Loretta Lynch is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General and faces a raft of pressing issues — not least of which is the spate of deadly confrontations between mostly white police officers and mostly black men.
WASHINGTON, D.C. UNITED STATES (APRIL 27, 2015) (RESTRICTED POOL)- Loretta Lynch was sworn-in on Monday (April 27) as the new U.S. Attorney General and among her most immediate challenges will be how to deal with a string of deadly confrontations between mostly white police and black men.
Lynch takes over as the country’s top law enforcement official after a weekend that saw thousands of people in Baltimore, Maryland, take to the streets in mostly peaceful protests over the latest such case. A 25-year-old black man died a week after being injured while in police custody.
Building on her career as an accomplished federal prosecutor, Lynch succeeds retiring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who served more than six turbulent years at the head of the Justice Department.
Holder was the first black U.S. attorney general and Lynch becomes the first black woman to hold the job.
Besides the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, other questionable encounters between police and black males in recent months have led to unrest in South Carolina, Missouri, Ohio and New York.
The Justice Department is probing whether excessive force was used against minorities in violation of their civil rights.
Lynch will preside over a sprawling department made up of 40 organizations including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an over-burdened Civil Rights Division, the FBI, the U.S. Parole Commission and the Anti-Trust Division.
Besides trying to improve community policing, Lynch will face other daunting problems.
The director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, part of the DOJ, resigned this month over reports that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes hired by Colombian drug cartels.
Meanwhile, the agency Lynch is inheriting has recently struck a sterner tone with financial institutions accused of misconduct.
Lynch will have to tackle settlements pending with banks over the manipulation of currency markets and charges of helping clients evade U.S. taxes. Six major banks could settle as soon as May on allegations they manipulated foreign exchange markets.
Add in the threat of cybersecurity breaches and American citizens seeking to become Islamic State fighters and Lynch has a full plate.
Attorneys general invariably confront problems that come out of nowhere, as well, making it one of the highest-profile positions in any administration.
Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton’s attorney general from 1993-2001, dealt with crises including the bombing of an Oklahoma federal building, a deadly confrontation with the “Branch Davidians” sect in Waco, Texas, and the arrival in Florida of a young Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, whose custody battle grew into an international incident.
Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s took on organized crime and union boss Jimmy Hoffa, while also sending federal marshals to enforce a court order allowing black civil rights activist James Meredith to attend the University of Mississippi.
Elliot Richardson resigned during the Watergate-era “Saturday Night Massacre” and John Ashcroft was in a hospital sick bed in 2004 when top White House officials reportedly tried but failed to get his approval for a controversial domestic surveillance program.
Lynch survived a difficult and lengthy Senate confirmation process with most Republicans voting against her. That may end up being the easiest part of her run as attorney general.