Loretta Lynch for attorney general: Why might White House pick her?

Loretta Lynch, the top federal prosecutor for Brooklyn, Queens, and a swath of Long Island, appears to be the leading contender to replace Eric Holder.

Seth Wenig/AP/File
Loretta Lynch, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, speaks during an April news conference in New York. Lynch has emerged as the leading choice to be the next attorney general.

It looks like the White House may have settled on its attorney general nominee. Lots of media outlets are reporting today that Loretta Lynch, the top federal prosecutor for Brooklyn, Queens, and a swath of Long Island, is the leading contender to replace Eric Holder at the Justice Department.

According to CNN, an announcement may come soon. President Obama is leaving this weekend for a swing through Asia, however, and he’s unlikely to announce the pick while he’s overseas. Expect it to happen shortly after he returns.

Ms. Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. She’s currently in her second stint as US attorney for the Eastern District of New York. President Bill Clinton appointed her to that demanding post in 1999, and she served until 2001. Mr. Obama reappointed her to the position in 2010.

Lynch was a partner in a top New York City law firm, Hogan & Hartson, in between prosecutorial gigs. She is a North Carolina native with degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

As a prosecutor, she’s deftly handled some charged, high-profile cases. In the 1990s, she helped convict the New York policeman who assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broom handle. More recently, her office won convictions in the Al Qaeda-approved attempt to attack the New York subway system.

The New York Eastern District is also the entity that is prosecuting Rep. Michael Grimm (R) of New York’s Staten Island on tax evasion and wire fraud.

Will she win easy Senate confirmation? That’s likely the Obama administration’s hope.

After all, she’s already been confirmed twice by the Senate for her US Attorney position. She’s not personally linked to Obama policies, nor has she previously served the administration in any capacity. There are no obvious aspects of her prosecutorial background to which the GOP might take umbrage.

That’s in contrast to some of the other reported attorney general candidates. For instance, one possible pick, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., has defended the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court. That would have provided a convenient opening for GOP senators to bash the law during confirmation proceedings.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a Judiciary Committee member, told CNN that Lynch seems a “solid choice” and that there should not be any problem with holding confirmation hearings in the lame duck session in November, before Republicans take over control of the Senate in January.

Other GOP senators weren’t so sure about that. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he felt Lynch’s confirmation shouldn’t proceed until January.

One thing is sure: lots of people in Washington did a double take on seeing her name, and had to focus before they realized the White House was not talking about a famous country singer.

“Loretta Lynch for Attorney General. I’ve loved her since Coal Miners Daughter,” tweeted Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute political scientist, in a non-uncommon reaction.

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