Full agenda awaits Attorney General Lynch

Loretta Lynch is sworn in before testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28.

Loretta Lynch is sworn in before testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28.

WASHINGTON — Loretta Lynch made history Monday as she became the nation’s first female black attorney general, who now must confront a litany of legal, political and management challenges.

Vice President Joe Biden swore in the 55-year-old Baptist minister’s daughter, a native of Greensboro, N.C., ending a drawn-out Capitol Hill struggle that began with Lynch’s nomination last Nov. 8. Since then, political calculations made by both parties held her fate hostage and foreshadowed further complications ahead.

“It’s about time,” Biden said.

Time, however, is something Lynch might not have a lot of.

The Obama administration has less than two years remaining in office and faces a Congress controlled by Republicans.

Tops on Lynch’s to-do list are concerns such as finding a new Drug Enforcement Administration chief who can handle the agency following revelations about DEA agents participating in overseas sex parties. She’ll face tough decisions about secret surveillance programs, asset seizures and the sprawling federal prison complex, which accounts for nearly one-third of the Justice Department’s annual budget.

Of particular public concern will be how she manages the Justice Department’s response to a spate of allegations about police violence against minorities, beginning last August in Ferguson, Mo. On the very day that Lynch was sworn in, a funeral took place just 40 miles from the nation’s capital for Freddie Gray, a black resident of Baltimore who died from a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The funeral followed a weekend of street demonstrations.

Under former Attorney General Eric Holder, the department’s Civil Rights Division undertook a record number of investigations into a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory behavior by local agencies.

“We can imbue our criminal justice system with both strength and fairness, for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all,” Lynch said during brief remarks.

“We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them.”

She was accompanied to her swearing-in by her 83-year-old father, Lorenzo; her brother Leonzo; and her husband, Stephen Hargrove, as well as friends and colleagues. Crowded into the wood-paneled Attorney General’s Conference Room at the Justice Department, they listened as she cast her rise as a classic American tale.

“If a little girl from North Carolina who used to tell her grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule, so she could see ‘way up high, Granddaddy,’ can become the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America, then we can do anything,” Lynch said.

Lynch replaces Holder, whose tenure since January 2009 was marked by acrimonious relations with congressional Republicans amid what Biden termed “a climate of political hostility.”

The Senate confirmed Lynch last Thursday on a 56-43 vote, more than two-and-a-half months after her Jan. 28 confirmation hearing.

Democrats contributed to the confirmation delay by deciding not to take up her nomination last year, while they still controlled the Senate. Republicans unhappy with the Obama administration’s immigration policies then put her off until an unrelated anti-human trafficking bill was finished.

“Even though Loretta Lynch had to wait an unduly long amount of time, America will find that she is worth waiting for,” asserted Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a longtime supporter.

Nonetheless, she may not get much of a political honeymoon as the 83rd attorney general.

Lynch will confront all of her challenges while serving a lame-duck president and dealing with a House of Representatives and a Senate controlled by Republicans who want to keep the administration on the defensive.

“We’re responsible for ensuring (the) laws are faithfully implemented and carried out by the executive branch,” Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said at the National Press Club on Monday. “It’s something that I don’t think Congress does enough of.”

Lynch graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She then served as a prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, based in Brooklyn, for 11 years, handling myriad gun, narcotics and organized crime cases.

Her first stint as U.S. attorney, in the Eastern District of New York, came during the final years of the Clinton administration. She then went into private practice before returning in 2010 as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.

The U.S. attorney’s job put Lynch atop a staff of about 170 attorneys and 150 support personnel. At the Justice Department, she will oversee about 114,000 employees and a budget of about $28 billion.

Some changes are already afoot. Holder’s politically connected chief spokesman, Brian Fallon, has left the Justice Department to take the top press secretary job with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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Lynch admits she had whistleblower’s evidence on banksters

Loretta Lynch is sworn in before testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28.

Loretta Lynch is sworn in before testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28.

NEW YORK – President Obama’s attorney-general nominee, Loretta Lynch, admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee that her investigators in the money-laundering probe of HSBC were aware of evidence compiled by whistleblower John Cruz but she chose, nevertheless, not to bring criminal charges.

Lynch provided written answers to questions submitted by committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a document posted on the panel’s website dated Feb. 18.

As WND reported, Lynch’s confirmation vote in the Senate initially was postponed after Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the investigation of Lynch’s role in the HSBC deferred prosecution after his staff quizzed Cruz, a former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower whose trove of original evidence of money laundering was reported first by WND.

Cruz charged HSBC was engaged in a willful, criminal scheme to launder money for Mexican drug cartels and Middle East terrorists.

In response to Grassley, Lynch, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, acknowledged Department of Justice “investigators did speak with and receive documents and information from Mr. Cruz.”

“Based on the in formation he provided, we took appropriate additional investigative steps, including requiring additional information from HSBC,” she replied to the senator.

“Investigators carefully considered the information he provided as we considered whether there was sufficient admissible evidence to prosecute violations at HSBC and whether any such prosecution otherwise would have been consistent with the principles of federal prosecution contained in the United States Attorney’s Manual,” said Lynch.

“Ultimately, HSBC entered into a DPA that required remarkable reforms based on Bank Secrecy Act and sanctions violations, and that explicitly provides no protection from prosecution for conduct outside of the Statement of Facts.

In the deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA, HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion in fines and make structural changes as a condition of not pressing criminal charges.

Read the backstory inside the HSBC scandal – how WND first exposed the massive money-laundering scheme and the fallout from the discovery.

Lynch repeatedly emphasized, however, the DOJ settlement with HSBC was limited to criminal violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.

“Note that we did not charge HSBC with money laundering,” Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Rather, HSBC’s failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program violated the Bank Secrecy Act by creating a corporate environment that failed to stop others from laundering money through HSBC.”

Grassley noted Cruz spoke with IRS criminal investigators in Colorado in early 2012 and provided approximately 1,000 pages of documents and 30 hours of audio recordings to the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission in whistleblower submissions in July 2012.

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Top Dem senator: GOP forcing black attorney general nominee to ‘sit in the back of the bus’

loretta-lynch-largeSen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, on Wednesday raised the specter of civil rights era racism while criticizing Republicans for holding up a confirmation vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

“Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar,” he said. “That is unfair, it’s unjust, it is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to punt the confirmation vote until Democrats relent on a human trafficking bill. Though the trafficking bill sailed through committee, it has since been hamstrung by Democrats who spotted an extraneous provision restricting abortion funding.

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The Questions Loretta Lynch Needs to Answer

When attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a two-day confirmation hearing this Wednesday and Thursday, there are many questions she must answer in detail — not just about her conduct as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, but also about her views of the law and specific, deeply troublesome actions (and inactions) that the Justice Department has taken under Attorney General Eric Holder.

Some of the actions and statements of Eric Holder during his years in office have made a mockery of principled law enforcement, yet there has been little to stop him. Congressional oversight, embarrassing unpopularity, and repeated 9–0 Supreme Court decisions against the DOJ’s extreme legal positions have done little to alter the leftward course of this most powerful of federal agencies. Holder has held nobody at the Justice Department accountable for scandal after scandal, from the unjustified dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case to the reckless Operation Fast and Furious program and the criminal targeting of reporters for alleged leaks. Even finding Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide documentation to which Congress is entitled has failed to constrain him.

The upcoming confirmation hearings give members of Congress their best opportunity to have meaningful oversight over Justice Department policy.

While it might be difficult to block Loretta Lynch’s nomination successfully, it would not be difficult to condition her confirmation on her disavowal of some of the most radical DOJ policies of the last six years, particularly those policies that have divided Americans along racial lines and led to prosecutorial abuse. At a minimum, effective and informed questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee might wring out a commitment to break from the most extreme positions of the Holder era.

Lynch has an obligation to answer questions about the decisions made by Eric Holder on a host of issues not only to provide guidance on how she would act as attorney general, but also because she has been a member of Holder’s advisory committee of U.S. Attorneys. It is entirely appropriate to ask her what advice she gave Holder on his many questionable decisions and whether she agrees with the legal positions and actions he has taken over the past six years.

Several areas where tough questions from senators might obtain a commitment from Lynch to break from the past:

National Security

If confirmed, will Lynch agree to stop hiring lawyers who previously represented Islamic terrorists to work on formulating Justice Department policies that direct our fight against Islamic terror? Holder placed such lawyers in top political slots, as well as in trial-attorney positions.

Does she agree with Eric Holder’s view that terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay should all receive civilian trials? That when caught on the battlefield, they should be treated like stateside criminal defendants and read Miranda rights before they can be interrogated? Will she continue the Clinton-era, criminal-justice model of handling terrorists that Eric Holder reimplemented when he became attorney general?

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