The federal prosecutor President Obama has tapped to be the next attorney general is a tough and disciplined veteran who has taken on terrorists, mobsters, cops and politicians — Republicans and Democrats alike.
If she is confirmed by the Senate, Loretta Lynch would be the first black woman to hold the top law enforcement job in the country. She was nominated Saturday to replace departing Attorney General Eric Holder.
Lynch, 55, is known in legal circles for her hard-driving but low-key style — equal parts Brooklyn grit and Southern Baptist humility. The daughter of a fourth-generation North Carolina minister, Lynch quietly climbed the ladder in the Eastern District of New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and parts of Long Island.
"It's pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta," Obama said at the White House on Saturday.
Lynch, like Obama, graduated from Harvard Law School. She got her start as a litigation associate for a prestigious Manhattan firm, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, before joining the Eastern District as a prosecutor.
She worked inside the U.S. Attorney's office to prosecute and convict a New York City police officer who sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broom handle. It was one of the most explosive police brutality cases of the 1990s — and it earned Lynch a reputation for even-handed tenacity.
President Clinton first appointed Lynch to be a U.S. Attorney in 1999. She left for private practice in 2001 before being appointed a second time by Obama in 2010.
In her years in the post, Lynch's office in Brooklyn has handled a wide-ranging caseload — cutting-edge cybercrime, high-stakes financial fraud and dramatic Mafia busts straight out of a Martin Scorsese movie.
The office also helped convict the masterminds of the thwarted al Qaeda plot to attack the New York subway system.
This year, Lynch's office announced it would indict Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., on federal fraud, tax evasion and perjury charges. Grimm, who won his re-election bid Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty. Lynch has also prosecuted several Democratic public officials, including State Sen. John L. Sampson, former State Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. and Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr.
Obama on Saturday praised the Greensboro, North Carolina, native for her persistence and steady hand in the face of powerful foes.
"Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming people person," Obama said.
It was not clear Saturday how swiftly the Senate would act to consider Lynch’s nomination. Obama said Saturday he hoped the Senate would confirm her “without delay.” But the incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday that Lynch’s nomination “should be considered in the new Congress through regular order.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.