Goodfellas brief eyes historic role

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Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Barack Obama intends to nominate a top New York City prosecutor to become the next attorney general and the first black woman to lead the US Justice Department.

President Obama’s spokesman said he would announce his selection of Loretta Lynch today. She will replace Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms Lynch, 55, would be Mr Obama’s second trail-blazing pick for the post after Mr Holder served as the nation’s first black attorney general.

The Senate’s Republican leader Mitch McConnell took the stance that her nomination should be taken up in the new year.

Mr Obama had planned to wait until after a trip to Asia next week to announce the choice but brought forward the decision after CNN reported that Ms Lynch was his choice.

Ms Lynch is the US attorney for Eastern New York, a position she also held under President Bill Clinton.

She has overseen bank fraud and other public corruption cases and also charged reputed mobster Vincent Asaro and his associates over the 36-year-old theft of six million dollars in cash and jewellery from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at Kennedy Airport, dramatised in the film Goodfellas.

“Ms Lynch is a strong, independent prosecutor who has twice led one of the most important US attorney’s offices in the country,” Obama press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Mr Obama decided against the option of trying to push Ms Lynch’s confirmation while Democrats still controlled the Senate and instead will leave it up to the Republican-controlled upper house to vote on the choice in 2015, according to sources who described his plans.

Republicans won control of the Senate in mid-term elections on Wednesday and the new Congress takes over in January.

Democrats have told the White House it would be difficult to win confirmation for a new attorney general during the session of the outgoing Congress beginning next week, especially considering all the other competing priorities they face before relinquishing power to Republicans.

Pushing through a nominee so quickly could have tainted the new attorney general’s start in the office.

It is unusual for Mr Obama to pick someone he does not know well for such a sensitive administration post. But at a time when he is under political fire, Ms Lynch’s distance from the president could be an asset in the confirmation process.

Another candidate Mr Obama asked to consider the job, former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, asked not to be nominated out of concern that her close relationship to the president could lead to a difficult confirmation effort.

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

She grew up in North Carolina, the daughter of a school librarian and a Baptist minister, and received undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, where Mr Obama graduated from law school seven years later.

Mr Holder was an unflinching champion of civil rights in enforcing the nation’s laws and is leaving as the department grapples with several prominent issues.

They include possible federal charges over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; enforcement of the Voting Rights Act after the US Supreme Court threw out a major protection; reduction of racial profiling in federal investigations; changes in how federal prosecutors negotiate sentencing; changes in the death penalty system; and efforts to reduce tensions between local police and minority communities.

Published: Saturday 8th November 2014 by The News Editor

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