President Barack Obama is expected to pick Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch for his next attorney general, CNN reported on Friday, a move that would give the top U.S. law enforcement role to a low-key prosecutor with deep experience in both civil rights and corporate fraud cases.
Lynch, 55, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, would be the first African-American woman to hold the job if nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama had yet to decide on his nominee. Asked about reports that a decision could come soon, he said he had no specific details on timing but that no announcement was planned on Friday.
Sources close to the Obama administration told Reuters that Lynch was a top contender to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced in September that he would resign.
The sources said they expected that if Lynch were selected, she would generate little controversy, making for a smooth Senate confirmation process.
Her nomination would be one of the first big changes for Obama to announce after Republicans won control of the Senate in congressional elections on Tuesday. Lynch was one of several candidates Holder had recommended to succeed him.
Lynch emerged as a leading contender after a previous top choice, former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, pulled out of consideration amid concerns her involvement in controversial Obama administration decisions could complicate her confirmation.
Holder's Rocky Tenure
Holder, one of Obama's closest allies, has had a rocky tenure as attorney general. He clashed frequently with congressional Republicans over gun control, same-sex marriage, and a desire to try terrorism suspects in civilian instead of military courts. In one 2011 email released earlier this week, Holder referred to Republican members of the House Oversight Committee chaired by Darrell Issa as "Issa and his idiot cronies."
A Greensboro, North Carolina, native, Lynch earned her college and law degrees at Harvard, worked in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office between 1990 and 2001, and served in the top post from 1999-2001 and since 2010.
Lynch developed a close relationship with Holder through her work on the attorney general's advisory committee, which she has chaired since the beginning of 2013.
In her first stint in the U.S. Attorney's office she oversaw the prosecution of New York police officers who were convicted in connection with the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, an incident that became a national symbol for police brutality.
More recently, her office has brought several high-profile cases, including the indictment, in April, of Republican U.S. Representative Michael Grimm for fraud.
Her office has worked closely with Justice Department headquarters on several big corporate fraud cases, and helped investigate Citigroup Inc over shoddy mortgage securities the bank sold, which led the bank to enter into a $7 billion settlement in July.
Lynch's office also was involved in the December 2012 $1.2 billion accord with HSBC over the bank's lapses in its anti-money laundering controls. Prosecutors in Brooklyn are also investigating a member of Putin's inner circle, Gennady Timchenko, in connection with an oil trading and money laundering probe.