‘War in the White House’: Eric Holder and David Axelrod ‘Had to be Separated’

Attorney General Eric Holder nearly came to blows with political strategist David Axelrod after a Cabinet meeting in the White House, according to a new book by Daniel Klaidman, a Newsweek investigative reporter.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Photo: USDAgov/Flickr

Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney general and David Axelrod, his top political adviser had to be separated after squaring up during a furious row over attempts to impose White House operatives in the justice department, writes The Telegraph.

“The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a schoolyard fight back at their shared alma mater, Stuyvesant, the elite public high school for striving kids in New York City,’’ writes Daniel Klaidman in “Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency,’’ which hits bookstores tomorrow.

According to The Daily Caller, Klaidman writes that Axelrod was “incensed” because he had heard that “Holder and his aides were spreading the word that he was trying to improperly influence the Justice Department.”

“Axelrod, who knew all too well that even the hint of White House meddling with Justice Department investigations could detonate a full-blown scandal, had been careful not to come close to that line,” Klaidman writes.

The relatively mild-mannered Axelrod reportedly told the attorney general: “Don’t ever, ever accuse me of trying to interfere with the operations of the Justice Department”, a taboo in US politics.

“’I’m not Karl Rove,’ Axelrod added, referring to George Bush’s political consigliere, who had been accused of pressuring Justice to fire politically unpopular US attorneys.”

Holder, furious at “being publicly dressed down,’’ shouted back, ‘That’s bull-s–t!’” according to Klaidman, writes NY Post.

Klaidman writes that Holder and Axelrod were separated by Valerie Jarrett, a White House adviser and confidante to President Obama.

Ms Jarrett “pushed her way between the two men, her sense of decorum disturbed, ordering them to ‘take it out of the hallway’,” says Klaidman.

However, The USA Today reports that David Axelrod said little about the fight with Eric Holder, but flatly denied reports that he attended high-level national security meetings.

“I know there were weekly meetings dealing with terrorist threats and planning around it, but I did not attend those meetings,” Axelrod said.

“First of all, let me say, Eric Holder is a great friend of mine. We actually went to the same high school. So we may have gone chest to chest back in the day. But we have a strong relationship. And I’m not going to get into the details of that, other than to say I respect him,” he said.

The book, which will be released on Tuesday, examines the CIA-led drone war on al-Qaeda operatives who have made it on to a so-called “Kill List” that is said to be overseen by President Obama himself.

The book comes soon after a series of well-informed newspaper articles and other books covering similar ground and portraying the President as a ruthless slayer of terrorist suspects five months before he faces re-election.

Daniel Klaidman also writes in his book that shortly after taking office in 2009, Barack Obama was already aware of the possibility that he might be ousted by the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney after one term.

“You never know who is going to be president four years from now,” Obama is said to have told aides during a discussion about whether he should be able to detain terror suspects indefinitely. “I have to think about how Mitt Romney would use that power.”

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