Since the first reports surfaced that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, her campaign has relentlessly assured the public that she was not the focus of any suspicions of wrongdoing. Just a routine security analysis, they claimed. Nothing to see here. Perfectly normal.
Anyone with half a brain cell knew there was more to it than that, but new reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times suggest that even those Americans who are standing by Clinton could have fresh cause for concern. In both articles, the inquiry is described as a “criminal investigation.” And according to the Post, the FBI has granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton staffer who helped her set up the private server in 2009.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the Justice Department will indict the former secretary of state. It doesn’t even necessarily mean they will find evidence that she committed a crime. But there’s no question at this point that there are looking to determine exactly that.
“There was wrongdoing,” an anonymous former law enforcement official told the Post. “But was it criminal wrongdoing?”
That’s what the FBI is trying to determine, and it casts a long shadow over her ascending presidential campaign. On the other side, Republicans are groaning about Donald Trump’s civil lawsuit, wondering what it will look like to have their nominee testify in court on the run-up to November. And granted, that’s not great when it comes to “optics,” as President Obama might say. But when you compare it to Clinton’s situation, it’s completely trivial. She’s under investigation for possibly violating the law and jeopardizing national security. There’s just no comparison.
In all likelihood, this case hinges on one thing and one thing only: Did Clinton’s mishandling of classified information have any real-world effects? That she mishandled the information is already known. More than 2,000 emails have already been marked classified. 23 have been marked Top Secret.
For anyone else, that would be enough right there. But since Clinton is expected to be the Democratic nominee for president, and since she was part of the Obama administration, the Justice Department is going to need more if they want to bring charges. They’re going to have to find evidence that Clinton’s negligence caused classified information to fall into the wrong hands.
But for voters, what we know already should be sufficient to disqualify Clinton as a viable candidate.