WASHINGTON–U.S. President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee told lawmakers Wednesday she would act independently and vowed a fresh start with Congress, following the stormy tenure of outgoing incumbent Eric Holder. Veteran prosecutor Loretta Lynch told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she aimed to build a ��new and improved relationship�� with Congress, where the Republicans who control both chambers are incensed with Obama’s policies, in particular his recent executive actions on immigration. With Republicans seething over what they argue is White House overreach, many expressed hope that Lynch, who would be only the second woman to hold the post after Janet Reno (1993-2001), would strike a less overtly political and combative tone than Holder. Having earned high praise for cracking down on corruption and convicting terrorists from her position as chief U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch is likely to win confirmation, if only so Republicans can move on from Holder, who in 2013 described himself as Obama’s ��wingman.�� With judiciary panel chairman Senator Chuck Grassley reminding her that ��your duty as the attorney general is not to defend the president and his policies,�� Lynch vowed independence as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer. If confirmed, ��I pledge to all of you and the American people that I will fulfill my responsibilities with integrity and independence,�� she stated. Lynch said she would focus on improving cyber-security and combating terrorism. But she also stressed that, given the ��tension and division�� recently on display between law enforcement and the public in the aftermath of deadly police action, 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.�� Congressional Republicans remain incensed that the president took executive action to shield millions from deportation and provide many of them with work permits, and some used Lynch’s confirmation hearing to savage his policies. When asked directly by Grassley whether she believed Obama’s immigration executive actions were legal, Lynch carefully noted that there was a ��reasonable discussion�� to be had about legal precedent. ��I don’t see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views,�� said Lynch, who if confirmed would become the first black female attorney general in U.S. history. She said constitutional experts, Justice Department personnel and administration officials had thoroughly researched Obama’s plan. Some Republicans have labeled Lynch as a supporter of the executive action, including Senator David Vitter who in December branded her ��one of the linchpins to Obama’s amnesty plan.��
Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York warned Republicans against putting the immigration plan on trial at Wednesday’s hearing. ��The president’s immigration policies are not seeking confirmation today. Loretta Lynch is,�� he said.