June 30, 2016
Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch has spent the past two days fending off questions about her private meeting on a government jet with former President Bill Clinton, whose wife’s use of a personal email server while serving as secretary of State is being investigated by the Justice Department.
The 30-minute conversation Monday night, Lynch said, was mostly about personal matters and did not delve into the investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
“Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren,” Lynch told reporters in Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon. “It was primarily social and about our travels. He mentioned the golf he played in Phoenix, and he mentioned travels he’d had in West Virginia. We talked about former Attorney General Janet Reno, for example, whom we both know, but there was no discussion of any matter pending for the department or any matter pending for any other body.”
The encounter occurred just after Lynch had landed on a government jet Monday evening at the international airport in Phoenix, where she was scheduled to meet the next day with law enforcement officials as part of a nationwide community-policing fact-finding tour.
The former president, who was departing the airport on a private jet, noticed Lynch’s plane had arrived and decided to go over and say hello, said a person familiar with the meeting. He then boarded and spoke with Lynch and her husband, Stephen Hargrove, who had joined the attorney general on the trip.
Lynch on Wednesday told reporters that she did not believe the meeting gave the appearance of impropriety, even though the Justice Department and FBI are in the midst of an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state.
FBI agents and prosecutors are trying to understand whether Clinton or her aides knowingly or negligently discussed classified government secrets over a non-secure email system when she served as secretary of State.
“My agency is involved in a matter looking at State Department policies and issues,” Lynch said. “It’s being handled by career investigators and career agents, who always follow facts and the law, and do the same thorough and independent examination in this matter that they’ve done in all. So that’s how that’ll be handled.”
Despite her assurances, Lynch was blasted over the meeting by Republicans, who said it raised questions about her fairness in overseeing the probe. Democrats expressed frustration that the former president would put the attorney general in such a position.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said on The Mike Gallagher Show that the meeting was “so terrible” and “one of the big stories of this week, of this month, of this year.”
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tweeted: “Lynch & Clinton: Conflict of interest? An attorney, cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict.”