U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch could become the next attorney general, news reports said Friday, naming her as President Obama’s most likely candidate to replace the retiring Eric Holder.
But new reports said that Mr. Obama would likely wait to make an official announcement until after a trip to Asia next week. Political pundits had been expecting Mr. Obama to make a nomination soon, in hopes of getting it passed by the Senate before the Republicans take control next year.
The White House, for its part, is staying quiet.
“The president has not made a decision on that, we’re not going to have any personnel announcements,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Friday morning.
Still, the reports garnered plenty of speculation about Ms. Lynch.
If nominated, she would become the first African-American woman to hold the nation’s top law enforcement position. Janet Reno was the first woman nominated to the post, and Mr. Holder is the first African-American.
Ms. Lynch, 55, a Harvard graduate, is the current U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and served the same position in the Clinton administration from 1999 to 2001. She then went into private practice before being named a U.S. Attorney again by Mr. Obama in 2010.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told The Washington Times they had no comment and that Ms. Lynch had chosen not to address the media speculation.
Representatives for the Justice Department did not answer questions from reporters about the news.
During her 2010 confirmation process, Ms. Lynch was approved by a voice vote in the Senate, but her selection as attorney general could be more difficult.
In April, Ms. Lynch indicted Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, on charges of tax fraud, and a trial date is expected soon. Mr. Grimm has called the charges a politically motivated attack, a rallying cry his fellow Republicans could pick up if they want to discredit Ms. Lynch.
Perhaps the most famous case Ms. Lynch was involved in occurred while she was working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office but before she led it. In 1997, Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was violently beaten and sexually assaulted by New York City police while in their custody. Ms. Lynch helped secure prison sentences — some as long as 30 years — for those involved.
“She has everything that we would want in an attorney general,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson. “She has intelligence, dignity and the ability to be fair, but also tough. I have the utmost respect for her.”
Mr. Thompson, who worked with Ms. Lynch on the Louima case, said she always remained cool under pressure.
“There was so much pressure to get it right,” he said. “She was unflappable.”
Having Ms. Lynch become the first African-American woman attorney general “would be inspiring to millions of people, especially children, to know what they could become,” Mr. Thompson said.
But reaction to Ms. Lynch’s potential nomination was less enthusiastic among some D.C. judicial experts.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said he was wary of the fact that Ms. Lynch is a close associate of Mr. Holder, who has often been criticized for his handling of Justice Department scandals such as the botched Fast and Furious gunrunning operation.
“The thought that someone close to him is being proposed as attorney general really ought to cause some pause,” Mr. Fitton said. “This is a person who’s been advising Holder on matters of investigations. And Eric Holder’s been stonewalling investigations.”
Mr. Fitton said he was concerned that the nomination could be less about finding a qualified candidate and more about finding someone that will defend Mr. Obama’s policies and practices.
He added that voting on the nominee should wait until early next year.
“Are Republicans now going to just allow this nominee to go through in a lame-duck, voted on by senators who now are leaving office? There’s no way a decision of this magnitude should be approved by a lame duck,” Mr. Fitton said. “We have senators looking for jobs in the private sector voting on the attorney general. Only establishment politicians would think that’s acceptable.”