Last November, President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general. Today, her legal views were questioned in a Senate confirmation hearing that will continue throughout this week.
Lynch, a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will become America's first female African American attorney general if confirmed. She has spent nearly all of her career as a prosecutor.
“I look forward to fostering a new and improved relationship with this committee, the United States Senate, and the entire United States Congress,” she said in her opening statement. “I pledge to you and the American people that the Constitution, the bedrock of our system of justice, will be my lonestar as I exercise the power and responsibility of that position.”
One issue that many Senators questioned Lynch on was the legality of President Obama's immigration order. Her answer was a calculated one, eventually saying his action was legal.
"I have had occasion to look at the Office of Legal Counsel opinion through which the Department of Homeland Security sought legal guidance there, as well as some of the letters from constitutional scholars who've looked at the similar issue," Lynch said. "And certainly it seems to be a reasonable discussion of legal precedent...I don't see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views."
Republicans have been especially critical of the President's constitutional authority to carry out an executive order easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. Lynch will need at least three Republican votes from the committee in order to get confirmed.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, questioned the relationship she would have with President Obama.
"Just so you understand that your role is such that on occasion you have to say no to the person who actually appointed you to the job and who you support?" he said.
"Senator, I do understand that that is, in fact, the role and the responsibility of the attorney general," Lynch replied. "In fact, a necessary obligation on their part."
The committee also questioned Lynch on cybersecurity, drug policy, torture, homeland security, the defense of marriage act, sex trafficking, intellectual property, and corruption. She also commented on the recent killings of unarmed black men by the police.
“Few things have pained me more than the recent reports of tension and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” she said. “If confirmed as attorney general, one of my key priorities would be to work to strengthen the vital relationships between our courageous law enforcement personnel and all the communities we serve.”
The hearing will continue Wednesday afternoon and Thursday when nine witnesses who have worked with Lynch will testify. It could be as late as early March before the Senate votes on her confirmation.