WASHINGTON— Thabiso Sithole, a sports reporter with the South African Broadcasting Corp., had just finished his Wednesday evening segment on the American indictments that had rocked international soccer when his cousin called.
“Who is this Loretta Lynch person?” she said.
Lynch, less than one month into her job as attorney general, captured the world’s attention this week when she vowed to rid FIFA, soccer’s governing body, of corruption. Her news conference this week was watched around the world and made her the face of the U.S. government’s crackdown on some of the world’s most influential soccer officials.
“She’s been Googled more than a couple times here,” Sithole said. “It was interesting, from this side, that there’s a woman calling the shots for the U.S., and a black woman at that. In particular, going up against football, which is such a boys’ club.”
The Argentine newspaper La Nación introduced her as “the relentless attorney.” In Paris, Le Figaro called her “the woman who is rocking FIFA.” In Germany, she was simply called FIFA-Jaegerin – the FIFA hunter.
The FIFA indictment capped a month in which Lynch launched a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department and slapped Wall Street banks with billions of dollars in fines for manipulating currency markets. It was the most high-profile debut for a new attorney general since at least 2001, when John Ashcroft accused Robert P. Hanssen, a veteran FBI agent, of being a spy for Moscow in one of the most serious espionage cases in a generation.
In an interview this week, Lynch demurred when asked about her role in leading the investigation. Law enforcement officials say she was steeped in the details and involved in every major decision, but did not seize control from the prosecutors and agents who supervised it. Lynch said she did not stay awake to monitor the arrests of senior FIFA officials in Zurich, leaving it instead in the hands of prosecutors and FBI agents.
“I let my people do their thing,” she said. “And it’s an excellent staff.”