Who Is the New Attorney General Loretta Lynch?

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Aside from the presidential election that has monopolized the news recently, there are more immediate leadership changes taking place in Washington, D.C. Leadership there is a constantly morphing thing, between elections, retirement, and (sometimes) scandals that drive politicians from their positions. There have been a number of of changes in Washington over the past few years, some of them planned and others a result of dissonance in government.

Many of the transitions have been far from smooth, particularly those requiring a nomination from President Barack Obama and confirmation from Congress, leading to a predictable clash of parties. One example is Obama’s choice for surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, who was unpopular because of his position on gun control, but he was simply one among a crowd of candidates who became a subject of conflict.

For a time, it appeared that the replacement attorney general to Eric Holder — who has a less-than-friendly relationship with the GOP and members of Congress — would be another difficult appointment. While Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for New York’s eastern district, seemed to be a less contentious choice for the position during her congressional hearing in January, some members of Congress raised roadblocks for more than 150 days until her April 23 confirmation.

The block to the vote deciding her fate came in the form of a bill to aid victims of the sex trafficking industry. The bill has been the subject of much debate over the past few weeks, and while not originally related to Lynch at all, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brought her into the issue by saying that no vote would be made on Lynch’s appointment to attorney general until a decision had been made on the sex trafficking bill.

“It’s not a threat,” said McConnell in an interview with CNN. “We need to finish this human trafficking bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. That’s the next item that’s on the Senate floor right now, we need to finish that so we have time to turn to the attorney general.”

“A woman who everybody agrees is qualified, who has gone after terrorists, who has worked with police officers to get gangs off the streets, who is trusted by the civil rights community and by police unions as being somebody who is fair and effective and a good manger … has been sitting there longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined,” said Obama. “What are we doing here? I have to say that there are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes to far. This is an example of it. It’s gone to far. Enough.”

Apparently enough was indeed reached, or at least, an agreement on the sex trafficking bill was managed, and Lynch will receive her vote later this week. Even Jeb Bush — a likely contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee — appears pleased that the vote is finally going to take place. “Sounds to me like a victory,” he said, according to the New York Daily News. “Getting rid of Eric Holder has got to be a win.” 

Another leadership change taking place this month is the exit of Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart. She made the decision to retire after a watchdog report revealed some unsavory information regarding the DEA and her management.

While Holder continues to support her, the report revealed poor handling of sexual malfeasance. Sex parties were held by members of her department in which prostitutes were present. The parties were paid for with funds from drug cartels, and the punishment doled out for this activity was minimal and found to be inappropriate.

Both Democratic and Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform indicated approval of the decision.

“In light of the DOJ inspector general’s report and the testimony we heard before our committee, Ms. Leonhart’s retirement is appropriate,” said Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in a joint statement, according to Fox. “With the opportunity now for fresh leadership, we are hopeful that the DEA can restore itself to an agency of distinction and excellence.”

More from Politics Cheat Sheet: