President Barack Obama nominated on November 8 Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch as the next US attorney general, which signals a change in style, but still a continuation of the administration’s law enforcement priorities.
If confirmed, Lynch—currently the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York—would be the first black woman to lead the Justice Department. She brings with her a family history that goes back generations of great-great-grandparents who were slaves.
A Tough Prosecutor
“It’s pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta,” Obama said in a statement praising Lynch as a tough and fair lawyer who has a 30-year record of accomplishments.
“She has spent years in the trenches as a prosecutor, aggressively fighting terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime, all while vigorously defending civil rights,” Obama added.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would replace Eric Holder. Holder announced his resignation in September after being in office since 2009. He is also the nation’s first black attorney general.
“Loretta doesn’t look to make headlines. She looks to make a difference,” Obama said.
30 Years of Accomplishment
The 55-year-old Lynch currently oversees all federal and civil investigations and cases in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. She’s serving her second term as the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Obama appointed Lynch to the job in May 2010. She was previously nominated in 1999 by then-President Bill Clinton for the same position, but she left two years later to become a partner in a private law firm. She has spent several years working for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before returning to the Eastern District of New York at Obama’s request.
Fighting the Gritty Reality
“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,” Lynch said at the White House press conference announcing her nomination.
“If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate … I will work every day to safeguard our citizens, our liberties, our rights and this great nation,” she added.
The Road to Confirmation
Obama’s selection of Lynch departs from his tendency to nominate candidates to top posts whom he has had a long personal history with. This is the first major personal change made by the president since Republicans took control of the Senate in the recent congressional elections.
Obama hoped the Senate would not delay Lynch’s confirmation.
Current Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Lynch should be considered by the new Republican-controlled body next year.
“Ms. Lynch will receive fair consideration by the Senate. And her nomination should be considered in the new Congress through regular order,” the Senate Republican leader said in a statement.
The president planned to make the announcement of Lynch’s nomination after his trip to Asia during the second week of November for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Obama moved up the announcement after several news organizations started reporting Lynch has been selected.