“I don’t think it sends the right signal. I think she should have steered clear even of a brief, casual, social meeting with the former president,” said Delaware Senator Chris Coons, who was the most outspoken Democrat criticizing the meeting that took place on June 28, in an interview on CNN on Thursday.
The Delaware Senator later took back his criticism, issuing a statement praising the Attorney General.
“Senator Coons, as a member of the Senate Judiciary committee, knows Attorney General Lynch, has worked with her and believes that she is honest and trustworthy,” Coons spokesperson Jonathan Kott told Politico.
Former campaign adviser to President Obama David Axelrod said in a tweet that he took Lynch and Clinton “at their word,” but that it was “foolish to create such optics.”
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 30, 2016
Other Democrats, however, gave full throated defenses of Lynch.
Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Reid’s presumptive successor Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) both praised the Attorney General and defended her account of the meeting.
“She has said nothing was discussed related to the investigation,” said Schumer to reporters on Capitol Hill. “So you have two choices: to say this didn’t matter or that she’s lying. I think that it didn’t matter. I don’t think she lying.”
Lynch said in a press conference that the 30 minute meeting between her and Clinton in an airplane and on the tarmac at Phoenix airport was “primarily social,” and said that they discussed grandchildren, golf, and their respective travels.
“There was no discussion of any matter pending for the department or any matter pending for any other body. There was no discussion of Benghazi, no discussion of the State Department emails, by way of example,” Lynch said.
Following the criticism of the meeting, Lynch said that she would follow the recommendations by the FBI, which is investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The White House deflected questions addressing the private meeting.
“I wasn’t there for the meeting,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest when asked during a press briefing whether President Obama approved of the attorney general’s meeting with the former president.
The Democrat’s response is in stark contrast with the response by the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump who pointed to the meeting as an example of a “rigged system.”
“Does anybody really believe that meeting was just a coincidence?” he wrote in a tweet.
Take a look at what happened w/ Bill Clinton. The system is totally rigged. Does anybody really believe that meeting was just a coincidence?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2016
Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) echoed the criticism, saying in a tweet that the meeting was a conflict of interest and that she “cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict.”
Lynch & Clinton: Conflict of interest? An attorney,cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict.
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) June 30, 2016