WH defends Lynch from Clinton meeting fallout

Cameron Lancaster
The White House on Thursday defended Attorney General Loretta Lynch from criticism over her private meeting with former President Clinton. 
 
The meeting took place in the midst of a federal investigation into his wife, Hillary Clinton, and her private email server during her tenure as secretary of State, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest said both Lynch and President Obama are committed to conducting a fair investigation. 
 
{mosads}“I think the bottom line is simply that both the president and the attorney general understand how important it is for the Department of Justice to conduct investigations that are free of political interference,” he told reporters. 
 
Earnest declined to say whether it was appropriate for Lynch to take the meeting, and acknowledged that questions about it “are entirely legitimate.” 
 
But he refused to second-guess her decision to speak privately with Bill Clinton, saying he took Lynch at her word that the two did not discuss the investigation. 
 
“She was asked a direct question about it and she answered it,” he said. 
 
Earnest said Lynch’s three decades in law enforcement show she is committed to impartiality. 
 
“She certainly understands that investigations should be conducted free of political interference and consistent with the facts,” he said. “She’s made clear that’s the expectation she has for the way this investigation should be conducted.” 
 
Even though Lynch called the Monday night meeting at the Phoenix airport “primarily social,” it raised eyebrows in both political parties. 
 
The private huddle fueled accusations from Republicans that the Justice Department isn’t capable of investigating the former first lady in an impartial manner. 
 
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump called the meeting a “horrible” example of bad judgment. 
 
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) renewed his call for a special counsel to take over the Clinton case.
 
“This incident does nothing to instill confidence in the American people that her department can fully and fairly conduct this investigation, and that’s why a special counsel is needed now more than ever,” he said in a statement. 
 
Lynch said her conversation with Bill Clinton did not touch on the FBI’s investigation into his wife’s private email setup at State. 
 
Instead, she told reporters, they discussed his grandchildren and other current events, like Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. 
 
But Democrats also said Lynch erred in meeting with the former president. 
 
Former Obama adviser David Axelrod said it was “foolish” for the attorney general to create the appearance of a conflict of interest, even though he does not believe such a conflict exists. 
 
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said on CNN Thursday that he’s been overall “impressed” with Lynch’s judgment but questioned the decision to meet with the former president.
 
“I don’t think it sends the right signal. I think she should have steered clear even of a brief, casual, social meeting with the former president,” Coons said.
 
Top Senate Democrats, however, dismissed the controversy surrounding the meeting. 
 
“She has said nothing was discussed related to the investigation so you have two choices: To say this didn’t matter or she’s lying,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) “I think it didn’t matter. I don’t think she’s lying.” 
 
– Updated at 1:59 p.m.
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