AG Lynch Will Adopt Clinton-Probe Recommendations
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday that her impromptu meeting with President Bill Clinton at the Phoenix airport will have no impact on the recommendations of the Justice Department at the conclusion of an ongoing investigation tied to Hillary Clinton’s private email system.
Lynch said she would accept the eventual recommendations forwarded to her by investigators.
For the second day, the attorney general worked to extricate herself from the political quicksand beneath the government’s ongoing probe of the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, whom President Obama will formally endorse next week at a rally in Charlotte, N.C.
Lynch said she would not recuse herself from the investigation involving the former secretary of state. But she conceded her brief “social meeting” Monday with the former president as they happened to pass through an airport created an appearance of conflict and raised questions about the work of career department investigators she described as “independent” from political considerations.
“I certainly wouldn’t do it again, because it cast a shadow,” Lynch said calmly in response to questions from Washington Post blogger Jonathan Capehart. The two discussed criminal justice issues during the annual Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.
Hillary Clinton’s decision to conduct State Department business using private email, which was routed through a personal server maintained by both Clintons at their home in New York, triggered investigations in all three branches of government in 2015. Questions of legality, security and judgment have dogged the Democratic candidate for more than a year and contributed to Americans’ misgivings about Clinton’s veracity and trustworthiness, according to polls.
The government in 2015 identified materials now deemed classified among the communications Clinton turned over to the State Department. Clinton maintains that no emails received or sent by her were classified at the time she was secretary, and she says her private server was secure. After initially resisting, she turned over her private server to federal investigators. What was lawful, whether communications were secure, and whether Clinton withheld any communications are among the questions the FBI has explored for a year.
Clinton has said her reliance on her private email system was a mistake, but not a breach of precedent or law, and she has argued she turned over all work-related emails to the government in 2014.
The attorney general, who was confirmed to lead the Justice Department early last year, was President Clinton’s pick in 1999 to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and the two have known each other since that period.
Lynch said she has no knowledge about when her department’s investigation of the Clinton matters will conclude.
FBI Director James Comey also has been reluctant to attach a timetable to the probe. FBI investigators interviewed Clinton at bureau headquarters for three and a half hours Saturday morning, suggesting the Justice Department is nearing the end of its investigation. The candidate’s representatives stressed the information Clinton provided was voluntary. “She is pleased to have had the opportunity to assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a conclusion. Out of respect for the investigative process, she will not comment further on her interview,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.
“I fully expect to accept the recommendations,” Lynch said, noting that investigators’ findings will include a chronology of events and facts together with recommendations about how the government could proceed.
Those recommendations are then reviewed by supervisors in the FBI and in the department before coming to the attorney general, Lynch explained.
Obama has said Clinton was “careless,” but he has waved off suggestions that she broke the law or harmed national security because of her email habits while serving in his Cabinet. The two exchanged emails during her tenure as secretary, and the White House has said Obama was aware of her use of a private email address, but unaware that she relied on a private server she shared with her husband.
“She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” Obama said in April 2015. “What I also know is that there’s classified and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret top secret, and then there’s stuff that is being presented to the president, the secretary of state, [that] you may not want going out over the wire.”
The president agreed with Clinton that she should have done things differently in retrospect, but he has defended his former 2008 primary opponent as tough, “wicked smart” and ready to be president.
“I continue to believe she has not jeopardized America’s national security,” the president said more than a year ago. “There’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned and she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.”