Lotta buzz about this answer in conservative media this afternoon, especially with Mitch McConnell demanding that the interview be released, but as best as I can tell it’s a rare example in which Hillary did get equal treatment from the feds. It’s longstanding FBI policy not to record interviews. Normal practice is for agents to jot notes during an interrogation and then summarize what was said in a Form 302, which you’ll hear John Mica mention here. Why would a federal agency eschew recordings in an age when A/V equipment is ubiquitous? Good question. A lot of civil libertarians have been asking that for a long time. The unhappy truth is that the feds don’t want an objective record of what was said so that, when the case goes to court, it’s the agent’s word against the suspect’s. That reality was so obnoxious that Eric Holder reversed the policy two years ago and permitted agents to begin recording interviews — of suspects who are in custody. Hillary was never in custody. She sat for her interview voluntarily. In fact, knowing how Trump and the GOP would use it against her, she almost certainly insisted that the interview not be recorded as a condition of her agreeing to it. (Did anyone ask Comey about that today?)
We’re going to end up stuck with the Form 302 as a record of what happened, although that’ll be interesting in itself in terms of how specific or vague it is. If it’s a detailed summary of the interview, that’s one thing. If it’s a three-sentence whitewash to the effect that “Secretary Clinton answered our questions satisfactorily,” that’s something else. The deeper question here is this: In what way should Hillary Clinton be treated as any ol’ potential suspect and in what way should be held to a higher standard because of her high-ranking position in government? Should the interview have been taped in this case in the interest of accountability in a matter touching on national security or should it not have been taped because that’s how the FBI usually handles these things? The same question came up this morning as an undertone to Trey Gowdy’s exchange with Comey. Should he have recommended charges for gross negligence because carelessness from an official as powerful as her is especially worrisome? Or did he do the right thing in not recommending charges because many lower-ranking officials who were grossly negligent weren’t charged and it’d be wrong to treat her differently? It’s a bitter irony that the feds’ policy of not recording interviews, which is designed to put criminal defendants at a legal disadvantage, ended up here creating a political advantage for Hillary Clinton in denying her opponents material to use against her. An irony, but perhaps not a coincidence.
Exit question: Should we draw any inferences about Hillary’s intent from this?