Obama to nominate federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch as attorney general
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House confirmed Friday night that President Obama will nominate Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to become the next U.S. attorney general.
An announcement is expected in the coming days, though the timing is complicated by the president's plans to travel to Asia this weekend.
Lynch is a popular prosecutor who is in her second stint as U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, appointed by President Obama in 2010 and also serving in the same post from 1999 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.
Current Attorney General Eric Holder announced his plans in September to step down.
U.S. officials say the president's decision is not official until there is a formal announcement from the White House.
Lynch would be only the second woman to serve as attorney general and the second African American to hold the post.
Lynch served on the trial team that prosecuted and won convictions in 1999 against New York City police officers for violating the civil rights of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant whom police officers beat and sodomized while he was in their custody.
That experience could help at the helm at the Justice Department, which is overseeing high-profile civil rights investigations, including one into the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown.
Lynch has quietly built a solid reputation in New York, where Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, garners magazine covers and regular media attention for Wall Street prosecutions.
Her 2010 nomination won Senate approval on a voice vote, meaning Republicans didn't view her as controversial. In recent months, however, she has led the prosecution of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-New York, for alleged tax fraud. Grimm won reelection this week despite being under indictment, and has called the case against him politically motivated.
Lynch was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate to be a U.S. attorney in 2010, but GOP aides said initially Friday they don't know that much about her. Regardless, the scrutiny she will receive to become the nation's top law enforcement official will be much greater than when she was picked to be one of 93 U.S. attorneys.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is poised to chair the Judiciary Committee in the new GOP-controlled Senate, and other top Senate GOP leaders never got word about the expected nomination from the White House, according to aides.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, immediately said on Twitter that he didn't think a vote on Lynch should take place during the lame-duck session and should be put off until the new, Republican-controlled Congress convenes in January.
"Democratic senators who just lost their seats shouldn't confirm new Attorney General. Should be vetted by new Congress," he wrote.
But another committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that Lynch "seems to be a solid choice" and is qualified. Graham said he doesn't have any problems with her being confirmed in the lame-duck session, noting that other Cabinet picks have been approved during such periods.