WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says she won’t overrule the findings of an FBI-led investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Speaking at a conference in Colorado Friday, she also acknowledged that an impromptu meeting this week with former president Bill Clinton “cast a shadow” over the public perception of the neutrality of the investigation.
“I certainly wouldn’t do it again,” she said. “It’s important to make it clear that that meeting with President Clinton does not have a bearing on how this matter will be reviewed and resolved.”
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, Lynch said the meeting with former President Clinton was all small talk. She said she will accept the recommendation from her FBI investigators in the email case, whatever it is.
But she said she will not be recusing herself from the case.
“A recusal would mean that I wouldn’t even be briefed on what the findings were or what the actions going forward would be,” she said. “And while I don’t have a role in those findings, in coming up with those findings or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I will be briefed on it and I will be accepting their recommendations.”
Lynch and Bill Clinton met aboard her plane on the tarmac at a Phoenix airport Monday. She previously said the unplanned meeting was the former president’s idea and their discussion was small talk.
“I was arriving, he was leaving. He came on to say hello, we spoke about a number of things,” Lynch told reporters earlier this week. “Not much more to it than that.”
Lynch insisted she did not discuss anything sensitive with Bill Clinton.
“There was no discussion of Benghazi, no discussion of the State Department emails, by way of example,” she said.
The government is probing Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails and use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and the get-together between Lynch and the former president has been criticized as inappropriate by Republicans.
“If this isn’t a conflict of interest, then we don’t know what is,” the Republican National Committee said on Twitter.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump mocked Lynch’s explanation about how the meeting came about.
“I thought somebody was joking,” Trump said. “He just happened to be at the airport at this time – think of it – just happened to be at the airport.”
Other Republican lawmakers agreed that a recusal was the best course of action.
“I think she should recuse herself. I think she should take herself out of the investigation because no matter what determination is, no matter how they decide to go forward or not go forward, there’s going to be a cloud over it,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.
Louisiana U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and Texas Sen. John Cornyn also said Lynch should recuse herself and appoint a special prosecutor to avoid “even the appearance of corruption,” CBS News reported.
But some top Democrats rushed to Lynch’s defense.
“She has said nothing was discussed related to the investigation,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). “You have two choices – to say this didn’t matter or she’s lying.”
“All I can say is Loretta Lynch is one of the most outstanding human beings I have ever known,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said.
However, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said it was “foolish to create such optics.”
The White House ducked questions about whether Lynch should recuse herself.
“It’s appropriate for the Attorney General to determine what her role is, and she has spoke to that today, and that is appropriate for her to do ,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “And frankly, my view of that matter and the president’s view of that matter is not relevant.
Because Bill Clinton nominated Lynch to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999, some Republicans have argued that Lynch could not be impartial as the final arbiter in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails, CBS News reported.
“If the findings are not harmful to Hillary Clinton, there will always be this question that will be raised,” said CBS News Political Director John Dickerson.
As attorney general, Lynch does not have to accept the advice of her prosecutors and typically has the freedom to go her own way.
She has said the investigation is being handled by career investigators and will be fair. The FBI director has said there is no timetable for when the investigation will end.
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