Transcript for Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Resignation
Hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York attorney general Eric Holder is expected to step down from his post. The country's chief lawyer set to resign after serving. For nearly six years -- -- take you down to that area where President Obama will be speaking shortly. And we want to bring in Jon Karl first -- is standing by. -- can give us an idea of what this press conference will be all about Jonathan how are you. Very well this is the announcement of the departure of Eric Holder -- that Eric Holder is one of the few. Left in the Obama katic the cabinet from the very first days of the Obama administration. He was one of the very first people that he nominated. Actually nominated on the same day the nominee and Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state. Everybody standing up you know what that means the president is coming into the room. One of the more controversial members of his cabinet. But one of the true Obama loyalists and here's the president. -- On this generation of Americans. Falls the full burden of proving. To the world. That we really mean it more we say all men are created free and equal before the law. This one longest serving attorney generals in American history. Eric Holder has borne that -- And over the summary came to -- said he thought six years was pretty good wrong. -- family agrees. Like me Eric married up. He and his wife doctor -- belong in the nationally renowned. -- guiding have been great friends Michelle and me for years. And I know broke -- -- and -- are excited to get their -- back for awhile. So this is better -- it. But -- his typical dedication Eric has agreed to stay on as attorney general. Until I nominated successor. And that's successor is confirmed. By the senate. Which means you'll have a chance to have -- -- -- public service. One that began nearly forty years ago as a young prosecutor in the department that he now wants. He was there for twelve years taking on political corruption. And -- -- Reagan named him to the bench as a judge. Later President Clinton called them back. So all told -- has. Served of the Justice Department under six presidents of both parts. Including a several day stint as acting attorney general the start of George W Bush's. -- -- And through it all. He's shown a deep and abiding fidelity. To one of our most cherished ideals of 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 attorneys. General because. He believes -- -- do that justice is not just an abstract theory. It's a living. And -- principal. It's -- our laws in Iraq with our daily lives. -- Whether we can make an honest -- We're can provide programmers. What we feel safe in our own communities and welcome in our own country. Whether the words that the founders set to paper to -- and 38 years ago applied to every single one of us and not just -- That's why made him America's. Board. The people's -- That comes with a big portfolio. The counterterrorism. Civil rights. Public corruption. To white collar crime. And -- -- the incredible men and women of the Justice Department. Men and women that I promise you he is proud of and will be we mess Eric has done a superb job. He's worked side by side with our intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security people safe. From terrorist attacks and to counter violent extremists. 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 takedown in American history. His work closely with state and local law enforcement officers to make sure. That they've got the resources to get the job done. 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 -- nationwide. He's helped safeguard our markets from manipulation. And consumers from financial fraud. Since 2009 the Justice Department has brought more than sixty cases against financial institutions. And one some of the largest settlements in history. For practices related to the financial crisis. Recovering. 85 billion dollars. Much of it returned to ordinary Americans 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. Perpetuated destructive cycle and too many communities. So -- addressed on for sending sentencing disparities. Reworked mandatory minimums. And promoted alternatives to incarceration. Thanks to his efforts. Since I took office the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration. -- have gone down by about 10%. That's the first time that they've declined together. But the same time. And more than forty years. -- proudest achievement -- might be re invigorating 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 -- most fundamental right. -- challenge discriminatory state immigration laws that not only -- harassment. Of citizens and legal immigrants but actually made it harder for. Law enforcement to do its job. Hundreds watched the department has brought a record number prosecutions for human trafficking. And for hate crimes. There's no one in America should be afraid to walk down the street because the color of their skin. The love in their heart. Faith they practice or the disabilities that they report. He's dramatically advance the cause of justice for native Americans working closely -- 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. It's pretty good track -- Kirk's father was an -- who served in the army in World War II. Only to be refused service at lunch counters. In the nation who defend. But he and his wife. Raise their son to believe that this country's promise. Was real. And that's -- -- -- to become attorney general the United States. And that's something. That's wire Schwartzel -- not just in my administration but for decades. To open up the promise of this country. To more striving screaming kids like him. Make sure that those words. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Are made real for -- its. Too soon Eric Sharon and their -- will be a bit freer restore more happiness. Of their own and thanks -- efforts -- more Americans. Regardless of race or religion. Gender creed. Sexual orientation or disability who will receive fair and equal treatment under the law. -- -- -- -- -- Thank you 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 you've done not just for me in the administration before. I come to this moment with very mixed emotions. Proud of what the men and women of the Department of Justice have accomplished over the last six years and at the same time. Very sad that I will not be a formal part of formal part of the great things that this department. And this president. Will accomplish over the next two. Want to thank you Mr. President for the opportunity that you gave me to serve and -- Giving me the greatest honor of my professional life. We have been great Collins. But the bonds between us are from much deeper than that in good times and in bad can things personal many things professional. You have been -- for -- I'm proud to call you my friend. -- also grateful for the support you've given me and the department has we have made real. The visions that you and I have always share. I often think of those early talks between us about. Our belief that we might help to -- a more perfect union. Work remains to be done but our list of accomplishments. Is real. Over the last six years power administration. Your administration. Has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents. And fought to protect the most sacred of American rights. The right to vote. We've begun to realize the promise of equality for our LG BT Brothers and sisters. And their families. We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those. Who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities that they protect. We've kept faith with our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly. And effectively adjudicate any cases that -- brought before. Including those that involve the security of the nation that we both love so dearly. We have taken steps to protect the environment. And make warfare the rules by which our commercial enterprises. Operate. And we have held accountable. Those who would harm the American people either through violent means. -- the misuse of economic war political power. I have -- the Department of Justice ever since as a as a young boy I watch Robert Kennedy. Proved during the civil rights movement -- the department can and must always be a force for that which is right. I hope that I have done honor to defeat -- the placed in me mister president into the latest -- all of those who have served before me. I would also like -- think the vice president who I have known for so many years -- in whom I have found great wisdom. Unwavering support and he shared vision of what America can and should be. I want to recognize my good friend. Valerie Jarrett. Whom I've been fortunate to work with from the beginning of what started as an improbable. Idealistic effort by a young senator from Illinois. Who we will both right to believe would achieve. Great. I've had the opportunity to -- -- your distinguished cabinet and worked with a White House chief of staff. Where White -- -- ably led by Dennis McDonough. And it has done much to make real the promise of our democracy. And the each of the men and women who I have come to know will be we'll be lifelong friends. Whatever my accomplishments they could not have been achieved without the love support and guidance of two people -- that you're with me today. My parents -- and Miriam holder. Nurtured me and my accomplished by the William. And made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation. My time in public service which now comes to an end. Would not have been possible without the sacrifices. Too often unfair. Made by the best three kids a father could -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And finally I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most. And allowed me to follow my dreams. She's -- foundation of all that our family is. And the basis of all that I have become. My wife Sharon is the unsung hero and she is mine life partner. Think people that you have done look. In the months ahead I will leave the Department of Justice. But I will never I will never leave the work. -- will continue to serve can try to find ways to make our nation. Even more true to its founding ideals. I want to thank the dedicated public servants who form the backbone of the United States Department of Justice for their tireless work over the past six years. The efforts they will continue. And for the progress had been made and that will -- outlast us all. Analysts think -- four act joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction. But that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice. And -- The northstar. Bank. And you've been. Was named to. Attorney general Eric Holder -- his resignation in a very emotional sort of speech as well. As President Obama they're introducing him let's go back to Jonathan Karl at the White House Jonathan this has been in the works evidently for some time what did you make. Of this announcement that we just heard. Well you can clearly see the bond between the two -- as as we -- going into this. This was among the very first cabinet nominations the president made then senator president elect Obama made in 2008 after winning the election. The two are very close in fact just when the president at his vacation -- on Martha's Vineyard they spent time together I'm sure this was discussed then his departure now. Is is not a surprise anyway holder had signaled 22 friends for some time that he intended to go. By the end of the year it's very significant that he is saying that he will stay on and tell his successor is nominated and confirmed. The reason why that's important is the holder has been an extremely controversial attorney general on the -- from the Republicans they really. Just -- -- if there's one member of the Obama cabinet that they would like to see -- it is Eric Holder they have clashed with him on a whole number of of issues. And now he is saying that he will stay as attorney general NTELOS successor is name what that does. Is it makes it harder for Republicans to block whoever Obama's successor is because by blocking the successor. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Course as you mentioned the lightning rod on many issues just listening to. The president outlined the portfolio. That Eric Holder had an all the offices studies oversaw from civil rights to. Certainly. The immigration issues what will be his ten year. As attorney general what sort of legacy doesn't leave behind of course is the first African American attorney general of the US. But he still investigating in the high profile shooting of Michael brown and Ferguson Missouri. Well above all. The legacy for holdover from his advocates will be on the issue of equal justice you know Eric -- he mentioned -- -- Bobby Kennedy. That was his model to be -- attorney general -- Bobby Kennedy to be in the forefront of equal justice under the law. And in this it has been exactly. Where he concludes -- this year you know I would say that probably the high point of holders. A ten years attorney general came just this summer -- what happened in Ferguson Missouri -- the president tasked holder. -- dealing with being the main person -- administration to deal with that issue he went to Ferguson. After the shooting of Michael Brown he met with -- all of the key players on that. Any -- at a moment of incredibly high tension. -- promise -- that there would be justice in this case. And -- you must be said to defused it's significantly that a significant role in defusing the tensions in Ferguson that was something that. The -- I'm sure -- be seen is as part of -- it was certainly a highlight of his tenure also on the issue of by the counterterrorism. -- of one of the more controversial things that holder did very early on is he announced his intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the mastermind behind the 9/11. Attack in New York you want to bring him from Guantanamo Bay. Two New York. To be tried. In the city that of course was the center of the 9/11 attacks this was a very controversial move there wasn't a lot of ground work that was laid. Before making that announcement even democratic. Political leaders in New York. -- work we're blind sided by this didn't like the way this was handled and of course it never happened congress blocked any movement of -- -- Out of Guantanamo to New York tips for that prosecution. And you mentioned those detractors and of course the focus of controversy from the fast and the furious to obtaining phone records of journalists. Hold it was the first attorney general to be held in contempt by congress. We know that lawmakers -- his departure so who are -- early candidates to be the new attorney general. Well two that are very close to President Obama I think will be very high on this list one is Kathy wrong war. She until very recently was the white house council effectively the president's lawyer. I we have been told she will be under strong consideration for this another what is Donald -- he is the current solicitor general. For the United States that is the person that argues before the Supreme Court. On behalf of the administration. Pirelli was the person that argued the health care case before the Supreme Court -- -- the constitutionality. Of obamacare. He was. Criticized by some advocates of obamacare for doing it ineffective job in the in making that argument but he ended up winning the case 54 decision winning upholding. The constitutionality of the president saying that. Signature legislative achievement. I think that he will be very high on that list Deval Patrick the governor of Massachusetts is often been mentioned. But reporters caught up with him today he said. It's a very important job but it -- not one for me right now so that you can probably take his name off that list and we'll hear others. But I expect Kathy roller and -- over only to be. On the top of that shortlist. And also with mid term elections it also looks like Republicans could control the senate next year do you think the president. Will try to push this candidate through before that happens what timeline DC. Well that's a very good question. It's virtually impossible to do it before the election congress'. Left left town they're on recess or district work period as they call it out campaigning. So that would almost certainly not happen. The question is what they try to do it during a lame duck session after the election of Democrats lost control of the senate would they try to. Push it through before the new center this morning in January I think that's highly unlikely but it's not impossible they could try to -- that also. Very critical thing is the Democrats push through of course you remember the rule change in the senate. It -- that it made it possible to confirm nominees with a simple majority. 51 votes all that's needed now of course that the precedent long before that had been sixty votes needed. If anybody were to filibuster a nomination so they've got they they could easily go through and confirm somebody with just democratic votes. But there would be such a controversy. If they tried to do that and are lame duck session. It's hard for me to imagine that the next attorney general would want to begin after after something like that. We'll keep an eye on that Jon Karl at the White House thank you very much. And you can keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news -- And star in this story for exclusive updates on the go for now I'm Michelle Franzen a New York.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.