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Lynch Confirmed as Attorney General    04/24 06:30

   As attorney general Loretta Lynch assumes a portfolio that includes fighting 
terrorism, preventing cyberattacks and dealing with police and race -- issues 
strikingly similar to what she's dealt with as top federal prosecutor for much 
of New York City and its eastern suburbs.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- As attorney general Loretta Lynch assumes a portfolio 
that includes fighting terrorism, preventing cyberattacks and dealing with 
police and race --- issues strikingly similar to what she's dealt with as top 
federal prosecutor for much of New York City and its eastern suburbs.

   She inherits a Justice Department consumed by efforts to stop the flow of 
Islamic State recruits to Syria and prevent destructive computer crimes against 
American corporations. And she arrives with the department at the center of an 
ongoing national dialogue on relations between police and minority communities, 
something she pledged at her confirmation hearing to address.

   The Senate's long-delayed confirmation Thursday of Lynch, 55, makes her the 
first African-American woman to hold the position. She's expected to be sworn 
in next week to replace Eric Holder following his six-year tenure, which made 
civil rights protections a cornerstone priority.

   Lynch will have limited time in the twilight of the Obama administration to 
craft ambitious new policy proposals and is seen as unlikely to depart in 
radical ways from Holder's priorities. But supporters expect her to bring her 
own understated and low-key management style, and she sought to assure anxious 
Republicans in recent months that she would arrive in Washington with her own 
law-and-order perspective.

   "She's a professional prosecutor, a career law-enforcement person, and she's 
also someone who is apolitical," said Robert Giuffra, a New York lawyer who has 
known Lynch for years.

   The workload itself won't be unfamiliar for Lynch, who since 2010 has been 
the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, one of the busiest 
Justice Department offices in the country. The job has given her the 
opportunity to oversee cases against terrorists, cybercriminals and elected 
officials --- all common Justice Department targets. Her office also is 
involved in the civil rights investigation arising from the death of a black 
Staten Island man who was placed in a chokehold by a white police officer.

   In addition, she'll need to build relationships on Capitol Hill, where 
Republicans who criticized Holder as overly political repeatedly clashed with 
him and once held him in contempt.

   "I think DoJ badly needs a new attorney general to start to reset 
relationships, first and foremost with members of Congress, the overseers," 
said Ron Hosko, former head of the FBI's criminal division and president of the 
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. "I think that the negativity, the friction, 
between Holder and the oversight committees ultimately hurt" the department.

   Never known as a publicity seeker, the Harvard-educated Lynch has kept an 
even lower profile in recent months while her nomination was in limbo, caught 
up in a partisan dispute over a human trafficking bill. Her office has recently 
brought several noteworthy cases against suspected Islamic State group 
recruits, but without the typical fanfare of a news conference. Her chief media 
spokesman retired last year and was never replaced.

   As a Brooklyn prosecutor, she attracted attention for her leading role in 
one of the most sensational police brutality cases in city history, the 1997 
broomstick torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a precinct bathroom. 
Even in that case, she encouraged a far more junior member of the trial team, 
Kenneth Thompson, to deliver opening statements rather than taking the 
opportunity herself.

   "It shows that Loretta is more interested in doing justice than getting the 
limelight," said Thompson, now the Brooklyn district attorney.

   She served from 1999 to 2001 as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District --- 
which encompasses Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island --- before 
entering private practice. She returned to the position in 2010 and was 
appointed to the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, a position that 
required her to spend more time in Washington and drew her closer to Holder.

   During her second tenure, Lynch's office has won convictions in a thwarted 
al Qaida-sanctioned plot to attack New York City subways, and against a 
Canadian drug kingpin who was one of New York's biggest marijuana suppliers. 
More recently, her office brought a tax evasion case against former Republican 
Congressman Michael Grimm that resulted in his guilty plea and resignation.

   Lynch is not expected to radically reshape the Justice Department in the 
remaining year and a half of the Obama administration, and at her confirmation 
hearing in January, she carefully endorsed some of the staples of Holder's 
legacy and spoke of the need to continue repairing bonds between law 
enforcement and minorities.

   But in nuanced ways, she also created space between herself and the outgoing 
attorney general. She said the death penalty, which Holder personally opposes, 
was an effective punishment and voiced unequivocal opposition to the prospect 
of marijuana legalization.

   It also remains to be seen how aggressively she will support Holder's 
efforts to transform the criminal justice system's treatment of nonviolent 
defendants.

   Supporters expect her to bring not only her own perspective but also a 
unique biography that she says instilled in her the value of public service. 
She grew up in North Carolina at the height of the Civil Rights movement, the 
daughter of a librarian and a fourth-generation Baptist preacher who carried 
her on his shoulders as he opened his Greensboro church to protesters planning 
sit-ins and marches.

   "If confirmed as attorney general," she told lawmakers in January, "I will 
be myself. I will be Loretta Lynch."


(KA)


 
 
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