Asked what she was thinking in allowing such a meeting to occur — with its predictably negative optics — Lynch played down the interaction.
"He said hello and we basically said hello, and I congratulated him on his grandchildren — as people tend to do. And that led to a conversation about those grandchildren, who do sound great, and that led to a conversation about his travels, and he told me what he was doing in Phoenix and various things, and then we spoke about former Attorney General Janet Reno," she said. "But it really was a social meeting, and it really was in that regard: He spoke to me, he spoke to my husband for some time on the plane, and then we moved on."
Still, Lynch acknowledged how the meeting could give the appearance of impropriety.
"I do think that no matter how I viewed it, I understand how people view it, and I think that because of that and because of the fact that it has now cast a shadow over how this case may be perceived, no matter how it's resolved, it's important to talk about how it will be resolved," Lynch said. "It's important to make it clear that that meeting with President Clinton does not have a bearing on how this matter is going to be reviewed, resolved and accepted by me — because that is the question that it raises."
Lynch avoided a question about whether she regrets not immediately separating herself from Clinton, saying instead that she "certainly wouldn't do it again."
A Justice official told the Associated Press that "determinations as to whether to charge any individual, as well as the findings of the investigation, will be made by career prosecutors and investigators."
Lynch said she was not able to estimate when the case's findings and determination would be made public because she does not have insight "into the nuts and bolts of the investigation at this point in time."
—CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld contributed to this report.