AG Loretta Lynch: 'I Have Seen Firsthand How Corruption...Is About Breaking Trust'

Susan Jones | October 20, 2016 | 11:15am EDT
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (AP File Photo)

( - Speaking in Rome, Italy on Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a group of leaders and law enforcement officials that "fighting corruption in all of its forms" is a vital mission of the U.S. Justice Department.

"And like many of you, I have seen firsthand how corruption, at bottom, is about breaking trust. It is about undermining citizens’ belief in their elected officials.  It is about betraying the people’s faith that when public monies are spent on services for citizens – from infrastructure to education – none of those funds will be misappropriated for selfish ends.  

"And it is about poisoning the civic spirit of a people – displacing passion with cynicism, and solidarity with suspicion.  And that is why the U.S. Department of Justice has made it a priority to root out, prosecute, and prevent corruption."

Lynch continued: "What is at stake is not just a sum of money or a single contract: it is the public’s trust that one set of rules apply to all of its members, that we have ordered our markets and our governmental institutions in a fundamentally fair manner, and that our societies will uphold and respect the rule of law.  

"I am proud to say that with the help of our domestic and international partners, we are working tirelessly to detect corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice – no matter how powerful the actors, no matter how complex the crimes, and no matter where the crimes take place."

Lynch, a former federal prosecutor, drew sharp criticism in late June, after confirming that she met privately with former President Bill Clinton at an Arizona airport, at a time when the FBI (part of the Justice Department) was investigating Clinton's wife Hillary for her handling of classified information. Lynch at the time was the person who would sign off on that investigation.

"I did see President Clinton at the Phoenix airport as he was leaving and spoke to myself and my husband on the plane," Lynch told the Phoenix TV station that broke the news about the private meeting.

"Our conversation was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social, about our travels, and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix," Lynch told a news conference. "There was no discussion on any matter pending before the Department or any matter pending with any other body, there was no discussion of Benghazi, no discussion of State Department emails. By way of example, I would say it was current news of the day, the Brexit decision and what it would mean," Lynch said.

A few days later, Lynch admitted that her meeting with Bill Clinton "has cast a shadow" over the FBI investigation. "I certainly won't do it again," she said.

She also announced that she "fully" expected to accept the recommendations of career FBI agents assigned to investigation Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct government business.

A few days later, one week after Lynch met with Bill Clinton -- FBI Director James Comey announced that "no charges are appropriate" in the Clinton email case.

"Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case," Comey told a news conference on July 5.

In Italy on Thursday, Lynch noted that "the public integrity units in our Criminal Division, our U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and our Federal Bureau of Investigation have prosecuted and convicted corrupt officials at all levels of the American government."

She also stressed the need for "international cooperation" in corruption investigations.

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