In a story published Thursday, Catherine Herridge of Fox News added incrementally to what we know about the ongoing investigation, but the buried lede may be word of the current mood at the FBI. Herridge quotes an unnamed source with knowledge of the investigation who tells her career professionals at the FBI, “will be angry and walk off if no indictment recommendation is followed through.”
That certainly makes it sound as if some portion of the FBI–presumably those with knowledge of the case–think there is enough evidence to recommend prosecution (of someone). They wouldn’t be ready to “walk off” unless they were pretty certain the evidence supported their conclusion. And, reading a bit more between the lines, it seems there is some impatience in the ranks to go ahead and conclude the matter in the way these professionals have already concluded is warranted.
At some point the FBI needs to either move on the recommendation for prosecution or announce they won’t be recommending any prosecution. A recommendation to prosecute someone close to Clinton would not knock her out of the race but it would add to public’s doubts about her overall honesty. And of course if the recommendation were to target Clinton herself that would be a game-changer which could swing votes toward Sanders or convince someone on the sidelines that now is the time to jump in the race. Whatever the case, it would be better to have the information out sooner rather than later.
The rest of Herridge’s report suggests the probe is expanding to involve career DOJ attorneys:
Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed to Congress Wednesday that career Justice Department attorneys are working with FBI agents on the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices and the handling of classified material.
Legal experts say the assignment of career Justice Department attorneys to the case shows the FBI probe has progressed beyond the initial referral, or “matured,” giving agents access to the U.S. government’s full investigative tool box, including subpoena power for individuals, business or phone records, as well as witnesses.
You may recall that when the FBI referral was initially made by the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community last year it was described by the New York Times as a criminal investigation. That description was not supposition on the part of the NY Times, it was confirmed by unnamed sources believed to be inside the Justice Department. Other news organizations got the same confirmations when they asked.
A day later the story had changed. The NY Times was forced to back away from the description of a “criminal investigation” after DOJ clarified they had received a “security referral.” A spokesperson for the IG’s office told me the difference between a security referral and a criminal referral last year. A security referral involves possible mishandling of classified information, in this case sending highly classified material over an unclassified email system. That differs from a criminal referral which is generally directed at a specific individual.
Natually, Clinton’s allies in the media swarmed over the error by the NY Times but even a security referral to the FBI is premised on possible criminal conduct, meaning that in the end the result of either referral could be a recommendation for prosecution. It certainly sounds as if some career staff at the FBI already think that is warranted.