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By Timothy M. Phelps and Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT)

WASHINGTON — Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., according to a person with knowledge of the search. Lynch would be the first African American woman to serve as attorney general.

President Barack Obama is not expected to announce his choice before leaving for an eight-day trip to Asia on Sunday.

Lynch, 55, is a longtime federal prosecutor who has the unusual distinction of serving in her current job twice: She was U.S. attorney for two years under President Bill Clinton, and was disappointed that she was not reappointed by President George W. Bush. Obama reappointed her in 2010.

In contrast to other U.S. attorneys in New York, Lynch has shunned the limelight, rarely giving news conferences or interviews.

For that reason she is a relative unknown outside her district. But she came to prominence in New York in the late 1990s as the supervisor of the team that successfully prosecuted two police officers for the sexual assault with a broomstick of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. Three other officers were acquitted.

Lynch grew up in Greensboro, N.C., the daughter of a Baptist minister and a school librarian. She graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Lynch has solid liberal credentials, having been associated with the Legal Aid Society in New York and the Brennan Center for Justice, named for former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., a liberal lion.

But she has establishment credentials as well, including serving on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Her low profile should make her potential confirmation easier than for some other candidates for the job, such as Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who drew repeated criticism from Republicans when he ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

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