Covington's Eric Holder Lauds Tennessee Lawmaker Who Refused To Lead Pledge of Allegiance on State House Floor

'He's worthy of all our support,' former attorney general says of Justin Jones

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
May 9, 2024

Former attorney general and Covington & Burling heavy hitter Eric Holder lauded a left-wing Tennessee lawmaker who refused to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, calling him "a singular force in the fight against the erosion of democracy" who is "worthy of all our support."

In a Wednesday social media post, Holder shared a photo of himself shaking hands with a smiling Justin Jones, the Tennessee Democrat who used a megaphone to disrupt state House proceedings last April as a gun control protest spilled into the Capitol building.

While the House voted to expel Jones over the incident, Nashville's city council quickly voted to reinstate him. Months later, in February, Jones again faced calls to resign when he refused to lead the House in the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I couldn't bring myself to join their performative patriotism," Jones said of his Republican colleagues.

Holder has a history of embracing activists who disrupt proceedings.

Last month, he rallied behind unauthorized student protesters at Columbia University, whose activities led to the cancellation of in-person classes and then to its main graduation ceremony. The students chanted anti-Semitic slogans such as "Globalize the intifada" and "NYPD, KKK, IDF, you're all the same."

Holder, a Columbia College and Columbia Law School graduate, defended the students, saying in an April 18 tweet that campus "unrest" is fueled by "legitimate concerns about Gaza situation." He also described congressional hearings about the explosion of campus anti-Semitism following Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel as "irresponsible-unproductive-witch hunt-political hearings."

Those statements are at odds with Covington, which employed Holder as a partner before he became attorney general and rehired him after his stint at the Justice Department. Late last year, the firm signed a letter expressing zero tolerance for the disruptive, anti-Semitic college protests, saying such behavior "would not be tolerated" at Covington.

"As employers who recruit from each of your law schools, we look to you to ensure your students who hope to join our firms after graduation are prepared to be an active part of workplace communities that have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, much less the kind that has been taking place on some law school campuses," the letter stated.

A team of Covington lawyers, led by partner Dana Remus, went on to prepare Columbia president Minouche Shafik for her April appearance before a House panel. The firm is also representing TikTok in its case against the U.S. government, arguing that a law forcing the app to divest from its Chinese owner or face a ban violates the Constitution.

In a Thursday tweet sent just before 1 a.m., meanwhile, Holder dismissed the 13 federal judges who said they would no longer hire law clerks from Columbia over spiraling anti-Semitism at the school. "Don't worry Columbia students," he wrote. "There are about 700 other federal judges you can clerk for. You wouldn't want to work with these 13 anyway."

A spokesman for Covington did not respond to a request for comment.

Holder addressed his work for the firm in a May 2 video he posted as part of his "Get to Know AG Holder" video series.

"What do I do for work? That's a question a whole bunch of people ask," Holder said. "I'm a member of a law firm, Covington & Burling, and I do a range of things there, from the domestic side to the international side. I spend a lot of time on airplanes."

Missing from Holder's description was his work advising clients on "cultural and social responsibility" issues, through which he has earned as much as $2,295 an hour to conduct racial equity audits. In one case, diversity policies Holder championed got Starbucks sued.

In addition to his gun control activism, Jones called for an Israeli ceasefire three weeks after Hamas's attack. "The only morally consistent position demands we support a ceasefire now," he said.

Holder has also called on Israel to stand down in its war against Hamas. During an April panel with former Obama secretary of defense and longtime Israel critic Chuck Hagel, Holder described the Jewish state's response to Oct. 7 as "extremely disturbing."

"I don't know exactly how the war should have been conducted, but I can say that the way it has been conducted is extremely disturbing to me, you know, and I think has caused an unnecessary loss of life and does not serve the interests of Israel in the long term," Holder said, adding that the U.S. should condition aid to Israel.

"It is time to have that conversation," he said. Holder also praised Hagel as a "very good man"—the former defense secretary in 2006 said the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."

Disclosure: The Washington Free Beacon is a Covington & Burling client. But the firm, which once represented the Free Beacon in matters of defamation and employment, no longer does so after Covington partner Lindsay Burke and Of Counsel Jason Criss cited a conflict of interest given their discomfort with the Free Beacon’s coverage of Holder’s practice.