Attorney General Eric Holder announces he is leaving the Department of Justice while U.S. President Barack Obama looks on. (WhiteHouse.gov)
A packed room watches Holder's speech. (WhiteHouse.gov)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 21: Attorney General Eric Holder makes a separated statement on the unrest after the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, during a major financial fraud announcement press conference August 21, 2014 at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. Holder spoke on the current situation in Ferguson one day after his visit to the town and met with Browns family, saying the investigation of the shooting will be thorough and will be fair, and Department of Justice stands with the people of Ferguson. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Eric Holder (L) is sworn-in as US Attorney General by US Vice President Joe Biden (R) as Holder's wife, Sharon (C) holds the Bible during ceremonies on February 3, 2009, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
US Attorney General Eric H. Holder is sworn-in during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services'(IRS) scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 28: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Department of Justice May 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. During the event Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas administered the Oath of Citizenship to approximately 70 new U.S. citizens.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Vice President Joseph Biden administers the oath of office to Attorney General Eric Holder during a ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009. At center is Holder's wife, Sharon Malone. At left is a portrait of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
President Barack Obama speaks with Attorney General Eric Holder as news photographers photograph their meeting regarding the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Attorney General Eric Holder, left, talks with Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew before while they wait for President Barack Obama to give State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, announcing a new action to protect voting rights. Emboldened by the Supreme Court decision that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, a growing number of Republican-led states are moving aggressively to tighten voting rules. Lawsuits by the Obama administration and voting rights activists say those efforts disproportionately affect minorities. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - President Barack Obama sits with Attorney General Eric Holder during the 32nd annual the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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By JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eric Holder, who is resigning as attorney general, leaves a legacy built over six years during which he was in the vanguard of administration policymaking but also the subject of intense criticism from Republicans. A look the legacy of the nation's first black attorney general and one of President Barack Obama's longest-serving Cabinet members:
Holder declared that waterboarding was torture, ordered a review of CIA interrogations, and defended the use of drone strikes overseas. His Justice Department successfully prosecuted terrorism suspects, including Osama bin Laden's son-in-law. He was widely criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his plan to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged co-conspirators in New York, a plan he ultimately dropped.
He fought against voter ID laws, urged federal prosecutors to shy away from seeking mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent criminals, introduced new clemency criteria and backed proposals to give leniency to certain drug convicts. He also advanced legal protections for gay couples, declaring in 2011 that the Justice Department no longer would defend the constitutionality of a 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Though not a proponent of the death penalty, Holder approved pursuing capital punishment in numerous federal cases. But in the aftermath of a botched execution earlier this year in Oklahoma, Obama asked Holder to study the protocols used by states in applying the death penalty. The Justice Department already was reviewing practices used by the Bureau of Prisons and had placed a moratorium on federal executions.
Holder became the administration's point man in the federal response to the police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. He ordered a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. In the shooting's aftermath, Holder also enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement.
FAST AND FURIOUS
Holder became the first Cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress amid a dispute over document production in a long-running congressional investigation of a flawed law enforcement gun-smuggling probe along the Southwest border.
Under Holder's watch, the Justice Department cracked down on news media reporting on national security matters. The department secretly subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors and used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist as part of a separate leak investigation.