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Lynch brings 'substance,' not 'flash,' Obama says of his nominee for attorney general

President Barack Obama listens as U.S. Attorney Loretta

President Barack Obama listens as U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch speaks after Obama nominated Lynch to be the Attorney General,Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in the White House in Washington. Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama formally announced Saturday that he will nominate Loretta Lynch, the chief federal prosecutor for Long Island and three New York City boroughs, as attorney general, saying, "It's pretty hard to be more qualified for this job than Loretta."

Standing between Lynch and retiring Attorney General Eric Holder in a packed Roosevelt Room at the White House, Obama cited her intelligence and leadership qualities and, noting her low-key profile, said, "She is not about flash, she is about substance."

He drew laughter by adding, "Loretta might be the only lawyer in America who battles mobsters and drug lords and terrorists, and still has the reputation for being a charming 'people person.' "

Obama made the announcement in front of about 50 of her family members, friends and colleagues, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vet her.

Obama called on the Senate to confirm her without delay.

Republicans say the confirmation vote should be next year in the new Congress when they will control the Senate.

So far, Republicans have not attacked her selection. Rudy Giuliani, the Republican former New York City mayor and onetime U.S. attorney, called her a good choice because she's professional, not political.

The scheduling for Lynch's confirmation hearing and vote is still being determined, according to a Democratic Senate source.

Lynch, 55, the granddaughter of a sharecropper and a graduate of Harvard's college and law school, would be the first black woman and second woman to be attorney general if confirmed.

Obama cited her prosecution of terrorism, financial fraud and crime, and her defense of civil rights. He noted what he called one of "her proudest achievements" -- prosecuting police officers involved in the brutal 1997 assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

"Throughout her 30-year career, she has distinguished herself as tough, as fair, an independent lawyer who has twice headed one of the most prominent U.S. attorney's offices in the country," he said.

For two years under President Bill Clinton in 1999-2001 and since 2010 under Obama, Lynch has served as the top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.

Lynch, who smiled broadly during much of the introduction, thanked Obama for his faith in her.

"The Department of Justice is the only cabinet department named for an ideal," she said. "Today, I stand before you so thrilled and, frankly, so humbled to have the opportunity to lead this group of wonderful people who work all day and well into the night to make that ideal a manifest reality."

Obama thanked Holder, the first black attorney general, who focused on civil rights but has tangled with Republican lawmakers during the past six years.

"Eric brought to this job a belief that justice isn't just an abstract theory, but a living, breathing principle," he said.

"So thanks to Eric, our nation is safer and freer, and more Americans -- regardless of race or religion, or gender or creed, or sexual orientation or disability -- receive fair and equal treatment under the law," Obama said.

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