Holder complained of feeling faint and shortness of breath at a staff meeting Thursday.

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder was briefly hospitalized Thursday for an elevated heart rate after becoming faint and short of breath.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said Holder began experiencing the symptoms during a regular morning senior staff meeting at the department.

"As a precaution, the attorney general was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center to undergo further evaluation,'' Fallon said, adding that he was alert and in good condition.

He arrived at the hospital at 10:30 a.m. and was released at 1:15 p.m.

"He received medication that quickly restored his heart rate to a normal level, and after successfully completing a full range of tests, doctors were satisfied that the attorney general could be discharged,'' Fallon said.

"He walked out without any assistance and has returned home, where he is resting comfortably.''

Fallon said Holder had experienced "similar symptoms ... in milder form'' several years ago that did not require "serious medical attention.''

"He appreciates the well wishes from so many friends and colleagues and is grateful for the excellent care he received from the professionals at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.''

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Obama was notified of Holder's illness and "wishes him a speedy recovery.''

Holder, 63, was sworn in five years ago as the 82nd attorney general of the United States.

A former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder is the first African American to hold the top post at the Justice Department.

Holder has spent much of his career within the federal criminal justice system, once serving as the chief federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia. In 1988, he was nominated by President Reagan to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

A native of New York City, Holder graduated from Columbia College in 1973 and earned his law degree in 1976 from Columbia Law School.

He is married to physician Sharon Malone and has three children.

The target of intense criticism by congressional Republicans during his early tenure (a House committee voted to hold him in contempt in 2012 for the department's handling of a botched gun trafficking inquiry), Holder once contemplated an early departure from Justice. But late last year, he expressed a new desire to remain on the job and has launched a series of initiatives aimed at revamping the nation's criminal justice system.

Earlier this month, he urged a repeal of state laws that ban felons from voting, a penalty that disproportionately affects African Americans.

"It's something that really animates me and makes me want to continue in this job," Holder said in a November interview with USA TODAY. "There are still things I want to do."

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