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Tina Brown interviews Loretta Lynch at The 2016 Women in the World D.C. Salon. (Women in the World)


AG Loretta Lynch: “I love this job and there is so much that I want to push through”

By Emma-Kate Symons and Colleen Curry on March 9, 2016

Attorney General Loretta Lynch drew loud sighs of disappointment from hundreds of women supporters last night when she explained the decision to withdraw herself from consideration as the next Supreme Court Justice replacing Antonin Scalia.

The nation’s first black female AG, in conversation with Tina Brown at Brown’s women in the World Salon in Washington, D.C., said that despite being grateful for the “tremendous” support (Lynch’s name has recently been floated by top Democrats as a potential nominee to fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death last month), there were “inherent limitations” with the process used to nominate judges to the top court — and she was dedicated to continuing as the nation’s highest law enforcement officer.

“The nomination process has challenges — not that it wasn’t just delightful when I went through it and I’m sure it would have been again,” she said with a laugh, in an apparent reference to the long and complicated five-month Senate confirmation proceedings before she was officially appointed to her current Department of Justice top post, replacing Eric Holder in 2015. “I love this job and there is so much that I want to push through and cross that goal line until the end of this administration,” she added.


Attorney-General Loretta Lynch. (Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images)
Attorney-General Loretta Lynch has spoken of the “inherent limitations” in the SCOTUS nomination process. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images)

She also commented on the importance of filling the unexpected SCOTUS vacancy. “The President has indicated he is committed to putting forth an outstanding candidate and I am certain he will do that. I hope that person gets the full and fair consideration they deserve because I think the position is just too important to be left unfilled.”

On the eve of her appearance on Wednesday before a Senate Judiciary oversight committee, Lynch declared that shining a light on the “modern day slavery’’ of human trafficking, including sex trafficking, would be a key priority in the remainder of her tenure. In the forthcoming interview, Lynch also gave insights into President Obama’s push to shut Guantanamo Bay prison admitting current law “does not allow it,” the conflict with Apple over smartphone data encryption, and the Hillary Clinton ‘email affair’ investigation.

“Human trafficking is one of the most invisible yet pernicious crimes — many have seen victims … but don’t know what they’re looking at,” she said.

Yet, even if the department of justice could not build a law enforcement case around “vulnerable people” who were being trafficked, “we will rescue the victim first,” she vowed.

Lynch — who was wildly cheered for what Brown described as “busting up the boy’s club that was [soccer’s international governing body] FIFA” — has built her legacy on seeking fairness and justice, since becoming Attorney General.

Tina Brown interviews Loretta Lynch at The 2016 Women in the World D.C. Salon. (Women in the World)
Tina Brown interviews Loretta Lynch at The 2016 Women in the World D.C. Salon. (Women in the World)

After graduating from Harvard Law and working as a private attorney in New York City, Lynch was named U.S. Attorney in District Court in New York, where she prosecuted the high-profile case of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was sexually assaulted by police officers in a Brooklyn police precinct in 1997.

Her work on that case, and her time in U.S. District Court, won Lynch accolades from politicians on both sides of the aisle, and the moniker, as noted by Brown in last night’s discussion “steel wrapped in velvet.” Though her nomination to Attorney General was delayed by Republicans in Congress, many of the party’s top politicians eventually confirmed her, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Quizzed by Brown about how coming from a long line of Baptist preachers prepared her for a life prosecuting crime, Lynch paid tribute to the “toughest person” in her family – her mother. “She is a retired teacher and librarian. She has seen it all and she has stopped most of it! Those two influences (her mother and the family preaching tradition) prepared me for a life of public service and commitment and a view that you can do a lot for yourself if you’re doing something for somebody else.”

Despite several questions regarding Democratic presidential primary candidate Clinton’s private email use during her time as Secretary of state, Lynch insisted she could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

But she elaborated the Justice Department position on Apple’s high-stakes refusal to allow law enforcement officers “not that unusual a request” to get access to the iPhone of a shooter in the San Bernadino terrorist investigation. “We’re not asking Apple to go into the phone,” she said. “We’re saying disable the password disrupt feature … we will extract the data.

“Privacy is clearly important but we have always looked to our legal system to balance with law enforcement needs.”

Although encryption was important too, that did not mean the phone was “completely locked,” Lynch argued.

“That is what I hear when I travel this country — the idea that there would be evidence sitting somewhere and we say ‘it’s just too hard for us to get into it’ — that’s not anything I can say to anyone who’s been the victim of a crime.”

Follow Emma-Kate Symons on Twitter @eksymons