E-mail probe: Clinton faces serious political outcomes

2016-03-04 21:15
A woman shows off her signed campaign poster after a Hillary Clinton r ally in Marshalltown. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

A woman shows off her signed campaign poster after a Hillary Clinton r ally in Marshalltown. (Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Washington - The Justice Department will have to decide whether Hillary Clinton or any of her subordinates could face legal consequences for her use of a private e-mail server, a decision whose timing has serious political repercussions.

The Obama administration is in the unenviable position of conducting an election-year probe that, no matter the outcome, will result in grievances about its impact on the presidential election. Clinton has emerged from this week's Super Tuesday primaries as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

One year ago, The Associated Press reported its discovery of Clinton's private e-mail server, which she ran in the basement of her home in New York, to use exclusively for her work-related e-mails while she was secretary of state.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has indicated he plans to target Clinton over the e-mail investigations. Trump said Thursday he looked forward to running against Clinton, "assuming she's allowed to run, assuming she's not arrested for the e-mail situation".

The FBI for months has investigated whether sensitive information that flowed through Clinton's e-mail server was mishandled. The State Department has acknowledged that some e-mails included classified information, including at the top-secret level, though Clinton has said she never sent or received anything that was marked classified at the time. The inspectors general at the State Department and the US intelligence community are separately investigating whether rules or laws were broken.

"The best the Justice Department can do is try to accept that there will be political noise no matter what, and try to figure out what makes the most sense from their institutional perspective," said Stephen Vladeck, an American University law professor and national security expert who has followed the case.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department has granted immunity to the staffer who set up the server, Bryan Pagliano, so that he would be willing to speak with investigators. Pagliano had previously asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to refuse to answer questions from lawmakers investigating the server setup.

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, Brian Fallon, said the campaign is pleased Pagliano is co-operating. Fallon said Clinton herself has offered to meet with investigators.

Though it's extraordinary for a presidential candidate to be implicated in a federal investigation, there are instances of it happening to elected officials during campaigns.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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