Attorney General Loretta Lynch has asked not to be considered for the vacancy on the Supreme Court, saying that the nomination process would leave her unable to do her current job.
"The nomination process has inherent limitations on what you can and can't do, particularly when you're in a policy position," Lynch said at a "Women in the World" forum in Washington on Tuesday evening. "There is so much that I want to push and cross that goal line before the end of this administration."
Lynch's name had been floated as a possible nominee for the seat held by Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13. President Barack Obama is also said to be considering several sitting federal judges, some of whom won overwhelming approval from the Senate in recent years.
The nomination process, though, could be a bruising one. Senate Republicans have said they will provide neither a hearing nor a vote for any nominee Obama puts forth. They argue that the lame duck president should not appoint anyone in his final year, especially since Obama's choice to replace the conservative Scalia would likely change the balance on the court.
Lynch, the first African-American woman to become attorney general, had a contentious nomination process of her own. Her Senate confirmation vote came five months after Obama nominated her to the office. On Tuesday night, she said she is committed to finishing the job before Obama leaves office in 2017, with her top priorities including combating human trafficking and terrorism, and mending what she called the "breakdown" in relations between law enforcement and communities.
Lynch's remarks perhaps previewed her appearance at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said the Iowa Republican will likely ask Lynch about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, data encryption, FBI whistleblowers, and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
Tina Brown, who founded "Women in the World ," a digital platform highlighting women, quizzed Lynch on issues ranging from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails to closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba for suspected terrorists.
Lynch would not delve into the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server while she led the State Department, noting that the investigation is ongoing. But she stressed the need to treat this case like any other.
Asked about the likelihood of closing Guantanamo Bay in the current political climate, and transferring any prisoners to the U.S., she said, "Current law does not allow that," then added that the president would be working with Congress to find some resolution. Republican lawmakers, especially those whose states have prisons where detainees could be transferred, have vowed to resist any effort to close the military prison. Lynch also discussed the conflict between the FBI and Apple over accessing the iPhone of one of the shooters in the deadly attack in San Bernadino, Calif., last year. She said the Justice Department has an obligation to investigate fully, and that balancing the need to protect data, and still access and use it, is something companies have been dealing with for years.
Along with current issues facing the department, she said she hopes to address sex trafficking in her final months in charge of the Justice Department. The issue, which she said was "one of the most invisible yet pernicious crimes," has been one of her top priorities since she was a prosecutor in New York City.
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