in criminal contempt in 2012 over his refusal to turn over documents in the "Fast and Furious" gun-running operation.
Despite dozens of calls for his resignation from Republicans and a few Democrats, Holder had wanted to outlast his foes and leave on his own schedule.
By announcing his intention to resign now, after the scrutiny has long since lifted, he has largely succeeded.
NPR reported that Holder, 63, was now "adamant" that he wanted to resign this year rather than be stuck staying until the end of Obama's term.
Still, the confirmation of a new attorney general could be complicated by the possibility Republicans will win control of the Senate in November. It is unclear whether Senate Democrats could push through a nominee in the lame-duck session of Congress after the elections.
The White House said Obama will announce the move at 4:30 p.m. He hasn't decided on Holder's successor, an official said.
After Holder leaves, the only two members of Obama's original Cabinet to remain in office will be Education Secretary Arne Duncan, another personal friend of the president's, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
A White House official said this via email about the news:
This afternoon, the president will announce the departure of Attorney General Eric Holder. After serving for nearly six years as the head of the Justice Department, Holder is the first African American to be Attorney General of the United States and will be the fourth longest person to hold the position. Holder’s accomplishments have established a historic legacy of civil rights enforcement and restoring fairness to the criminal justice system. Holder revitalized the Department’s praised Civil Rights Division, protected the rights of the LGBT community, successfully prosecuted terrorists, and fought tirelessly for voting rights, to name a few. He will remain at the Department of Justice until his post is filled.
Current and former congressional Republicans wasted little time in cheering Holder's departure.
Anyone sad to see Eric Holder stepping down as AG? Not me. I can’t think of any AG in history who has attacked Louisiana more than Holder.— David Vitter (@DavidVitter) September 25, 2014
Good riddance Eric Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not be missed.— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) September 25, 2014
Holder is the first black attorney general of the United States, a fact often overlooked considering his boss achieved an even more important first for African Americans.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) happened to be speaking to a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation when the news of Holder's resignation broke, and as you can see from this clip, members of the audience were stunned to learn of his departure.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.