Saturday, July 02, 2016

Loretta Lynch’s Clinton Mess

The Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook

The Attorney General should formally recuse herself from the case, or take responsibility.


Loretta Lynch did herself, the Department of Justice and Hillary Clinton no favors on Friday when she tried to repair the damage she had done by meeting privately with Bill Clinton this week.

In a televised interview from Aspen, Colorado, with the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, the Attorney General struggled to defend her department’s ability to make an honest decision about whether to indict Mrs. Clinton over her handling of classified information on her personal email server. “I fully expect” to accept the recommendations of FBI investigators and career Justice officials, she said, in damage-control mode.

Ms. Lynch created this mess when she welcomed the former President onto her plane in Phoenix for a 30-minute private meeting—while her department is investigating his spouse. The public might not even have known about the meeting if someone hadn’t tipped off a reporter. When first asked about the propriety of the meeting earlier this week, Ms. Lynch explained it was “primarily” social.

That didn’t satisfy anyone, and the pressure built. Prosecutors don’t meet privately with the spouses of people who are under investigation, and even White House spokesman Josh Earnest admitted that questions about Ms. Lynch’s meeting are “entirely legitimate.” Ms. Lynch said Friday at Aspen that she understands why her behavior has “cast a shadow” over the integrity of the Justice Department.

Yet her Clintonian answers show as much bad judgment as the original meeting. She is now passing the buck to career officials while still retaining the ability to overrule them. This is trying to have it both ways. She knows there will be a political price to pay no matter what the decision. Her ethical straddle allows her to say she had nothing to do with a decision not to indict while retaining the authority to overrule an FBI recommendation to indict.

Whether to indict a presumptive presidential nominee is a momentous decision that deserves to be made by officials who are accountable to the voters. Such decisions are the reason we have an Attorney General appointed by an elected President.

Ms. Lynch has only two honest choices: Do the job she was appointed to and make the decision—or formally recuse herself from the case and delegate the decision to the next highest ranking official at Justice.

Instead she is offering a political cop-out that will only lengthen the shadow she and the ever-incorrigible Bill Clinton have cast over the Justice Department.