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Sen. Mark Kirk says he will support nomination of Loretta Lynch for attorney general

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Thursday he would support Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general after the two shared a productive talk about combating Chicago gang violence, adding further momentum to her long-delayed nomination.

Kirk made his remarks during a City Club of Chicago luncheon. It came in response to a question from an audience member, who stressed Lynch’s nomination had been in limbo for 140 days.

Kirk said he met with Lynch on March 11 and spoke with her about giving “tangible federal support to the city of Chicago to crush criminal gangs.”

“Loretta did a pretty good job with me and because she is so good on the subject, I’m going to vote for Loretta Lynch’s confirmation,” Kirk said, with many in the crowd clapping.

“I was hoping in talking to Loretta to get significant leverage with her, to work with us to wipe out the gang problem of Chicagoland. . . . I want to recover our spirit that we had in 1929 when we came together and crushed the Capone organization. That was the key to unlocking Chicago’s 20th century economy,” Kirk later told reporters.

Kirk said he has set aside $20 million in the Senate appropriations process to fight gangs, including overtime and equipment for U.S. marshals to try to eradicate large sections of the Gangster Disciples, who have about 18,000 members in the state. Kirk said he’d like to reduce the gang’s 50 factions into a much smaller number.

In a statement later released by Kirk’s office, the senator said he’s confident Lynch will be a “valuable partner in confronting violence that is robbing families of their children every day in Chicago.”

The two also spoke about employing the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act to criminally prosecute gang leaders.

Earlier in the week, Lynch’s nomination had gained a boost on Wednesday after Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he would support the highly respected federal prosecutor from New York. With Menendez’s support on Wednesday, along with a few GOP senators already backing Lynch, her vote total had come to 50, enough to confirm her with Vice President Joe Biden breaking the tie. It had previously been unclear if Menendez would recuse himself from a vote on Lynch because he was indicted Wednesday on federal corruption charges.

Before Thursday, Kirk had been one of the few GOP senators who had not publicly commented on whether he would support Lynch.

Most GOP senators have said they oppose her nomination because of comments she made that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration are legal. Obama nominated Lynch in November to replace Eric Holder.