U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has stepped away from deciding whether Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be charged in the classified email investigation, following outrage over the AG's private Monday meeting with Bill Clinton, the justice department announced Friday morning.
The news comes in the wake of accusations that the Obama appointee has a conflict of interest in the case, after she met with the former president on her government plane while on the tarmac of Phoenix, Arizona's Sky Harbor Airport on Monday.
She reportedly will accept recommendations from career prosecutors and the FBI instead of being part of the decision-making process herself.
Lynch will discuss the decision during a previously-scheduled conversation Friday morning at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an anonymous DOJ official said.
Normally, the AG and other DOJ officials would have the final say in bringing charges in an investigation, but Monday’s 30 minute meeting is thought to have led to the change in protocol.
Although Lynch stressed the two did not discuss official business, she was accused of impropriety and and urged to recuse herself.
“When I first heard that... I actually thought they were joking,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday on the Fox News Channel program Hannity. “I’m just flabbergasted by it. I think it’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Clinton's primary opponent Bernie Sanders said on CBS News in May that voters should take a "hard look" at a State Department audit on the matter, but it was not enough to sway them away from the former Secretary of State, who is leading in the delegate count.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein told the Observer two weeks ago, “This is sort of typical Hillary Clinton; to do things that are not legal, to say that they are, and then try to cover them up. Hillary Clinton severely chastised other whistleblowers for using Internet channels that were not secure and yet she herself was doing that with private, high level state department information.”
Lynch's decision is a departure from previous investigations. When President Obama's former CIA director David Petraeus was investigated for leaking classified documents to his biographer and girlfriend, the FBI recommended felony charges, but Lynch's predecessor, Obama appointee Eric Holder, changed it to a misdemeanor.
The investigation has been examining Clinton’s use of a private email server in her home while she was the country's top diplomat to determine whether she or anyone on her team broke the law by setting it up or sending classified information through it.