CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former Attorney General Eric Holder was in South Carolina and Iowa this past week but he insists he is not running for president. He made a joke of it at an event at a Baptist church in Columbia, SC.
“I think I'm the only national Democrat who's not running for president at this point. So you know I'm unique,” Holder said.
Instead, he’s visiting early primary states to try to inject a very dry topic of gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of political boundaries to aid one party, into the election.
“We want you all to make sure that people who are running for president are focusing on these issues of fair redistricting, gerrymandering and making sure that we have a fair census,” he said to the church crowd which included local democratic leaders and Jamie Harrison, who is running to unseat Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham.
For Holder, this mission has its roots in the 2010 election. That’s the one where the Democrats lost the House, lost seats in the Senate and had almost no influence in the state legislatures that went on to re-district in 2011. In 2017, former president Barack Obama and Holder launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to promote a “comprehensive redistricting strategy.”
The fundraising arm of the NDRC raised $2.5 million in 2018 and has donated a lot of that money to state-level candidates and state parties.
Holder said it’s paying off. Last election cycle, five states had ballot initiatives that were designed to make the redistricting process more fair.
Holder is attempting to make sure the two dozen democratic presidential hopefuls connect the dots between gerrymandered districts and their own presidential ambitions.
“If you have gerrymandered state legislatures they are the ones who draw the lines for the United States House of Representatives. And if you've got a gerrymandered House you will hobble that next Democratic president with a gerrymandered House of Representatives,” Holder said.
But at a fundraiser in Charleston, the other issue many are eager to hear Holder’s thoughts about come up when an attendee asked Holder what he thinks about Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the Mueller report. Holder replied, “I think it’s shameful. An attorney general is not the lawyer for the president. An attorney general is a lawyer for the people of the United States.”
Holder also reflected on his role in creating the special counsel regulations that governed Bob Mueller’s appointment, when he was deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.
“We never assumed when we wrote those regulations that we would have a problematic Attorney General you know? I wouldn't say we were being naive. We were just looking at our history. You know we had a couple of bad attorneys general but, you know, generally pretty good,” he said.
This segment originally aired June 14, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.