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Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch Emerges As Lead Attorney General Candidate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch has emerged as the leading choice to be the next attorney general, but President Barack Obama does not plan to make a nomination until after a trip to Asia next week.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama has not made a decision and the president told inquiring reporters that he'd let them know when he makes a decision.

People with knowledge of his thinking say he does not plan to announce a choice before returning from a trip to Asia next week and will leave it up to the Republican-controlled Senate to vote on the choice in 2015.

Sources told CBS2 Lynch has risen to the top of the president's list to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder in the past couple of weeks.

Lynch Emerges As Lead Attorney General Candidate

Officials close to the selection process said Obama had narrowed his list of contenders down to three: Lynch, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, CBS News reported earlier this week.

Lynch is the U.S. attorney for Eastern New York -- which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island. She also held the position she also held under President Bill Clinton.

She grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina and began her career as a federal prosecutor in 1990. While a chief assistant U.S. attorney, she was on the trial team in one of the most sensational police brutality cases in city history, the broomstick torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a precinct bathroom.

She originally served as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn from 1999 to 2001 before entering private practice. She returned to the position in 2010 and was appointed to the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, a position that required her to spend more time in Washington and drew her closer to Holder.

During her second tenure at one of the country's busiest federal districts, Lynch's office has won convictions in a thwarted, al Qaeda sanctioned plot to attack New York City subways, and charged the head of a Mexican drug cartel with 12 murders. More recently, her office brought tax evasion charges against Republican Congressman Michael Grimm that's scheduled to go to trial next year.

Lynch Emerges As Lead Attorney General Candidate

She's also overseen bank fraud and other public corruption cases and charged reputed mobster Vincent Asaro and his associates for the 36-year-old heist of $6 million in cash and jewelry from a Lufthansa Airlines vault at Kennedy Airport, dramatized in the blockbuster movie "Goodfellas.''

Lynch is seen as having little baggage or controversy as Republicans are promising tough scrutiny after years of battles with the long-serving Holder.

Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Obama's expected choice in a statement on Friday.

"President Obama has chosen a great New Yorker as the country's highest-ranking law enforcement official. The nation is about to meet Loretta Lynch for the first time—but in the five boroughs, she is already known for her character, toughness and uncompromising sense of justice. She has never been afraid to hold those in power accountable under the law, or to fight for those facing inequity," de Blasio said in the statement. "I urge the Senate to recognize Loretta as the accomplished and respected leader she is, and confirm her as Attorney General."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also lauded Lynch as the anticipated choice.

"U.S. Attorney Lynch is a trailblazer who has served the public with distinction in her current role under two presidents. She has earned a well-deserved reputation as an aggressive but fair prosecutor, who has used her office to seek justice through both criminal and civil proceedings," Cuomo said in the statement. "I am confident that U.S. Attorney Lynch will bring those same qualities to her new position as our country's top law enforcement official."

The current attorney general is close to Lynch and appointed her as chair of the committee that advises him on policy. Since Lynch is unfamiliar to many on Capitol Hill, senators will have to quickly get up to speed on her record.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have told the White House it would be difficult to win confirmation before they turn over the gavel at the end of the year, especially considering all the other competing priorities they are trying to complete while they are in power.

If selected, she would be the first black female attorney general. Florida's Janet Reno was the first woman attorney general.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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