Washington attorney Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama's top choice to be the next attorney general and aides have gone so far as to ask senators whether he would be confirmed, an Obama official and people close to the matter said Tuesday.
Holder, a former U.S. attorney who served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton, would be the nation's first black attorney general.
An Obama official and two Democrats in touch with the transition team confirmed that Holder is Obama's top choice but the Obama official said the decision has not been finalized. Holder did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
In the past week, Obama aides have asked Senate Republicans whether they would support Holder. In particular, the aides questioned whether Holder's confirmation would be delayed because of his involvement in the 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Clinton at the end of his presidency.
One person involved in the talks said the Obama team has received some assurances that, while the Rich pardon would certainly come up during hearings, the nomination likely wouldn't be held up. All spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
On the last day of Clinton's term, Holder was asked whether the president should pardon Rich, a wealthy commodities dealer who had spent years running from tax charges.
Holder said he was "neutral, leaning towards favorable" on the pardon. Clinton later cited that as among the factors that persuaded him to issue the pardon.
Holder has publicly apologized for what he said was a snap decision that he should have paid more attention to. Had he taken more time to review the case, he would have advised against a pardon, he said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)