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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.
Eric Holder, who heads Mr Obama's justice department, is said to have become "incensed" after being accused by David Axelrod of complaining publicly about political interference in his office.
"That's bull****," Mr Holder said in a confrontation after a cabinet meeting, according to author Daniel Klaidman. He writes: "The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a school yard fight".