Lynch Will Accept Recommendations Of Lawyers, Agents On Clinton Email Probe | KERA News

Lynch Will Accept Recommendations Of Lawyers, Agents On Clinton Email Probe

Jul 1, 2016
Originally published on July 1, 2016 5:50 pm

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she "fully expects" to endorse the recommendations of career prosecutors and FBI agents investigating the security of Hillary Clinton's email server, but stopped short of recusing herself from the politically charged case.

In an interview in Aspen, Colo., Lynch said she regrets that her unscheduled meeting with former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac this week has "cast a shadow" over the investigation into his wife's email practices at the State Department.

"The most important thing for me, as the attorney general, is the integrity of this Department of Justice," Lynch said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "And the fact that the meeting I had is now casting a shadow over how people are going to view that work is something I take seriously, and deeply, and painfully."

Lynch insisted the chat with Bill Clinton was focused on grandchildren and golf. But, she said, "I certainly wouldn't do it again."

The practical implications of the attorney general's announcement are perhaps less than meets the eye. In the vast majority of federal investigations, the nation's top prosecutor rarely weighs in, let alone overrules the judgment of lower-level lawyers and agents.

Indeed, Lynch said even before her airport conversation Monday that she has not been briefed on the "nuts and bolts" of the email investigation, and she could offer no evaluation as to when the investigation might end.

That's a matter of heightened political sensitivity, given that Hillary Clinton is preparing to accept her party's nomination for the White House at the Democratic National Convention later this month.

Her likely political opponent, Donald J. Trump, told ABC News that Bill Clinton's meeting with the attorney general was not "ethical." Trump said the chat contributed to his case that the system is "rigged."

That meeting prompted more than 24 hours of furor even though Lynch said the call was purely social, with no law enforcement topics on the table.

But Republican lawmakers cited the appearance of impropriety about the airport meeting in calling for a special prosecutor to lead the email investigation.

Both Lynch and FBI Director James Comey have testified on Capitol Hill that they want the investigation to be handled promptly and thoroughly.

Clinton has said she is "100 percent confident" she has nothing to fear from the criminal probe of the State Department emails. Her close aides have already sat for FBI interviews.

As for the attorney general, she told the audience in Aspen that she wishes her predecessor, Eric Holder, had let her know about the location of the lock on the government plane before she took the keys at Justice.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Attorney General Loretta Lynch took the unusual step of speaking out about an ongoing law enforcement case today. She took that unusual step because she wants to assure people the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server is operating free of political interference. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The attorney general's unplanned meeting with former President Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Arizona this week has sent the Justice Department into a tailspin. At the Aspen Institute today, interviewer Jonathan Capehart asked Loretta Lynch the question on everyone's minds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONATHAN CAPEHART: What on Earth...

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: ...Were you thinking. What happened?

LORETTA LYNCH: (Laughter) Well, I think that's the question of the day, isn't it.

CAPEHART: Yes.

JOHNSON: The attorney general insists a team of career lawyers and FBI agents is running the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYNCH: And I fully expect to accept their recommendations.

JOHNSON: Lynch says she realizes the chat with Bill Clinton was a bad idea, and she wouldn't do it again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYNCH: The most important thing for me as the attorney general is the integrity of this Department of Justice. And the fact that the meeting that I had is now casting a shadow over how people are going to view that work is something that I take seriously and deeply and painfully.

JOHNSON: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton's political opponent, seized on the issue. On Twitter, Trump asserted without evidence that Hillary Clinton engineered the meeting, and Trump said the tarmac encounter was no coincidence. Here he is talking with ABC News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Well, when you meet for a half hour and you're talking about your grandchildren and a little bit about golf - I don't know, it sounds like a long meeting. It was a very sad situation.

JOHNSON: Allegations about political bias have surrounded the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton's emails for a year. But the impromptu chat between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch added fuel to the fire, and Lynch says that's what motivated her to clarify her role.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYNCH: I understand how people view it. And I think that because of that and because of the fact that it has now cast a shadow over how this case may be perceived, and no matter how it's resolved, it's important to talk about how it will be resolved. It's important to make it clear that that meeting with President Clinton does not have a bearing.

JOHNSON: Lynch has offered no timetable for resolving the case. She says she's not being briefed on the nuts and bolts, but she says the team's working hard. The Democratic National Convention, where Hillary Clinton's preparing to accept her party's presidential nomination, is just weeks away. Her campaign has maintained silence since the tarmac meeting. But Clinton has said in the past there's no chance she'll face any criminal charges. Law enforcement sources tell NPR they don't foresee an indictment either. As for Lynch, she told the audience in Aspen there's one thing she wishes she had asked her predecessor before taking the job last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYNCH: Where the lock on the plane door was.

LYNCH: Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.