WASHINGTON – Attorney General Loretta Lynch intends to accept whatever recommendation career prosecutors and federal agents make in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, a Justice Department official said Friday.
“The Attorney General expects to receive and accept the determinations and findings of the Department’s career prosecutors and investigators, as well as the FBI Director,” said the official, who was not authorized to discuss internal decision-making in the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Lynch was expected to discuss the matter further at a summit Friday in Aspen, Colorado.
The revelation comes amid a controversy surrounding an impromptu private discussion that Lynch had with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, aboard her plane on the tarmac at a Phoenix airport on Monday. That get-together has been criticized as inappropriate by Republicans and some Democrats at a time when the Justice Department has been investigating whether classified information was mishandled through Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Lynch told reporters that she did and Bill Clinton did not discuss the email investigation during the encounter.
The announcement also appeared intended to assuage concerns, particularly among Republicans, that Lynch – an Obama administration appointee – might overrule any recommendations on criminal charges from the agents and prosecutors who have worked on the case. Disputes on charging decisions between the FBI and the Justice Department are not uncommon, particularly in national security cases, though many legal experts see any criminal prosecution in this matter as exceedingly unlikely.
Decisions on whether to charge anyone in the case will be made by “career prosecutors and investigators who have been handling this matter since its inception” and reviewed by senior lawyers at the department and the FBI director, and Lynch will then accept whatever recommendation comes, the official said.
Federal officials have already interviewed top Clinton aides including Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin. Last year, authorities granted limited immunity from prosecution to the staffer who set up Clinton’s email server. They have not yet spoken with Clinton herself.
It’s not known when the investigation will conclude. FBI Director James Comey has repeatedly said that there is no specific timeline for wrapping it up.
Both Lynch and Comey have stressed for months that the email investigation is being handled without regard for politics. But the meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton caused an immediate political backlash, prompting renewed calls from Republicans for an independent prosecutor.
Lynch told reporters earlier this week that the meeting was unplanned and happened while the former president was waiting to depart on another plane. She said he walked over and boarded the attorney general’s plane after she landed there. She said Clinton talked about his grandchildren and told her he had been playing golf in Arizona and said they had discussed former Attorney General Janet Reno, whom they both know.
“There was no discussion of any matter pending for the department or any matter pending for any other body. There was no discussion of Benghazi, no discussion of the State Department emails, by way of example,” Lynch said in Phoenix.