Attorney General Loretta Lynch said today that she “fully expect[s]” to accept the recommendations of the “career agents and investigators” who are considering whether Hillary Clinton should be criminally charged in connection with her scandalous use of a private email server. In response to a follow-up question, she said “I will accept their recommendations,” and added that “the case will be resolved by the same team that has been working on it from the beginning.” You can view Lynch making these making these statement here.
Clearly, there’s a difference between expecting to accept recommendations and agreeing to accept them. But even the latter assurance, which Lynch switched to when pressed, wouldn’t be entirely reassuring.
If Lynch is absolutely committed to letting subordinates make the final decision about whether to prosecute Clinton, without being influenced by her in any way, she should recuse herself. Republicans have called on her to do just that, but she has not.
Lynch explained her decision not to recuse herself this way:
A recusal would mean that I wouldn’t even be briefed on what the findings were, or what the actions going forward would be. While I don’t have a role in those findings and coming up with those findings or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I’ll be briefed on it and I will be accepting their recommendations.
Does this explanation make sense? I don’t think so. Recusal doesn’t mean Lynch won’t be informed what decision her subordinates make and why. It just means they will make the decision without the possibility of Lynch influencing it.
But Lynch is unwilling to go that far. Why not?
It may be that Lynch, who almost surely isn’t oblivious to how the investigation is going, thinks the “career agents and investigators” will recommend no prosecution of Clinton, but isn’t certain. In that event, it would make perfect sense for her to commit, more or less, to going along with the final recommendation, but to reserve the right to be involved just in case the recommendation surprises her.
Or it may be that Lynch doesn’t know how things are going to turn out. In that case, it might make sense, given the outrage over her meeting with Bill Clinton, for her to provide semi-assurances that she won’t decide the matter while reserving the right to have her say.
The third possibility is that Lynch expects the “career agents and investigators” to recommend prosecution. To me, Lynch’s assurances suggest that she does not expect this. Only if Lynch is truly neutral on the matter would it make sense for her even to semi-commit to accepting her subordinate’s recommendation.
I doubt that Lynch is truly neutral. I don’t see her being willing to throw the presidential race into turmoil and increase the likelihood of a Donald Trump victory.
Indeed, if Lynch were truly neutral, I doubt she would have talked, even socially, for half an hour with Bill Clinton.
Finally, how should we view Lynch’s insistence that “career agents and investigators” will make the recommendation she plans to accept. Wouldn’t the recommendation normally come from FBI director James Comey?
Lynch appears to be relegating Comey to the role of reviewing and then accepting the recommendation of career employees — the same role she’s purporting to assign herself.
Lynch stressed the career people aren’t politically beholden. What she didn’t say is that in Washington, DC, career government employees almost invariably are liberal Democrats.
Lynch may know that the key career people — the people who have “been working on it from the beginning” — don’t want to indict. She may be staying in the case to make sure that Comey (an Obama appointee and therefore clearly not beholden to anti-Clinton forces) can’t overrule them.