Commentary: Easley, Edwards inquiries need to be completed

U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding of North Carolina's Eastern District understands the laws of politics about as well as the law of gravity. A Republican, he knows what's coming — that the White House will replace him before long with a Democrat. That's the way the system works.

But many North Carolinians, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro, believe Holding should be able to remain in office as chief federal prosecutor in the Eastern District until he wraps up investigations of two former high-profile Democrats: ex-U.S. Sen. John Edwards and ex-Gov. Mike Easley. Allowing Holding to pursue those inquiries is essential to restoring badly frayed public confidence in the state's governance.

The public's trust of politicians has been shaken by investigations, convictions and federal prison sentences of former state officials including a former agriculture commissioner, lottery commissioner, state senator and House speaker, all Democrats, on assorted corruption charges. And it has been the Eastern District U.S. attorney, often with the help of state officials, who led the investigations and brought them to court.

Now President Barack Obama has nominated Charlotte lawyer Thomas Walker to succeed Holding. Walker, former special counsel to N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, is a partner with the Charlotte office of Alston & Bird. He is an accomplished attorney, one of three recommended by Hagan for the U.S. attorney post. But when Hagan sent the recommendations to the White House, she specifically asked that Holding be allowed to finish the investigations before leaving his post. If the White House wanted to move forward on a new U.S. attorney, she asked that Holding be kept on long enough to finish the investigations of N.C. officials while allowing the new U.S. attorney to handle all other matters.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.