President Obama on Saturday formally nominated U.S. attorney for New York's eastern district, Loretta Lynch, to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general. If confirmed, she will be the first African-American woman to serve as the nation's top cop, or as the president said in his remarks, "the people's lawyer."
"It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta. Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country," Obama said in remarks delivered from the Roosevelt Room. "She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights."
Lynch, 55, does indeed have a reputation for being tough and also has been praised for being unflappable, and not one to seek the limelight, even when prosecuting high profile cases like the beating and sodomizing of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by white police officers. She also prosecuted a group of men who conspired to bomb New York subways and other terrorism, gang and mafia cases.
She was first appointed a U.S. attorney by President Bill Clinton in 1999 and then by Obama in 2010 after a period in private practice as a partner at the tony law firm Hogan & Hartson, where she focused on criminal litigation and white collar criminal defense.
"The Department of Justice is the only cabinet department named for an ideal. And this is actually appropriate, because our work is both aspirational, and grounded in gritty reality. It’s both ennobling, and it’s both profoundly challenging," Lynch said after Obama's introduction. "Today, I stand before you so thrilled, and, frankly, so humbled to have the opportunity to lead this group of wonderful people who work all day and well into the night to make that ideal a manifest reality, all as part of their steadfast protection of the citizens of this country."
Black lawmakers and civil rights leaders praised her nomination, which NAACP president Cornell Brooks says couldn’t have come at a more critical time in our nation’s history." Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said choosing Lynch is a signal that Obama "is uncompromising and determined that our country's top attorney be dedicated to doing what is right for the American people."
Now the question is how well members of the Senate, who must confirm the nomination, will receive her, especially if the process is held off until Republicans take control in January. In addition to challenging her on her views, lawmakers will likely be concerned that as a U.S. attorney, Lynch would be leapfrogging over others in the Justice Department who hold more senior positions.
"I have every confidence that Ms. Lynch will receive a very fair, but thorough, vetting by the Judiciary Committee," said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is poised to take up the committee's gavel in the new Congress. "U.S. attorneys are rarely elevated directly to this position, so I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress, and how she proposes to lead the department. I’m hopeful that her tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the attorney general as a politically independent voice for the American people.”
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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