FBI agents who have been investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send and receive classified information are livid with President Obama for undercutting a potential criminal case involving the Democratic frontrunner.
During his 60 Minutes interview broadcast last Sunday, the president said that, although Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server was a “mistake, he added “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
Agents told the New York Times that they had not finished their investigation and that “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.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. But Ron Hosko, a former senior F.B.I. official who retired in 2014 and is now the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, said it was inappropriate for the president to “suggest what side of the investigation he is on” when the F.B.I. is still investigating.
“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,” said Mr. Hosko, who maintains close contact with current agents.
Several current and former law enforcement officials, including those close to the investigation, expressed similar sentiments in separate interviews over several days. Most, however, did so only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The White House said Thursday that Mr. Obama was not commenting on the merits of the investigation, but rather was explaining why he believes the controversy over Mrs. Clinton’s emails has been overblown. The president, officials said, was merely noting that the emails that have been publicly released so far have not imperiled national security.
“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 Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. “But, as the president said, there is no evidence to indicate that the information in those emails endangered our national security.”
Note the parsing by Earnest. He did not say there was no classified information in the emails. He said there was no classified info that “endangered our national security.” No one asked him that question — he volunteered it.
In fact, everyone but the White House and State Department who have seen the emails in question say that some information was classified and that it should never have been exposed on a private server like that. This is the criminal activity the FBI is looking at. They are trying to determine if there was “gross negligence” on the part of Mrs. Clinton in handling the emails, thus violating the Espionage Act.
President Obama is a lawyer but this isn’t the first time he has offered comments on an ongoing FBI investigation. In 2012, he claimed in the case of General David Petraeus leaking information to a reporter who was writing his biography, “I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security.” At that time, the agents had the same beef with the president — that he may have prejudiced the case against Petraeus withe the political appointees at the Justice Department.
Even if career prosecutors at DoJ want to prosecute Hillary Clinton, it almost certainly isn’t going to happen. This is the most politicized Justice Department in history and most of us would be shocked that, when it’s all said and done, Hillary will be in the dock for anything