Obama Says Lynch Would Be 'Tough, Fair' Attorney General

Attorney General nominess Loretta Lynch (C) speaks after U.S. President Barack Obama (R) introduced here as his nominee to replace Eric Holder (L) during a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House November 8, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Barack Obama said Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch, his nominee for attorney general, will be “tough, fair, independent” as the U.S. chief law-enforcement officer.

If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch, 55, would become the first black woman to head the Justice Department. She’s in her second stint as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and would succeed Attorney General Eric Holder, who is stepping down.

In a ceremony at the White House today, Obama said Lynch prosecuted the terrorists who plotted to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank and New York subways, and has “boldly gone after public corruption, bringing charges against public officials in both parties.”

“She doesn’t look to make headlines; she looks to make a difference,” Obama said.

“Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists and still has the reputation for being a charming people person,” Obama said to laughter.

Unlike Holder, a personal friend of Obama’s, Lynch hasn’t been part of the White House inner circle, which may help her get confirmed with Republicans taking over the Senate.

The choice was made public after Obama’s Democratic party lost control of the Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who’s set to become the Senate majority leader in January, promised Lynch will “receive fair consideration.” He said Lynch’s confirmation hearing should be considered in the Republican-controlled Congress that take over in January.

Money Laundering

Lynch’s office has prosecuted banks over money laundering and misleading investors on mortgage-backed securities. Obama said Lynch has followed principles of “fairness, equality and justice.”

Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and probably the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee in January, said she’ll get a thorough vetting and a fair hearing.

“I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress, and how she proposes to lead the department,” Grassley said in a statement yesterday.

While the Senate remains in Democratic control through the end of the year, the White House hasn’t indicated it will seek expedited action on Lynch. There could be a long-term political cost to the administration if it pushes for a confirmation vote before Republicans take control of the Senate. Holder said on Oct. 29 he didn’t expect a confirmation vote until next year and will stay in the post until then.

Senator Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, says the nomination “should be vetted by the new Congress recently elected by the American people,” according to spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.

In a brief statement in the Roosevelt Room, with family at her side, Lynch said today she’s “thrilled and humbled” for the nomination. If confirmed by the Senate, she said, “I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought.”

Lynch had been under consideration for the Justice Department’s No. 2 job. She rose as a contender for attorney general after former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler pulled herself out of contention.

Confirmation Prospects

Lynch was seen as having an easier path to confirmation than two others who were under Obama’s consideration: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who are tied to Obama’s record on issues that will be criticized by Republicans.

Lynch oversees federal prosecutions in an area of New York that includes Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the rest of Long Island.

During her current tenure, the office negotiated a $1.92 billion money-laundering settlement with HSBC Holdings Plc in 2012 and is investigating whether banks violated anti-bribery laws by hiring the children of government officials in China to win business.

Lynch’s office aided in a federal investigation that resulted in Citigroup Inc.’s agreement in July to pay $7 billion in fines and consumer relief to resolve claims it misled investors about the quality of residential mortgage-backed bonds sold before the financial crisis. Her office was also involved in Bank of America Corp.’s $16.7 billion settlement to end federal and state probes into mortgage-bond sales.

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