Loretta Lynch, NYC prosecutor, emerges as Obama's top choice for US attorney general

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Obama Expected to Nominate Loretta Lynch as Attorney General


WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch has emerged as the leading choice to be the next attorney general, but people with knowledge of his plans say President Barack Obama is not ready to announce a nomination and is abandoning the option to push for confirmation this year while Democrats still control the Senate.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama has not made a decision. People with knowledge of his thinking say he does not plan to announce a choice before returning from a trip to Asia next week and will leave it up to the Republican-controlled Senate to vote on the choice in 2015.

Lynch, the U.S. attorney for Eastern New York, would be the first black female to lead the Justice Department if she ends up being the choice. The sources who described Obama's plans did so on condition of anonymity without authorization to speak on the record.

Lynch, 55, would be Obama's second trail-blazing pick for the post after Eric Holder served as the nation's first black attorney general. Lynch is the U.S. attorney for Eastern New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a position she also held under President Bill Clinton.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have told the White House it would be difficult to win confirmation before they turn over the gavel at the end of the year, especially considering all the other competing priorities they are trying to complete while they are in power.

The White House considered the option of lame duck confirmation, but it didn't make political sense after Republicans won such a clear majority in this week's midterm. Pushing through a nominee so quickly would have tainted the pick with a process argument. It also could have opened the next attorney general to GOP claims of illegitimacy and a hostile oversight committee for the next two years.

It's unusual for Obama to pick someone he doesn't know well for such a sensitive administration post. But at a time when Obama is under political fire, her distance from the president could be an asset in the confirmation process. Another candidate Obama asked to consider the job, former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, asked not to be nominated out of concern her close relationship with Obama could lead to difficult confirmation amid partisan politics.

Lynch is seen as having little baggage or controversy as Republicans are promising tough scrutiny after years of battles with the long-serving Holder. The current attorney general is close to Lynch and appointed her as chair of the committee that advises him on policy. Since Lynch is unfamiliar to many on Capitol Hill, senators will have to quickly get up to speed on her record.

One lawmaker in particular is familiar with her work. Lynch filed tax evasion charges against Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican accused of hiding more than $1 million in sales and wages while running a restaurant. Grimm, who won re-election Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty and is set to go to trial in February.

She's overseen bank fraud and other public corruption cases. She also charged reputed mobster Vincent Asaro and his associates for the 36-year-old heist of $6 million in cash and jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at Kennedy Airport, dramatized in the blockbuster movie "Goodfellas."

During her first tenure in the Eastern District, Lynch helped prosecute police officers who severely beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broken broom handle.

There was no immediate response from Lynch's spokeswoman.

---

Associated Press reporter Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.

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Loretta Lynch, NYC prosecutor, emerges as Obama's top choice for US attorney general
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Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, to testify before the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on gun control. Lynch defended President Barack Obama's executive actions curbing guns, telling lawmakers that the president took lawful, common-sense steps to stem firearms violence that kills and injures tens of thousands of Americans yearly. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016,before the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department's fiscal 2017 budget request. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Loretta Lynch smiles before being sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the U.S. at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 27, 2015. Lynch was confirmed by the Senate on April 23 as the first black woman to become U.S. attorney general after a five-month wait marked by partisan fights and Republican arguments that she won't be independent enough from President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Loretta Lynch shakes hands with Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (L) after being sworn in as Attorney General during an event at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd Attorney General and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US Vice-President Joe Biden delivers remarks prior to swearing-in Loretta E. Lynch as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States April 27, 2015 at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: US Vice President Joe Biden (L) swears in Loretta Lynch (R) as Attorney General as her husband Stephen Hargrove (2R) and father Lorenzo Lynch (2L) stand nearby during an event at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd Attorney General and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Loretta Lynch speaks after being sworn in as Attorney General as a portrait of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy hangs on the wall neaby at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd attorney general and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears for her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee'€™s hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation'€™s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, looks back at Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch after introducing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, prior to her testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee'€™s hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation’s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, left, talks with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, after Gillibrand introduced Lynch to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Lynch was to testify at a hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation'€™s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, speaks at a press conference to announce a 20-count indictment against U.S. Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY, 11th District) on April 28, 2014 in New York City. Grimm's indictments include wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiring to defraud the United States, impeding the Internal Revenue Service, hiring and employing unauthorized aliens, and health care fraud. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Loretta Lynch listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L) and ranking member Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) talk while Loretta Lynch speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch leaves her for a break during her confirmation hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Loretta Lynch listens to questions during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, left, shakes hands with chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, right, as ranking member Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., look on during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Lorenzo Lynch (2nd L), father of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch (L), raises his hand as he is being introduced during a confirmation hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder to be the next U.S. Attorney General if confirmed by the Senate. Stephen Hargrove, husband of Loretta Lynch is on the right. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Character witnesses for Loretta Lynch raise their right hands as they are sworn in during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing January 29, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on her nomination. Lynch defended President Barack Obama's decision to shelter millions of immigrants from deportation though they live in the country illegally but she said they have no right to citizenship under the law. If confirmed, Lynch would become the nation's first black female attorney general. It is the first confirmation proceeding since Republicans took control of the Senate this month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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