Barack Obama appoints prosecutor Loretta Lynch as first black female US Attorney General

Loretta Lynch has been attorney for Eastern New York since 1999

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The Independent US

President Barack Obama has appointed federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch as the first black woman to hold the position of US attorney general, he will announce today.

Obama is to announce Lynch's nomination one month earlier than planned at a White House event after news organisations reported yesterday his choice for who would replace current attorney general Eric Holder, who is the first African-American in the position.

White House officials said they would leave it up to Senate leaders to work out the timeline for her confirmation however they warned it would be politically damaging to force through the Democrat's position while the Senate is experiencing a dramatic Republican swing to the right.

Lynch, 55, is the attorney for Eastern New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, and has been in the position twice from 2010 and for three years from 1999 after she was appointed by the then-president Bill Clinton.

"Lynch is a strong, independent prosecutor who has twice led one of the most important US attorney's offices in the country," Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

Current attorney general Holder handed in his resignation in September after five years and he had appointed Lynch as chair of a committee that advises him on civil rights policies. It is believed she will take over from him some of the most high-profile cases in history.

These include possible federal charges in deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; enforcement of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court threw out a major protection; reduction of racial profiling in federal investigations; changes in federal sentencing negotiations; changing death penalty system; and reducing tensions between police and racial minority communities.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, on the Judiciary Committee, expressed "every confidence that Ms. Lynch will receive a very fair, but thorough, vetting by the Committee."

"US attorneys are rarely elevated directly to this position, so I look forward to learning more about her, how she will interact with Congress, and how she proposes to lead the department.

"I'm hopeful that her tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the attorney general as a politically independent voice for the American people," Grassley added.

Lynch was previously best known for filing tax evasion charges against Republican representative Michael Grimm, who was accused of hiding more than $1 million in sales and wages while running a restaurant. Grimm, who won re-election on Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty and is to face trial in February.

She also charged reputed Mafia mobster Vincent Asaro and his associates in January for a $6 million cash and jewellery heist from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at Kennedy Airport in 1978, which has since been the basis of the movie Goodfellas.

During her first tenure in Eastern New York, Lynch helped prosecute police officers including the main defendant, Justin Volpe, who severely beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima with a broom handle in a Brooklyn police station cell in 1997.

Lynch grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and is the daughter of a school librarian and a Baptist minister.

She received undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, where Obama graduated from law school seven years later.

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