The FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s potential violations of the Espionage Act with her private email server were “angered” by President Obama’s attempt to defend her on national television, the New York Times reports.
“I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” Mr. Obama said Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” He said it was a mistake for Mrs. Clinton to use a private email account when she was secretary of state, but his conclusion was unmistakable: “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
Those statements angered F.B.I. agents who have been working for months to determine whether Ms. Clinton’s email setup had in fact put any of the nation’s secrets at risk, according to current and former law enforcement officials.
Investigators have not reached any conclusions about whether the information on the server had been compromised or whether to recommend charges, according to the law enforcement officials. But to investigators, it sounded as if Mr. Obama had already decided the answers to their questions and cleared anyone involved of wrongdoing.
The White House quickly backed off the president’s remarks and said Mr. Obama was not trying to influence the investigation. But his comments spread quickly, raising the ire of officials who saw an instance of the president trying to influence the outcome of a continuing investigation — and not for the first time.
If we weren’t so numb to lawlessness and politicized bureaucracy from seven years of Obama scandals, this would be a national outrage. The President just tried to influence the outcome of a criminal investigation, on behalf of a powerful Democrat politician. Of course, he loves to insert himself into politically useful criminal matters, while having nothing to say about politically damaging ones, such as sanctuary-city murders by illegal aliens.
Outrage requires at least a pinch of surprise, and Obama has so numbed the American people to corruption and the lawless exercise of power that it’s not surprising to watch him influence an active FBI investigation. As the Times notes later in its article, Obama made similar thoughtless – and, as it turned out, incorrect – comments when former CIA director David Petraeus was under investigation. Petraeus did have to face the music, but Obama’s politicized Justice Department arranged a misdemeanor plea bargain for him… even though he demonstrably lied to FBI agents during the investigation.
Unfortunately for Clinton, Obama’s effort to tip the scales on her behalf doesn’t seem to be working well. The White House was obliged to issue an extraordinary retraction of the President’s remarks, and the FBI agents working the case seem to be more inspired than ever.
As former FBI official Ron Hosko told the New York Times, “Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the F.B.I.’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case.”
Notice that in the White House walkback, spokesman Josh Earnest still tried to pump a little hot air into Clinton’s favorite narrative trial balloon, namely her contention that she knows more about what should be “classified” than everyone in the intelligence community combined, and was trying to correct the spy kids on their excessive zeal for securing documents.
“There’s a debate among national security experts, as part of their ongoing, independent review, about how or even whether to classify sections of those emails,” said Earnest. “But, as the president said, there is no evidence to indicate that the information in those emails endangered our national security.”
Earnest appears to have forgotten that one of the classification rules Clinton violated most promiscuously was an executive order signed by his boss, Barack Obama.
Also, classified documents are not defined as “something that will instantly destroy America if unauthorized people read it.” The standard for indictable violation of the Espionage Act does not require proof that the exposed information has been certified damaging to national security with 100 percent certainty by some secret tribunal.
One of the reasons violations of the classification system must be punished vigorously, without regard to the apparent significance of the documents years after the fact, is that people who handle such material must not get the idea they can make personal value judgments and disregard security markings they find excessive. No intelligence service can afford to send that signal. If Clinton gets away with it, the damage to national security in the future will be far worse than whatever Chinese and Russian hackers might have gotten by raiding her email server.
Fox News reports that a group of national security whistleblowers held a news conference on Thursday to denounce the double standard working for Clinton, and demand she be treated the same way they were. They noticed Obama’s effort to give her cover on 60 Minutes, too:
NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was indicted in 2010 under the Espionage Act for sharing unclassified material with a Baltimore Sun reporter. Drake, who also went to Congress with his concerns about the NSA, said his goal was to expose government misconduct.
“This is the secretary of state, one of the most targeted individuals by other intelligence entities and agencies in the world using a private server to traffic highly sensitive information and no doubt including classified information and no doubt including info about sources and methods,”Drake said at Thursday’s event.
He added the whistleblowers’ treatment shows there is a law for the average citizen, and apparently a different set of rules for the powerful.
“But hey, I’m secretary of state,” Drake said in a sarcastic tone. ”Even Obama gave her cover.”
Another whisteblower, former Justice Department ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack, brought up the Petraeus case, recalling how he “gave away more secret information, classified at a much higher level, to his mistress and received a sweetheart plea deal for a minor misdemeanor,” consequences she described as a mere “slap on the wrist.”
Fox also suggests that in addition to possible Espionage Act violations, the FBI might be considering obstruction-of-justice charges:
A former FBI agent, who is not involved in the case, said the inconsistent release of emails, with new documents coming to light from outside accounts, such as that of adviser Sidney Blumenthal, could constitute obstruction. In addition, Clinton’s March statement that there was no classified material on her private server has proven false, after more than 400 emails containing classified information were documented.
The FBI agents working on Clinton’s case are obviously justified in fearing political involvement. Unfortunately, there isn’t much they can do about it.
FBI Director James B. Comey likes to boast that “if you know my folks, they don’t give a rip about politics.” Doubtless that is true, but their hyper-political superiors at the Justice Department most certainly do, and they’re not likely to allow anything but the most ironclad case derail the Democrat frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination… unless they get a thumbs-up from the White House.
There are many ways this particular lightning bolt of scandal could be grounded, most obviously including the use of a few select Clinton aides as lightning rods. On the other hand, the description recently offered of the Espionage Act investigation makes it seem like the charges would be difficult to pin on underlings, given Clinton’s overall responsibility for creating the email system. Downgrading the consequences to a misdemeanor “slap on the wrist,” as with Petraeus, might not contain the political fallout in this case. “Vote Hillary 2016: She Was Only Indicted For Misdemeanor Offenses” isn’t much of a campaign slogan.
If the FBI decides to float some charges against Clinton, they had better have battleship armor, or else the same DOJ that swept Operation Fast and Furious under the rug is going to sink them. What Obama said on 60 Minutes might not have been aimed at the FBI, but rather intended to prepare the media battlespace for a high-level torpedoing of whatever case the agents come up with.