The following is a transcript of an interview with former Attorney General Eric Holder which aired Sunday, May 8, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: And now we turn to the former Attorney General of the Obama administration, Eric Holder. He started a group in 2016, the Democratic National Redistricting Committee, to help the party redraw the lines of Congress. And he has a new book called, I quote, Our Unfinished March. Good morning to you.
FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m glad to have you here. You know, in the book you’re writing, both sides have embraced manipulation when they were in control of the state governments. But you say Democrats fell asleep at the wheel when Republicans began investing 12 years ago in some of these local races. You know, critics say your strategy only sues blue because it’s all about partisanship. How do you respond to that?
ERIC HOLDER: No, ours is a fight for justice. And yet, we have filed many lawsuits, successfully filed many lawsuits to make sure that the process is done fairly and that the American people actually elect their representatives rather than the politicians choosing their voters, and so on. sue to blue, that’s what they say when you’re winning in court, which is what we’ve done on many levels.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think the Democrats have an advantage after entering the midterms compared to where you started?
ERIC HOLDER: Well, I think we certainly stopped the Republicans when they said they wanted to secure a decade of power in the next decade based on the redistricting that they were going to do. We have mitigated that effort and we certainly have fairer maps than we had coming out of the last redistricting cycle. However, what really concerns me is that we have 40% fewer competitive seats than I think we should as a result of what both sides have done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You say it’s about fairness, but you haven’t questioned any Democratic manipulation. Ed O’Keefe presented some of those examples there. The two maps approved by Democrats were thrown out by courts in Maryland and New York. Do you have a problem with what happened there?
ERIC HOLDER: I indicated my opposition to what had happened. What the legislature did in Maryland agreed with the judge, which he did there. And in New York, what I have said is that those are not the maps that I would have drawn in New York. I guess after the courts look at what happened in New York, you’ll see maps that are different, but not fundamentally different. I think you can’t compare, though, what happened in New York and Maryland to what’s happening in Texas, Georgia, possibly Florida, Wisconsin, where the Republicans have really gone to town in terms of gerrymandering. Fundamentally different from what the Democrats have done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How’s that?
ERIC HOLDER: If you look at Texas, which is getting two additional seats strictly as a result of the increase in the Hispanic population, they haven’t increased that, the power of Hispanics in Texas at all. In fact, they have created more minority and majority white districts in Texas. The map that you see in New York actually reflects a population change, a hollowing out of the rural areas of New York, as well as an increase in the urban areas of New York. So there’s a census base, the Census Bureau, for what’s happening in New York that doesn’t exist in the Republican states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You heard there what’s going on in Florida and what Governor Ron DeSantis is describing. He says that what he is doing with the redesign is race neutral. I know you strongly disagree. Are you saying that the gerrymandering there is rooted in racism?
ERIC HOLDER: He’s certainly race conscious. What he’s doing there by removing a traditionally black seat is certainly a factor. Race is a factor there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you think it’s to intentionally disenfranchise you?
ERIC HOLDER: That’s definitely a component of the — I think they’re thinking that they’re going after Democrats and the fact that the Democrats that they’re going after happen to be black, I don’t think that’s necessarily a coincidence. The lawsuit that we won in Alabama was where we said there should be additional representation for Black people, Black Alabamans. Those districts were certainly drawn with the idea that they would disenfranchise African Americans in Alabama.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Alabama, because, as I understand it, the Supreme Court has tried not to get directly involved in what it sees as political manipulation, but has shown a willingness to hear cases that involve issues of race. . There are still elections scheduled for November in the state of Alabama, although the court will hear this case. Do you think the maps being redrawn in Alabama will ultimately be deemed illegal and therefore the election should be invalid?
ERIC HOLDER: Well, you know, it’s interesting…
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Is that what you’re saying?
ERIC HOLDER: It’s kind of interesting though. They are going to have an election in November based on maps that judges, including two Trump judges, said were drawn inappropriately and unconstitutionally. Supreme Court said too close to the election. So we’re going to allow elections to take place on those maps that turned out to be flawed. Now, it remains to be seen what the Supreme Court will ultimately do with section two of the Voting Rights Act, which was the basis of the Alabama lawsuit. This is one of the things that I talk about in my book, this notion that we’re getting to some structural changes. We have to look, we have to ban partisan gerrymandering. We need to look at the structures of our democracy if we’re going to try — if we’re going to try to save it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you have a lot of different recommendations in the book, but I mean, it’s a long to-do list. And the problem he outlines here, he says that the entire democratic system is essentially broken, as I understand it, an unrepresentative Senate, an unnecessary undemocratic Electoral College, a rigged House of Representatives, a panoply of state legislatures, and a stolen Supreme Court. A stolen Supreme Court. You say that each person who has the same voice in our democracy, one person postulates, one vote is far from being a reality.
ERIC HOLDER: Yeah, I think that’s true…
MARGARET BRENNAN: –You’re saying the whole system is broken. So if the Republicans win control of Congress in November, does that election have no integrity? Do not accept the result of it?
ERIC HOLDER: No. I think your premise goes a little too far. I wouldn’t say everything is broken, but there is…
MARGARET BRENNAN: She was reading her book there.
ERIC HOLDER: No, what I’m saying is that I would say that there is a substantial part of our structure that needs to be repaired, that needs to be examined. And I think we should, what I’ve tried to point out, point out in the book is that we’ve faced these problems before, and we’ve had heroes and heroines in our history who have faced similar problems. And through sacrifice, commitment, they have made a difference. And we have the ability, I think, to make these kinds of changes. Ban partisan gerrymandering. If you look at the Supreme Court, we have two seats, one stolen from the Democrats that Merrick Garland should have now, that seat was not filled, of course, it was too close to an election. And then they put Amy Coney Barrett in a seat while people voted. I mean, those are the kinds of things that I think need to be addressed. And what I talk about in the book is to say, look, we should limit the term of judges, 18 years, and that each president should have the opportunity to nominate two judges per term and try to take some of the pressure off of this. , put the partisanship and the in the confirmation process.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans obviously wouldn’t agree with your characterization of how that played out. But Merrick Garland, you mentioned that you’re now in his old job as attorney general. There have been critics of him who say he is not being aggressive enough around the trials related to January 6. Do you think that is correct?
ERIC HOLDER: Nobody knows. I mean, you know, I have a lot of faith in Merrick and the people at the Justice Department. We won’t really know how aggressive they’ve been until they’re on camera announcing a decision to charge certain people or not to charge certain people. But here is my prediction. At some point, the people at the Justice Department, maybe that prosecutor in Atlanta, will have to make a decision about whether or not they want to indict Donald Trump. there will be a-
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Would you?
ERIC HOLDER: Well, I think there will be enough factual information. And I think there will be enough evidence of intent. And so the question is, what is the impact of such an accusation? I am an institutionalist. My initial thought was not to impeach the former president out of concern for what, how divisive it would be. But given what we’ve learned, I think he probably needs to be held accountable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll leave it on that incredible note. Mr. Mr. Holder, thank you for his time and for sharing his book. We’ll be right back.