Obama’s nominee defends legality of immigration orders

Prosecutor picked to be attorney general grilled over president’s executive actions

Loretta Lynch listens to a question during her confirmation hearing before the Senate judiciary committee. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Loretta Lynch listens to a question during her confirmation hearing before the Senate judiciary committee. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general has defended the legality of the president’s executive orders bypassing Congress to protect illegal immigrants from deportation.

Facing tough questions from Republican senators, who used her confirmation hearing to challenge Mr Obama’s use of executive actions on immigration, Loretta Lynch said she had read the Justice Department’s legal opinion supporting his proposals.

“I don’t see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views,” Ms Lynch, a federal prosecutor, told the Senate judiciary committee. She was referring to the legal justification that covers Mr Obama’s orders shielding more than four million illegal immigrants from deportation.

If confirmed, Ms Lynch would be the first African-American woman to be appointed attorney general, the country’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer.

In the first high-profile confirmation hearing of a presidential nominee since Republicans took control of Congress this month, Ms Lynch sought to break from the confrontational relationship that Obama’s current attorney general, Eric Holder, had with Republicans.

During six years on the job, Mr Holder has riled Republicans over his liberal policies and outspoken manner. They have accused him of politicising the office.

Tenacious prosecutor

North Carolina

Asked about whether she would question Mr Obama in his actions, Ms Lynch said she would uphold the objectivity and independence of the role of attorney general.

“I have to be willing to tell not just my friends but my colleagues ‘no’ if the law requires it. That would include the president of the United States, ” she said.

Ms Lynch told Republican Senator Lindsey Graham that the death penalty was an “effective penalty”.

Responding to a question from Democrat Pat Leahy, she said that waterboarding – a form of simulated drowning used in CIA interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects – was torture and “thus illegal”.