The following is a transcript of an interview with former Attorney General Eric Holder airs Sunday, May 8, 2022 on “Face the Nation”.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And now we turn to former Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder. He set up a group in 2016, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, to help the party redraw congressional lines. And he has a new book called, I quote, Our Unfinished Walk. Hello to you.
FORMER US ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Hello.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Nice to have you here. You know, in the book you’re writing, both sides embraced gerrymandering when they controlled state governments. But you say Democrats fell asleep at the wheel when Republicans started investing in some of these local races 12 years ago. You know, critics call your strategy just suing that it’s all partisanship. How do you respond to that?
ERIC HOLDER: No, ours is a fight for fairness. And yet we have filed many lawsuits, successfully filed many lawsuits to make sure the process is done fairly and that the American people actually choose their representatives rather than politicians choose their constituents and so on. sue is what they say when you win in court, and that’s what we’ve done on a whole bunch of levels.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think the Democrats have an advantage going into the midterm elections from 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 they were going to do. We’ve blunted that effort and we certainly have fairer maps than those from the last round of rescaling. What really worries me, though, is that we have 40% fewer competitive seats than I think we should have because of what both sides have done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You say it’s a matter of fairness, but you haven’t challenged any Democratic gerrymandering. Ed O’Keefe presented some of these examples. Both cards adopted 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 happened — what the legislature did in Maryland agreed with the judge, what he did there. And in New York, what I said is that these are not the maps that I would have drawn in New York. I guess once the courts look at what happened in New York, you will see different maps, 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, potentially Florida, Wisconsin, where the Republicans really went to town in gerrymandering terms. Fundamentally different from what the Democrats did.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How?
ERIC HOLDER: They are, if you look at Texas, which gets two more seats strictly because of the increase in the Hispanic population, they haven’t increased that at all – the power of Hispanics in Texas. In fact, they created more minority and majority white districts in Texas. The map you see in New York really reflects a shift in population, a hollowing out of rural areas in New York, as well as an increase in urban areas in New York. So there’s a census base – a Census Bureau base – for what’s going on in New York that doesn’t exist in the – in the Republican states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve heard what’s going on in Florida and what Governor Ron DeSantis is describing. He says what he’s doing with the redraw is racially neutral. I know you totally disagree. Are you saying the gerrymandering there is rooted in racism?
ERIC HOLDER: It’s definitely a race issue. What it does there by removing a – a traditionally black seat is definitely a factor. Race is a factor there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you think it’s to intentionally disenfranchise?
ERIC HOLDER: It’s definitely a component of – I think they think – that they’re going after Democrats and the fact that – that the Democrats they’re going after happen to be black, I don’t think that’s must be a coincidence. The costume we won in Alabama was where we said you should have additional representation for black people – black people in Alabama. These 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 if I understand correctly, the Supreme Court has tried not to get directly involved in what it considers political gerrymandering, but it has signaled its willingness to to hear cases involving issues of race. . Elections are still scheduled for November in the state of Alabama, although the court will hear this case. Do you think the redrawn cards 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: However, it’s an interesting thing. They’re going to have an election in November based on maps that the judges, including two Trump justices, say were drawn inappropriately and unconstitutionally. The Supreme Court said too close to the election. We will therefore allow the elections to take place on the cards that have been found to be defective. Now, what the Supreme Court will ultimately do with section two of the Voting Rights Act, which was the basis of the Alabama lawsuit, remains to be seen. That’s one of the things I talk about in my book, this idea that we’re coming to structural change. We need to watch – we need to ban partisan gerrymandering. We have to look at the structures of our democracy if we’re going to try to–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 you’re sketching here, you’re saying the whole democratic system is essentially broken, as I understand it, an unrepresentative Senate, a useless undemocratic Electoral College, a gerrymandered House of Representatives, a panoply of state legislatures and a stolen Supreme Court. A stolen Supreme Court. You say that every person with equal say in our democracy, one person shows up, one vote is far from a reality.
ERIC HOLDER: Yeah, I think that’s true…
MARGARET BRENNAN: — You say the whole system is down. So if the Republicans take control of Congress in November, does this election have no fairness? You don’t accept the result?
ERIC HOLDER: No. I think your premise goes a bit far. I wouldn’t say it’s all broken, but there is…
MARGARET BRENNAN: I was reading your book there.
ERIC HOLDER: No, what I’m saying is I would say there’s an important part of our structure that needs to be fixed, that needs to be looked at. And I think we should – what I’ve tried to highlight in the book is that we’ve faced these issues before, and we’ve had heroes and heroines in our history who have been facing similar problems. And through sacrifice, commitment, they made a difference. And we have the ability, I think, to make those kinds of changes. Prohibit 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 hasn’t been filled, of course, it was too close to an election. And then Amy Coney Barrett was placed in a seat while people voted. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff I think needs to be tackled. And what I’m talking about in the book is saying, look, we should limit the terms of judges, 18 years, and that each president should have the ability to appoint two judges per term and try to reduce some of the pressure of this, put partisanship and the into the confirmation process.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans would obviously disagree with your description of how it played out. But Merrick Garland, you mentioned he’s now in your old job as Attorney General. There have been critics of him saying he is not being aggressive enough around the January 6 lawsuits. Do you think that’s true?
ERIC HOLDER: Nobody knows. I mean, you know, I have great faith in Merrick and the Justice Department folks. We won’t really know how aggressive they were until they were on camera announcing a decision to charge certain people or not to charge certain people. But here is my prediction. At some point the Justice Department folks, maybe this Atlanta prosecutor, will have to decide whether or not they want to indict Donald Trump. There’s gonna 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 then the question becomes, what is the impact of such an indictment? I am an institutionalist. My initial thought was not to indict the former president for the sake of divisiveness. But given what we’ve learned, I think he probably has to be held accountable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll leave it on that amazing note. Mr- Mr Holder, thank you for your time and for sharing your book. We will be back.