Obama: Holder Sued Financial Institutions, Won Largest Settlements Ever
“With his typical dedication, Eric has agreed to stay on as attorney general until I nominate a successor, and that successor is confirmed by the Senate, which means he'll have a chance to add to a proud career of public service, one that began nearly 40 years ago as a young prosecutor in the department that he now runs. He was there for 12 years, taking on political corruption until President Reagan named him to the bench as a judge. Later, President Clinton called him back. So, all told, Eric has served at the Justice Department under six presidents of both parties, including a several-day stint as acting attorney general at the start of George W. Bush's first term. And through it all, he's shown a deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people, and that is equal justice under the law.
As younger men, Eric and I both studied law, and I chose him to serve as attorney general because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory, it's a living and breathing principle. It's about how our laws interact with our daily lives. It's about whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our families, whether we feel safe in our own communities and welcomed in our own country, whether the words that the founders set to paper 238 years ago apply to every single one of us, and not just some.
That's why I made him America's lawyer, the people's lawyer. That comes with a big portfolio, from counterterrorism to civil rights, public corruption to white collar crime. And alongside the incredible men and women of the Justice Department, men and women that I promise you he is proud of and will deeply miss, Eric has done a superb job. He's worked side-by-side with our intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safe from terrorist attacks and to counter violent extremism.
On his watch, federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terror cases, proving that the world's finest justice system is fully capable of delivering justice for the world's most wanted terrorists. He's rooted out corruption and fought violent crime.
Under his watch a few years ago the FBI successfully carried out the largest Mafia take-down in American history. He's worked closely with state and local law enforcement officers to make sure that they've got the resources to get the job done. And he's managed funds under the Recovery Act to make sure that when budgets took a hit, thousands of cops were able to stay on the beat nationwide. He's helped safeguard our markets from manipulation and consumers from financial fraud.
Since 2009, the Justice Department has brought more than 60 cases against financial institutions and won some of the largest settlements in history for practices related to the financial crisis, recovering $85 billion, much of it returned to ordinary Americans who were badly hurt. He's worked passionately to make sure our criminal justice system remains the best in the world. He knows that too many outdated policies, no matter how well intentioned, perpetuate a destructive cycle in too many communities.
So Eric addressed unfair sentencing disparities, reworked mandatory minimums, and promoted alternatives to incarceration. And thanks to his efforts, since I took office, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have gone down by about 10 percent. That's the first time that they've declined together at the same time in more than 40 years. Eric's proudest achievement, though, might be reinvigorating and restoring the core mission to what he calls the 'conscience of the building,' and that's the Civil Rights Division. He has been relentless against attacks on the Voting Rights Act because no citizen, including our service members, should have to jump through hoops to exercise their most fundamental right. He's challenged discriminatory state immigration laws that not only risked harassment of citizens and legal immigrants, but actually made it harder for law enforcement to do its job.
Under his watch, the department has brought a record number of prosecutions for human trafficking and for hate crimes, as no one in America should be afraid to walk down the street because of the color of their skin, the love in their heart, the faith they practice or the disabilities that they live with. He's dramatically advanced the cause of justice for Native Americans, working closely with their communities. And several years ago, he recommended that our government stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a decision that was vindicated by the Supreme Court and opened the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage and federal benefits for same-sex couples.
That's a pretty good track record. Eric's father was an immigrant who served in the Army in World War II, only to be refused service at lunch counters in the nation he defended. But he and his wife raised their son to believe that this country's promise was real, and that son grew up to become attorney general of the United States. And that's something. And that's why Eric's worked so hard, not just in my administration but for decades, to open up the promise of this country to more striving, dreaming kids like him, to make sure that those words, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ are made real for all of us.
So soon, Eric, Sharon and their kids will be a bit freer to pursue a little more happiness of their own, and thanks to Eric's efforts, so will more Americans, regardless of race or religion, gender or creed, sexual orientation or disability who will receive fair and equal treatment under the law.
So I just want to say thank you, Eric. Thank you to the men and women of the Justice Department, who work day in and out for the American people, and we could not be more grateful for everything that you've done, not just for me and the administration but for our country. Thank you.”(Applause)