NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama has formally announced his decision to nominate Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general.
President Obama said Lynch has a “fierce commitment to equal justice” and a solid record as a tough, fair federal prosecutor.
The president made the announcement at a White House event on Saturday. Plans to announce the nomination were hastily put together after reports of Lynch’s selection began to surface on Friday.
“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
Obama added that it’s “pretty hard to be more qualified” for the job of attorney general than Lynch.
The 55-year-old is the top federal prosecutor for New York’s Eastern District, which includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. She also held the position under President Bill Clinton.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to hold the position. She would replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who also was at Saturday’s announcement and was the first black head of the Justice Department.
“If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will wake up every morning with the protection of the American people my first thought,” she said. “And I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights, and this great nation which has given so much to me and my family.”
White House officials said they would leave it up to Senate leaders to work out the timeline for her confirmation, but it is expected that Republicans will oversee her confirmation with the next Congress in 2015.
Lynch grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina and began her career as a federal prosecutor in 1990. While a chief assistant U.S. attorney, she was on the trial team in one of the most sensational police brutality cases in city history, the broomstick torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a precinct bathroom.
She originally served as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn from 1999 to 2001 before entering private practice. She returned to the position in 2010 and was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a position that required her to spend more time in Washington and drew her closer to Holder.
During her second tenure at one of the country’s busiest federal districts, Lynch’s office has won convictions in a thwarted, al Qaeda sanctioned plot to attack New York City subways, and charged the head of a Mexican drug cartel with 12 murders. More recently, her office brought tax evasion charges against Republican Congressman Michael Grimm that’s scheduled to go to trial next year.
She’s also overseen bank fraud and other public corruption cases and charged reputed mobster Vincent Asaro and his associates for the 36-year-old heist of $6 million in cash and jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at Kennedy Airport, dramatized in the blockbuster movie “Goodfellas.”
“I’m not surprised. Those people familiar with federal law know she has been an outstanding legal expert and has gained the support of anyone that has a love and understanding of the law and I think the Senate has on more than one occassion agreed with that,” U.S. Representative for New York’s 13th congressional district Charles Rangel told WCBS 880.
Lynch is seen as having little baggage or controversy as Republicans are promising tough scrutiny after years of battles with the long-serving Holder.
“Loretta doesn’t look to make headlines, she looks to make a difference,” Obama said, offering an explanation why she’s largely unknown in Washington outside legal circles. “She’s not about splash, she is about substance.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Obama’s expected choice in a statement on Friday.
“President Obama has chosen a great New Yorker as the country’s highest-ranking law enforcement official. The nation is about to meet Loretta Lynch for the first time—but in the five boroughs, she is already known for her character, toughness and uncompromising sense of justice. She has never been afraid to hold those in power accountable under the law, or to fight for those facing inequity,” de Blasio said in the statement. “I urge the Senate to recognize Loretta as the accomplished and respected leader she is, and confirm her as Attorney General.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also lauded Lynch as the anticipated choice.
“U.S. Attorney Lynch is a trailblazer who has served the public with distinction in her current role under two presidents. She has earned a well-deserved reputation as an aggressive but fair prosecutor, who has used her office to seek justice through both criminal and civil proceedings,” Cuomo said in the statement. “I am confident that U.S. Attorney Lynch will bring those same qualities to her new position as our country’s top law enforcement official.”
On Saturday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton released a statement applauding the president’s pick.
“Loretta Lynch is a remarkable prosecutor with a clear sense of justice without fear or favor. She has prosecuted the most serious terrorist plots against New York City since 9-11. She has led the investigations into violent street gangs, as well as complex, and multi-million dollar cyber crews. Loretta has jailed the top leaders of organized crime and corrupt public officials. She has been a steady hand in New York’s battles against crime, corruption, and terrorism. She has been a great partner for the NYPD and great friend to me.”
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