President Obama nominated the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York to replace outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday.
Obama said it is "hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta [Lynch]." He described her as tough, fair and independent, and he also said Lynch is the only lawyer in the country who prosecutes terrorists and drug lords and "still has a reputation for being a charming people person."
Lynch's name rose in the aftermath of broad Republican victories in this week's midterm elections, results that will likely complicate the confirmation process for the nation's top law-enforcement position. A career prosecutor, Lynch is a less contentious pick than other rumored prospects, like Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was confirmed to his current post on a party-line vote last year. The Senate unanimously confirmed Lynch in 2010 for her current post.
"Ms. Lynch is a strong, independent prosecutor who has twice led one of the most important U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement Friday.
Despite her easy nomination process for the prosecutor position, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the key Republican on the committee that will oversee the nomination process, said Lynch should expect a "fair, but thorough, vetting" and noted that "U.S. Attorneys are rarely elevated directly to this position."
"I'm hopeful that her tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the Attorney General as a politically independent voice for the American people," he said.
New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, who recommended Lynch for her current prosecutor position, described her as "a consummate professional" with a "first-rate legal mind."
"I was proud to recommend her to be the U.S. Attorney for my home community of the Eastern District of New York, and I will be prouder still to champion what must be her swift confirmation in the Senate,” he said.
Obama will reportedly extend an olive branch to the incoming Republican-controlled Senate by allowing them to vote on the Attorney General choice instead of jamming the upper chamber this winter. Lynch will need 51 votes to be confirmed.
The announcement came alongside news of a number of other changes to the Obama Administration for its final two years. If confirmed, Lynch will be the first African-American female attorney general.
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