Lawmakers to Grill Loretta Lynch on Bill Clinton Meeting, Email Probe, Police-Community Relations

Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on July 8, 2016. (Photo: Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks at the Justice Department in Washington on July 8, 2016.
(Photo: Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, her first appearance on Capitol Hill since she announced Hillary Clinton won’t be prosecuted for sending classified information on a private, unsecured email system.

Lawmakers signaled they will grill Lynch on the decision and on her controversial, impromptu meeting with former president Bill Clinton while the investigation was underway. Lynch was arriving in Phoenix and Bill Clinton was departing when he relayed through a security detail that he wanted to speak with her. He boarded her government plane and the two spoke for 30 minutes.

Lynch said they didn’t discuss the investigation involving his wife, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and characterized it as a “social visit,” but she conceded it “cast a shadow” over the investigation and she “certainly wouldn’t do (it) again.” After the meeting became public, she made an unusual pledge not to influence the Justice Department probe and to let stand the recommendations of career investigators and prosecutors in the case.

But the meeting prompted a sharp backlash, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who will chair Tuesday’s hearing, said the ensuing recommendation not to prosecute raises “serious concerns” and is “uniquely troubling in light of” the “secret meeting.”

“No one is above the law and the American people need to know that federal law enforcement is taking this misconduct seriously,” Goodlatte said.

The hearing likely will also touch on appropriate response to the spate of gun violence that has frayed community-police relations across the country. Following the shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, a gunman in Dallas last week killed five police officers at a rally protesting the shootings.

Lynch’s department is investigating Sterling’s death and could open a probe of Castile’s. She has made police-community relations a central issue of her tenure since being confirmed as the nation’s highest law enforcement official, the first African-American woman to hold the job.

Following the Dallas shootings, she said she was “heartbroken” and pledged her department would do everything it could to support law enforcement and to protect free speech and assembly rights of protesters.

“And to all Americans: I ask you not to allow the events of this week to precipitate a ‘new normal’ in our country,” Lynch said. “I ask you to turn to each other, not against each other as we move forward.”

Two Illinois lawmakers wrote to Lynch on Friday urging her to work with them to craft federal policies that could help stem shootings by police. The Dallas shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, told police he was upset by the shootings and wanted to kill white police officers.

“State by state, city by city, and county by county we might make this reform or that reform, but there is no national strategy to stop police from killing people – especially black people, especially black men,” wrote Democratic Reps. Robin Kelly and Luis Gutiérrez.

They vowed to follow up with Lynch at Tuesday’s hearing.

Goodlatte said other topics he expects to come up are the mass shooting terror attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino and the challenges presented to her department by advances in technology. Goodlatte said he also expected to inquire about the department’s “disturbing politicization” under Obama, asserting it had used settlement proceeds to fund “activist” groups and was involved in a “sanctuary city” policy for undocumented immigrants in New Orleans.

“I look forward to hearing from Attorney General Lynch and learning more about how she and the Justice Department are addressing these important issues,” he said.

SOURCE: USA Today – Donovan Slack