Even Democrats Question Attorney General Lynch’s Chat With Bill Clinton
How did a seasoned pro like Lynch end up creating an obvious appearance of conflict of interest?
As The Stream reported yesterday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch had an off-the-books meeting with former President Bill Clinton Tuesday at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. To hear her tell it, they were just two friends who happened to be passing through the airport around the same time, and simply spent a half an hour catching up on grandkids, golf and Janet Reno.
I thought that’s what Facebook was for.
There’s a couple problems with Attorney General Lynch’s explanation.
- According to ABC 15, the station that broke the story, Bill Clinton waited around for Loretta Lynch’s plane to arrive. Waited around in Phoenix. Average summer temperature 309 degrees. Now we all know the lengths Bill Clinton will go to rendezvous with a woman. But this was no ordinary woman. This is the woman whose department is conducting a criminal investigation of Bill Clinton’s wife, and reportedly investigating the Clinton Foundation as well.
- She knows better. As a former U.S. Attorney, and the nation’s top law enforcement officer, a prosecutor of stellar reputation on both sides of the aisle, she had to know socializing with the spouse of investigation target would clearly create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Aghast Republicans, Groaning Democrats
It’s no shock Republicans were aghast. Texas Senator John Cornyn said in a statement, “This incident does nothing to instill confidence in the American people that her department can fully and fairly conduct this investigation, and that’s why a special counsel is needed now more than ever.” According to Politico, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump used words like “terrible,” “horrible” “amazing” and “really a sneak” when talking about the chat on The Mike Gallagher Show. Thursday afternoon, Judicial Watch filed a complaint requesting the Department of Justice’s Inspector General to investigate the airport meeting.
However, even many Democrats are groaning, wondering, “What was Lynch thinking?!” David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, went so far as to call the confab “foolish.”
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 30, 2016
“I don’t think it sends the right signal,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons, told CNN’s New Day, “I think she should have steered clear even of a brief, casual social meeting with the former president.” Former Clinton adviser Doug Shoen agreed, telling Fox News the meeting “shouldn’t have been held.”
Senate Minority leader Harry Reid did defend Lynch. “No one can ever question [Lynch’s] strong feelings about the rule of law. And her ethics, I repeat, are the best.”
Putting aside Harry Reid’s questionable familiarity with the concept of “ethics,” he has a point. Loretta Lynch has enjoyed a solid reputation across the aisle and over the decades. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, her 30-years in law enforcement should be a “source of trust.”
So what gives? A law enforcement official familiar with the matter told CNN that Lynch was surprised to see Clinton. In this official’s version of events, the former President had spotted her plane on the tarmac and simply waltzed onto her aircraft. Lynch’s FBI security detail did not stop him and Clinton went on to initiate a conversation.
New York University law school professor Stephen Gillers blasted the former President, telling NPR that an “insensitive” Clinton put Lynch in a very difficult position. “She really wasn’t free to say she wouldn’t talk to a former president” after he boarded her plane, Gillers suggests. “He jeopardized her independence and did create an appearance of impropriety going on to her plane.” Further, said Gillers, the incident “feeds the dominant narrative that the Clintons don’t follow the usual rules, that they are free to have back channel communications like this one and that’s true even if we assume as I do that nothing improper was said.”
So what was Clinton up to? “I think that in these kind of meetings you can tell a lot through body language, by tone,” said Schoen, “And I think frankly President Clinton was, in his own way, taking the temperature of the Attorney General.”
He might want to check the temperature again. Thanks to their tête–à–tête on the tarmac, he’s turned up the heat on the woman who will decide his wife’s fate.