New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has joined other Republicans calling for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to recuse herself after Lynch met for 30 minutes with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac at a Phoenix airport. WMUR reports:
Ayotte, in a statement Friday, said: “As a former attorney general, I believe Attorney General Lynch should recuse herself from this case given the importance of the investigation and the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest to ensure that all Americans have confidence in the outcome. I am disappointed that she declined to do so.”
Sen. Ayotte served as New Hampshire’s attorney general from 2004 to 2009.
Earlier Friday, Lynch attempted to allay concerns about her meeting with the husband of a potential target of an ongoing FBI investigation. During an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Lynch said the FBI and career prosecutors would decide what happened in the ongoing investigation and added, “I fully expect to accept their recommendations.”
That reassurance was not enough for some Republicans. The Hill reports Rep. Steve Scalise called on Lynch to immediately recuse herself:
“Considering the ongoing criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, this secret meeting between the Attorney General and Bill Clinton shows an astounding lack of judgment by Loretta Lynch,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement on Thursday calling for Lynch to recuse herself.
“Given the culture of unaccountability in the Obama Administration, it is unlikely that Attorney General Lynch will heed the growing calls for her resignation,” he said. “But at a minimum, Lynch should immediately recuse herself from the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unlawful activities, and appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case, so the American people can know the truth about this secret meeting and finally rest assured the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton is being conducted fully and impartially, without even the appearance of corruption.”
Sen. John Cornyn repeated his call for a special prosecutor in the case:
The Monday meeting between Lynch and the former president “does nothing to instill confidence in the American people that her department can fully and fairly conduct this investigation,” he said in a statement. “And that’s why a special counsel is needed now more than ever.”
At this point, having already acknowledged that her meeting with Clinton casts a shadow over the coming decision, why wouldn’t Lynch take the next step and recuse herself? If the FBI does recommend prosecution, Lynch has already pledged to accept those recommendations. Going back on that pledge would look extremely suspicious after the tarmac meeting, so her hands are effectively tied. On the other hand, if no prosecution is recommended by the FBI it would be better for the DOJ’s reputation (and for Hillary Clinton) if Lynch had already recused herself. Otherwise that shadow hanging over the decision will always linger.
In short, having pledged not to meddle in the FBI’s decision, there is no obvious downside and a clear potential upside to Lynch recusing herself. Why would she hesitate to do so under the circumstances? At a minimum, Lynch should be asked to explain herself more fully.