By Julian Hattem – 02/08/16 07:50 PM EST
Critics of the Obama administration say Attorney General Loretta Lynch should be disqualified from overseeing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server because of the more than $10,000 she has given to Democrats in recent years.
With Republicans already calling for a special prosecutor to monitor the probe, conservatives are pouncing on the past campaign contributions as evidence of bias.
“The latest assertion from her allies that Loretta Lynch is not ‘political’ is totally untrue,” said David Bossie, the president of conservative advocacy organization Citizens United in a statement to The Hill. “In fact, she’s been a regular financial contributor to Democrat candidates, including to her current boss, Barack Obama.”
Former colleagues of Lynch’s described her to The Hill as a hard-nosed lawyer who rarely discussed politics in her previous jobs.
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Lynch contributed a total of $10,700 to Democratic candidates between 2004 and 2008.
Of that money, $4,600 went to President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Another $1,000 went to the campaign of the late Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) and $2,100 went to his son Chris’s unsuccessful 2006 House campaign. Lynch also contributed $1,000 to the failed 2008 campaign of North Carolina investment banker Jim Neal and $2,000 to the fruitless 2008 campaign of Oregon politician Steve Novick.
The contributions are under scrutiny amid increasing calls from some Republicans for Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the federal investigation into the security of classified information on the private email server Clinton used as secretary of State.
The server is currently in the hands of the FBI, which is investigating whether classified information was mishandled. The Obama administration has said that more than 1,500 emails on the server are now classified — 22 at the highest level of “top secret” — though it is unclear how many of those determinations were made retroactively.
Clinton and the State Department insist that none of the emails was marked as classified at the time they were sent.
Conservatives have said the Justice Department should pursue criminal charges against Clinton or her top deputies for putting American secrets at risk.
But Lynch has a conflict of interest, top Republicans say, so the decision on whether to proceed with a criminal case ought to be left to someone more impartial.
In addition to the contributions, critics note that Lynch was appointed to a previous job as U.S. attorney by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. They also point to comments Obama made last year that they say appear to prejudge the outcome of the inquiry.
“How can political appointees make decisions about an investigation into the Democrat front-runner for president of the United States?” said Bossie on Monday. “If this does not meet the criteria for the appointment of a special counsel, what does?”
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department has said that career prosecutors and investigators are working on the Clinton case and that a special prosecutor is not warranted.
Other legal experts view the call for a special prosecutor more skeptically.
“Quite frankly, if somebody in the Senate — who does the confirmation — doesn’t believe she could uphold her oath, they should have voted against her,” said Roscoe Howard, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
“Other than a flat out conflict — let’s say that one of her brothers appeared [in court] — she gets to make those decisions,” added Howard, who is now a partner at the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg.
“What I read is, when I hear somebody say that, is, ‘Yeah, you’d like somebody who is more likely to bring a charge,’ ” Howard added. “Well, it’s just not the way it works.”
Ten Republicans voted with Democrats to confirm Lynch last year, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) — who has been among the most vocal proponents of a special prosecutor for the Clinton case — voted against her nomination.
Clinton is still the favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, though she is expected to lose to rival Bernie Sanders on Tuesday in New Hampshire’s primary election.