Obama picks Brooklyn prosecutor Lynch for attorney general

By Aruna Viswanatha and Roberta Rampton WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will nominate Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace the retiring Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general and if confirmed, she would become the first black woman to serve in the post, the White House said on Friday. The 55-year-old North Carolina native and Harvard-trained lawyer has deep experience in both civil rights and corporate fraud cases. Lynch is known for a low-key personality and stirred little controversy during two tenures as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Her nomination requires Senate confirmation. The Senate twice previously has voted to confirm her to federal prosecutor jobs, the last time in 2010. In a statement, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called Lynch "a strong, independent prosecutor" and said Obama would formally announce her nomination to be the nation's top law enforcement official at an event in the White House Roosevelt Room on Saturday. Obama, the first black U.S. president, named Holder as the first black attorney general in 2009. Holder announced in September that he would resign. With Holder leaving after six years on the job, Obama picked Lynch, who is not a member of the president's inner circle, as the first black woman for the job. Sources close to the Obama administration said they expect Lynch will generate little controversy, making for a smooth Senate confirmation process. The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, said she will "will receive a very fair, but thorough, vetting" by the panel. "I'm hopeful that her tenure, if confirmed, will restore confidence in the Attorney General as a politically independent voice for the American people," Grassley said. Her nomination would be one of the first big changes for Obama to announce after Republicans won control of the Senate in congressional elections on Tuesday. Lynch was one of several candidates Holder had recommended to succeed him. Lynch emerged as a leading contender after a previous top choice, former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, pulled out of consideration amid concerns her involvement in controversial Obama administration decisions could complicate her confirmation. Holder, one of Obama's closest allies, has had a rocky tenure as attorney general. He clashed frequently with congressional Republicans over gun control, same-sex marriage, and a desire to try terrorism suspects in civilian instead of military courts. In one 2011 email released earlier this week, Holder referred to Republican members of the House Oversight Committee chaired by Darrell Issa as "Issa and his idiot cronies." Lynch, born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Lynch earned her college and law degrees at Harvard, worked in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office between 1990 and 2001, and served in the top post from 1999-2001 and since 2010. She developed a close relationship with Holder through her work on the attorney general's advisory committee, which she has chaired since the beginning of 2013. In her first stint in the U.S. Attorney's office she worked on the prosecution of New York police officers who were convicted in connection with the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, an incident that became a national symbol for police brutality. More recently, her office has brought several high-profile cases, including the indictment, in April, of Republican U.S. Representative Michael Grimm for fraud. Her office has worked closely with Justice Department headquarters on several big corporate fraud cases, and helped investigate Citigroup Inc over shoddy mortgage securities the bank sold, which led the bank to enter into a $7 billion settlement in July. Lynch's office also was involved in the December 2012 $1.2 billion accord with HSBC over the bank's lapses in its anti-money laundering controls. Prosecutors in Brooklyn are also investigating a member of Putin's inner circle, Gennady Timchenko, in connection with an oil trading and money laundering probe. (Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Julia Edwards; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)