A transcript of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s congressional testimony about her infamous June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton suggests it was not happenstance but a forced encounter by the 42nd president.
RealClearInvestigations reporter Eric Felten had a chance to review the transcript of Lynch’s testimony before the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees, which took place behind closed doors last December, and concluded Clinton likely knew full well what he was doing when he boarded Lynch’s plane at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix.
The timing was highly suspect with his wife, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, just days away from being interviewed by the FBI regarding for her handling of classified information.
KNXV-TV morning anchor Christopher Sign, who broke the tarmac story, asked Lynch about the encounter the following day, and the then-attorney general confirmed she had seen Bill Clinton.
“Our conversation was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social about our travels, and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix,” Lynch said June 28, 2016, while speaking at the Phoenix Police Department.
KNXV noted the meeting also took place just hours before the release of the congressional Benghazi report.
Lynch assured the public that she and Clinton did not discuss topics pending before the Department of Justice.
“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,” she said. “By way of example, I would say it was current news of the day, the Brexit decision and what it would mean.”
Sign told RealClearInvestigations there is no indication that Clinton played golf while he was in Phoenix, casting some doubt about the former chief executive’s intentions.
“To this day I have never found a single person who claims or corroborates any story that Bill Clinton played golf on this particular trip,” Sign said. “I feel strongly the former president did not play golf on this visit.”
According to RealClearInvestigations, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported that during Clinton’s day in Phoenix, he attended several campaign fundraisers.
Clinton told IG investigators he debated with his chief of staff whether it was a good idea to engage Lynch at the airport.
“I just wanted to say ‘hello’ to her and I thought it would look really crazy if we were living in [a] world [where] I couldn’t shake hands with the Attorney General, you know, when she was right there,” he is quoted as saying in the IG report.
Lynch stuck to her account that she and Clinton did not discuss pending DOJ topics when she testified before Congress in December, Felten reported.
She told lawmakers she did not really have time to think about whether it was wise to meet with Clinton before he invited himself on her plane.
Lynch related that of the 20 or so minutes the meeting reportedly lasted, the two specifically spoke about 10 minutes. Clinton also chatted with her security detail, the flight crew and her husband.
During their conversation, Lynch said, Clinton asked her about her recent travels and what brought her to Phoenix, and they discussed what he had been doing in town.
“And at one point, I said: ‘Well, you know, thank you very much. It’s lovely seeing you. We have to move on,’” she said, but Clinton kept talking. “He made a comment about where he was headed to next and started talking about his next location. He finished that anecdote. I don’t recall what it was about.”
According to Lynch, he wouldn’t take repeated hints that she wanted to get going until finally an aide came on the plane and rescued her.
“Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Lynch was not lying to Congress,” wrote Felten. “If so, it seems to have dawned on her rather late that Clinton had compromised her, had put her in a jam.
“What if that’s exactly what he set out to do? It would explain the ex-president’s otherwise inexplicable behavior — how one of the great glad-handers of all time leapt onto a plane in order to bore everyone to death.”
Clinton is quoted as saying in the IG report: “I don’t know whether I’m more offended that they think I’m crooked or that they think I’m stupid.”
Felten argued Clinton, who had served as attorney general of Arkansas before becoming the state’s governor, “was anything but clueless.”
“In the wake of that bravura performance, Lynch had to convene working groups to determine whether she needed to recuse herself from the Hillary probe,” Felten recounted. “She would ultimately decide against recusal, but said she would accept the decision of career staff and the FBI on whether to prosecute.
“What a mess. And what a splendidly innocent way of causing mayhem and conveying menace. Give Bill Clinton his due — the man is no amateur.”
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