By Daryl Hannah
President Barack Obama on Saturday officially nominated Loretta Lynch, a two-time United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to succeed outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.
A Greensboro, N.C., native and daughter of a fourth-generation North Carolina Baptist minister, Lynch graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She spent six years at Manhattan’s Cahill Gordon & Reindel as a litigation associate and later joined the Eastern District as a prosecutor. She worked inside the U.S. Attorney’s office to prosecute and convict a New York City police officer who sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broom handle. At the time, the case was one of the most explosive police-brutality cases, and it earned Lynch a reputation for “even-handed tenacity”.
“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. “It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta. I can think of no better public servant to be our next attorney general.”
Lynch was appointed as a U.S. Attorney in 1999 by President Clinton, but left to return to private practice in 2001. She was appointed for a second time by Obama in 2010.
In her most recent stint in the post, Lynch’s office in Brooklyn has handled a wide-ranging caseload including cutting-edge cybercrime and high-stakes financial fraud. Her office also helped convict the masterminds of the thwarted al Qaeda plot to attack the New York subway system.
Earlier this year, Lynch’s office also announced it would indict Representative Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) on federal fraud, tax evasion and perjury charges. Grimm, who won his re-election bid Tuesday, pleaded not guilty. Lynch has also prosecuted several Democratic public officials, including State Senator John L. Sampson, former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr.
At her nomination announcement, Lynch thanked both the President and Attorney General Holder and pledged to “wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought.”
Lynch’s nomination came after widespread speculation that she was in fact the President’s top choice. While she was twice confirmed by an overwhelming majority of the Senate for U.S. Attorney, Lynch remains relatively unknown inside Washington.
Republicans have warned Democratic leaders not to try to push her confirmation through during this lame-duck session but to wait until the new Senate takes office in January.
“If we’re going to have an era of good faith here, we need to begin with the confirmation process for one of the most important jobs in the country, and that is attorney general,” Senator-elect Shelley Moore Capito (R.-W.Va.) said Sunday on FOX News.
Senator John Barrasso (R.-Wyo.), also speaking on FOX, said, “We have not done an attorney general confirmation in a lame duck since 1906, and that was in the same party.”
It’s also expected that Lynch will face some hard-hitting questions during her confirmation hearings, including questions about her views on the President’s use of executive authority on immigration and the surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency.
As the head of a Justice Department advisory committee, Lynch has weighed the issue of how such data collection is or isn’t used to build criminal cases. And in one of Lynch’s current terrorism cases in Brooklyn, a suspect was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to obtain more information about how such surveillance led to his arrest.
But while conservative leaders are more concerned with the confirmation process, the conservative media didn’t waste any time taking shots at the nominee’s character.
The biggest gaffe over the weekend came from conservative-media outlet Brietbart.com, which confused this Loretta Lynch with a different attorney who represented President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton during the Whitewater scandal.
In the now-removed article, Breitbart cited a New York Times article that “reported that Lynch was one of the Clintons’ Whitewater defense attorneys as well as a ‘campaign aide.'” But the Loretta Lynch in the 1992 Times article is a California-based attorney and former California Public Utilities Commissioner, and not Obama’s attorney general nominee, as Media Matters points out.
Before removing the article, the outlet posted this correction:
Correction: The Loretta Lynch identified earlier as the Whitewater attorney was, in fact, a different attorney.