Pressure mounting on Lynch for special counsel on Hillary e-mails?

Will she or won’t she? That’s the question Loretta Lynch faces on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized homebrew e-mail server, on two levels. If the FBI brings her a recommendation for indictments, will she pursue the case? Or, will Lynch opt for a special counsel if that decision comes with too much political freight?

The Hill recaps the status quo, but also offers some interesting background for both scenarios. On one hand, Lynch and Hillary don’t have any personal ties, even though she owes her appointment as US Attorney to Hillary’s husband:

Lynch and Clinton never had much of a personal relationship, former colleagues told The Hill this week.

“I’m not aware of any relationship with Hillary Clinton,” said Steven Edwards, who worked alongside Lynch for nearly a decade at the law firm Hogan Lovells (the firm was previously called Hogan & Hartson when Lynch joined it in 2001).

Lynch was appointed to be the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband.

However, she was personally recommended for the position by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and one government official said Clinton himself had a relatively minor role in the selection process.

Minor? Then-President Bill Clinton actually made the appointment. Perhaps Bill just acted as a rubber stamp for Schumer, but if so, that brings up another issue. Schumer and Hillary have a close personal and political relationship. In fact, Schumer was one of the first Democrats on the national stage to endorse Hillary’s presidential bid, stepping forward in November 2013 when Hillary needed to keep the field clear. That’s not to say that Lynch takes orders from Schumer, but if there is political pressure that could have an impact, then the circumstances of her appointment still could have something to do with it.

The other political pressure point might be Lynch’s current position. Julian Hattem points out that Lynch will only get about 18 months or so as Attorney General, thanks to a fight between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans after Eric Holder’s announced departure. A Hillary Clinton presidency offers an opportunity to extend her time at the top of the Department of Justice — an opportunity that would almost certainly not exist in a Republican administration:

Lynch was confirmed by the Senate last year, after a five-month delay largely unrelated to her own qualifications. That left the nation’s top lawyer with just a year and a half in office, during Obama’s lame duck period in which policy efforts are likely to stall.

If Clinton becomes the next president, however, Lynch may be asked to stay on, at least for a short time. As such, she may have a little bit of skin in the game.

“That Hillary Clinton could be the Democrat nominee and potential next president represents an extraordinary circumstance that commends the appointment of a special counsel,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), the head of the House Oversight subcommittee on National Security, in a statement to The Hill. “For a Democrat-appointed attorney general such as Lynch, this is obviously something that distinguishes the Clinton investigation from other cases.”

The biggest political wildcard gets no mention, however, in Hattem’s review. FBI Director James Comey has perhaps the biggest card to play in this game. He has a sterling reputation for non-partisanship, having bucked the Bush and Obama administrations publicly in the past, and most observers have high confidence in the FBI’s ability to investigate this scandal. If the FBI finds reason to indict Hillary and her aides and the Department of Justice refuses to act on it, any public statement by Comey — especially a resignation in protest — will put both Lynch and Obama squarely in the crosshairs of the scandal. At that point, both might very well begin to see the virtues of appointing a special counsel to take the case entirely off their hands.