U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says she still regrets her impromptu meeting with former President Bill Clinton on her private plane before the Department of Justice concluded its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
“I do regret sitting down and having a conversation with him because it did give people concern,” Lynch told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday. “My greatest concern has always been making sure that people understand that the Department of Justice works in a way that is independent and looks at everybody equally.”
Lynch met with Clinton for a half-hour on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on June 27, prompting calls from Republicans to completely recuse herself from the inquiry.
In response, Lynch — who maintained that their meeting was “primarily social” — said she would step back and accept whatever recommendations the FBI made in the case.
“It was painful for me, and so I felt it was important to clarify it as quickly and as clearly and as cleanly as possible,” Lynch said Sunday.
On July 5, FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau’s recommendation that no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton or her aides — leading to more criticism from the GOP over Lynch’s handling of the case.
“I wish I had seen around that corner and not had that discussion with the former president, as innocuous as it was, because it did give people concern,” Lynch told Tapper. “It did make people wonder, ‘Is it going to affect the investigation that’s going on?’ And that’s not something that was an unreasonable question for anyone to ask.”
Lynch pushed back on criticism from former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that the FBI did not take the Russian hacking of Democratic National Committee emails as seriously as the investigation into Clinton’s server.
“I can tell you that this investigation was taken seriously from the beginning,” Lynch said. “This is an incredibly serious issue.”
Earlier this month, President Obama called on U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election — and to complete it before he leaves office.
“It is an issue that people are concerned about and do need to have information about,” Lynch said. “Our goal is to provide them with the information. That is thoroughly investigated, fully vetted, and that we can provide in an open setting.”