- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2016

Labor Secretary Tom Perez is defending Attorney General Loretta Lynch as she catches fire for chatting with former President Bill Clinton at the Phoenix airport, even as federal authorities probe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email at the State Department.

In an interview airing Sunday, Mr. Perez characterized it as a “chance meeting” with a gregarious, well-known man.

“This wasn’t, ‘I called you up and said, “Can we meet next Wednesday at 3:00?”’ It was a chance meeting at the airport,” Mr. Perez told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And anyone who knows Bill Clinton knows that if he runs into someone at the airport, by chance, he’s going to come up and say hello to them.”

Republicans have called on Ms. Lynch to recuse herself from the investigation into Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, citing the encounter on the tarmac.

Ms. Lynch said she understands questions about the episode last week, and that while she wouldn’t do it again, the meet-up has no bearing on how the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email practices.

Ms. Lynch said the case is being handled by career agents and investigators with the Justice Department and that recommendations will be reviewed by supervisors and, ultimately, FBI Director James Comey.

She stopped short of announcing she would fully remove herself from the case, however, saying that would entail not being briefed on what the findings are and what the actions going forward would be.

Mr. Perez said Ms. Lynch is someone of “great integrity,” and that he trusts her.

“I think it’s really important for your listeners to appreciate that this was not something that was planned in advance,” he said. “It happened, and she has spoken, I think, very clearly about what she intends to do.”

Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, also said Ms. Lynch did nothing wrong by having a chat.

“It had to do with golf and grandchildren,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

For her part, Mrs. Clinton submitted to an interview with the FBI on Saturday as the Obama administration nears completion of its investigation into her use of a secret email server during her time as State Department secretary.

The Clinton campaign confirmed the interview, which took place at FBI headquarters in Washington and lasted more than three hours.

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