It’s hardly news when two acquaintances meet up at an airport and spend half an hour chatting about golf, grandkids and travel. Good luck getting a grandparent or golfer to stop talking about those subjects.
However, it is news when the traveler is U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the golfing grandpa is former President Bill Clinton, whose wife is currently under intense criminal investigation by Lynch’s FBI. And it may well be unethical.
Credit ABC 15 in Phoenix for breaking the story. On Monday, just hours before the release of the Benghazi Report, Clinton joined Lynch aboard her plane on the tarmac of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. The two reportedly met for 30 minutes. The meeting was unannounced and Lynch didn’t reveal the chat until reporters from ABC 15 brought it up at a press conference.
“I did see President Clinton at the Phoenix airport,” she admitted. “As I was leaving and he spoke to myself and my husband on the plane. Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren. It was primarily social and about our travels. He mentioned the golf he played in Phoenix.”
Lynch insisted the two did not discuss the ongoing FBI probe.
“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.”
The conservative Twittersphere reacted with a collective, “Yeah, right.” Here’s just one sample of many offered by Twitchy, under the title “Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch TOTALLY didn’t talk about -you-know-what during their private convo (suuure)”
— Joel Engel (@joelengel) June 29, 2016
To be fair, Clinton and Lynch do have history. It was President Clinton who in 1999 appointed Lynch to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. (She left there in 2001 to the powerful DC-based legal firm Hogan & Hartson, now Hogan Lovells, whose lawyers include Robert Bennett, most famous for representing Clinton during his impeachment ordeal. President Obama reappointed her U.S. Attorney in 2010 before tapping her America’s top law enforcement officer late in 2014.)
However, as a respected prosecutor who even Republican Rudy Giuliani praised as an “extraordinary appointment,” Lynch had to know a “social” meeting with Bill Clinton would raise legal eyebrows. Lynch has already said she is engaged in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server, and there are reports the FBI has opened a second investigation centered around the former secretary of state’s official activities and the Clinton Foundation. According to The Daily Caller News Foundation, this second investigation is “reportedly focused on allegations of “pay-to-play” efforts in which Clinton traded policy or other official actions in return for contributions by foreign donors to the foundation.” The DCNF recently uncovered a new filing by the Clinton Foundation in New York listing some $17.7 million in foreign donations during the time Hillary was in office.
So if this report of a second investigation is true, Lynch was not only meeting with the spouse of a subject she is investigating, she met with a man who himself could be a target.
Stream legal expert Rachel Alexander, herself a former prosecutor, found the talk on the tarmac “unbelievable.” She cited the National District Attorneys Association National Prosecution Standards and its section on conflict of interest. Subsection 1 reads:
Conflict Avoidance A prosecutor should not hold an interest or engage in activities, financial or otherwise, that conflict, have a significant potential to create conflict, or are likely to create a reasonable appearance of conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the prosecutor’s office.
Clearly, hanging out for half-an-hour in an airplane is already creating a “reasonable appearance of conflict,” even if Lynch is honoring her promise to be impartial and independent when deciding whether to charge Hillary Clinton.
“Simply put,” says Dan Abrams at LawNewz.com, “it just looks bad.”
Then again, what if, out of respect for a former president, the Attorney General wanted to deliver bad news in person? That’s certainly as plausible as parking on a hot runway an extra half hour just to coo over pictures of Bill and Hillary’s bouncing baby grandson. (For more from the author of “Bill Clinton Meets Privately With Attorney General to Talk Golf and Grandkids?” please click HERE)