Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she "fully expects" to endorse the recommendations of career prosecutors and FBI agents investigating the security of Hillary Clinton's email server, but stopped short of recusing herself from the politically charged case.
In an interview in Aspen, Colo., Lynch said she regrets that her unscheduled meeting with former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac this week has "cast a shadow" over the investigation into his wife's email practices at the State Department.
"The most important thing for me, as the attorney general, is the integrity of this Department of Justice," Lynch said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "And the fact that the meeting I had is now casting a shadow over how people are going to view that work is something I take seriously, and deeply, and painfully."
Lynch insisted the chat with Bill Clinton was focused on grandchildren and golf. But, she said, "I certainly wouldn't do it again."
The practical implications of the attorney general's announcement are perhaps less than meets the eye. In the vast majority of federal investigations, the nation's top prosecutor rarely weighs in, let alone overrules the judgment of lower-level lawyers and agents.
Indeed, Lynch said even before her airport conversation Monday that she has not been briefed on the "nuts and bolts" of the email investigation, and she could offer no evaluation as to when the investigation might end.
That's a matter of heightened political sensitivity, given that Hillary Clinton is preparing to accept her party's nomination for the White House at the Democratic National Convention later this month.
Her likely political opponent, Donald J. Trump, told ABC News that Bill Clinton's meeting with the attorney general was not "ethical." Trump said the chat contributed to his case that the system is "rigged."
But Republican lawmakers cited the appearance of impropriety about the airport meeting in calling for a special prosecutor to lead the email investigation.
Both Lynch and FBI Director James Comey have testified on Capitol Hill that they want the investigation to be handled promptly and thoroughly.
Clinton has said she is "100 percent confident" she has nothing to fear from the criminal probe of the State Department emails. Her close aides have already sat for FBI interviews.
As for the attorney general, she told the audience in Aspen that she wishes her predecessor, Eric Holder, had let her know about the location of the lock on the government plane before she took the keys at Justice.