Way back in the Stone Age, when I was in the Army, I worked in Military Intelligence and had a Top Secret security clearance. Unless in the intervening decades the rules regarding the safeguarding of classified materials have become incredibly relaxed, there’s no doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton is unquestionably guilty of violating the applicable laws regarding the handling of such materials.
But I’m not interested in focusing in on that particular aspect of the matter. The news coverage has made much of the fact that the FBI and other investigative entities (inspectors-general, etc.) have been carrying out their own inquiries into these matters, and that the results may be referred to various prosecutorial bodies for criminal indictment and prosecution.
All of this has led to speculation of what would happen if the FBI (or another agency) made a criminal referral – meaning a submittal of the evidence with a recommendation that criminal prosecution take place – to the Justice Department (the appropriate agency as this is a federal matter), which is currently run by an Obama appointee, Attorney-General Loretta Lynch.
Clinton herself – a lawyer, it must be noted – has put forth two excuses for her actions. The first is that none of the material was “marked” with a classification when she illegally handled it through her private email server. This is legalese for saying “yes, I actually did it, but pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, because in reality the law itself doesn’t make any such distinction. If material is even POTENTIALLY classifiable it must be treated as if it IS classified until the matter is clarified and ultimately determined.
Her second excuse is the hoary time-worn Bill Clinton Era “vast right-wing conspiracy” nonsense. According to her, unnamed conspirators are ginning this entire controversy up to derail her presidential aspirations. The problem for her again, just as it was when her husband was President, is that it’s simply an absolutely ridiculous claim that would require completely unrelated – and beyond improbable – groups of people to coordinate their efforts, all while operating sub rosa, none of whom actually know each other, involving the press, government officials, elected officials, the FBI and all the hundreds of agents THERE working on the case, to coordinate their efforts while making sure that there’s not one single leak about the existence of such a conspiracy. Not to mention that such a conspiracy would have to include such conservative bastions as the New York Times, LA Times, CNN, and USA Today.
And, oh yeah… Fox News.
Now that we can leave Fantasy Land behind, let’s take a quick look at what these investigations mean in the REAL world.
If, as I expect, the FBI refers the case to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, Obama and his minions will be faced with three possible courses of action.
1. Submit the case to a Federal Grand Jury to secure an indictment, and prosecute Clinton on the charges. Perhaps appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case to avoid any appearance of impropriety. This would be the proper course to take, and regardless of the outcome Obama would immunize himself from accusations of favoritism or corruption. As Clinton herself stated during her January 17th debate with Bernie Sanders, no one is “too big to jail”. Certainly David Petraeus can attest to that fact, and his offenses were far less egregious.
2. Quash or ignore the criminal referral. Try to bury it. Exercise “prosecutorial discretion” and refuse to act on it. There are several problems for Obama and Lynch with this course of action. The most obvious is that it would rightly be seen as an act of pure politics, overtly corrupt in nature, and both Obama’s and Lynch’s reputations and legacies would be permanently tarred by such an act.
Had this scandal simply faded away over time, that tactic could have worked. As with other scandals in this administration, it would have become “old news” not worth pursuing, and it was “time for everyone to move on”. But that hasn’t happened, and at the rate the revelations just keep on dribbling out, I don’t think it ever will until some kind of action takes place as a result.
Further, there are a lot of people in the FBI, people of real principle, who won’t let the matter drop if the Obama people refuse to act on a legitimate criminal referral. I have no doubt that under those circumstances details would “leak” to the press and various congressmen. All of which would result in the sliming of Obama’s name along the lines of Nixon’s Watergate episode. Frankly, I don’t see an egotist like Obama allowing the actions of Clinton to affect his own perceived “legacy” in such a negative manner.
3. Obama could issue a blanket pardon. This action comes attached with all the negative implications for Obama of the previous option, with no upside for him. I think that it could still allow Clinton to legally continue her run for office, but I can’t imagine her actually getting anywhere as a pardoned felon, or even misdemeanant. As outrageously ambitious as she is, I think even she would withdraw from the race at that point. Even for Dem/socialists there are some things impossible to overlook or ignore, and a blanket presidential pardon for crimes of this nature is one of them. Her dream of becoming President would be dead.
In my estimation the fundamental underlying issue that’s going to determine how this matter proceeds is Obama’s own overarching self-interest and egotism in preserving his goal of being viewed favorably by history. Far from being a man who takes responsibility for the failures of those in his administration, he’s known for being quick to throw anyone under the bus if their actions reflect badly on him. I fully expect a prosecution to move forward.
This doesn’t bode at all well for Clinton’s political ambitions, but for once – in this instance – Obama’s ego actually could work to the benefit of the country as a whole. Even if it’s in spite of himself.
©Brian Baker 2016