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Holder opponent ramps up critique

From NBC's Bridget Nurre
Rep. Dan Burton
(R-Ind.) says that while he does not plan to campaign publicly against the appointment of Eric Holder to Attorney General, he does not support President-Elect Obama's decision.

AsĀ First ReadĀ noted this morning, Burton was the chief Republican critic of the Clinton administration's pardon of Marc Rich in 2001.

Burton, who was the Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee when it investigated the pardon, initially said yesterday that Holder had simply been following orders by issuing his "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the Rich pardon.

But after reviewing the documents from the committee's investigation overnight and this morning, Burton revisited that assessment, telling NBC News that Holder took a more active role in the pardon than he recalled from memory.

According to documents submitted to the committee, Burton said, Holder met with Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn on several occasions in which Quinn made the White House's intentions known.

In 2000, Holder made several attempts to set up a meeting between Quinn and the New York US Attorneys office because he knew of their opposition to the pardon. A meeting never took place. "[Holder] kept it at arms length," said Burton.

On November 21, 2000 Holder and Quinn met at the Department of Justice where Quinn asked for a written statement. In lieu of a written statement, Burton says that Holder asked Quinn to have the White House call him for his opinion. Burton says that Holder did not notify anyone at the Justice Department that this conversation had taken place and refused to see the pardon petition.

On January 19th, Quinn called Holder for his assessment. Though he was aware of the New York Attorneys' opposition, he told Quinn his opinion was "neutral, leaning towards favorable," due to support Rich had gotten from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

"This is more than a question of judgment," Burton said. "By not giving the information to the other people at the Justice Department and telling Quinn not to send him the pardon petition, he kept a lid on something important to the pardoning process."

"I don't know about other issues, but on the Rich pardon alone, he should not be appointed Attorney General," he concluded.