At one point in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private bathroom email server, reporters were able to coax an unnamed “FBI official” into saying that Hillary Clinton was “not the target” of the investigation. It’s a line which all of her defenders, including the White House, have stuck to like glue. But now the end days of this long process appear to be upon us and that line of defense is crumbling quickly. As The Hill reports, this process is developing pretty much in keeping with the standard FBI playbook, with Clinton’s closest allies having been interviewed shortly before the former Secretary of State herself will answer questions. And the last person you talk to is pretty much always “the target.”
“This certainly sends the signal that they are nearing an end to their investigation,” said Steven Levin, a former federal prosecutor and current partner at the law firm Levin & Curlett…
“Typically, the way we structure investigations when I was a federal prosecutor is that we would seek to interview the target last,” he said.
“As you begin to interview people who are extremely close to the target of an investigation — people who are considered confidantes … you typically interview those people towards the final stages of the investigation,” he added. “So that way if they tell you something that is contrary to something you’ve already learned, you can immediately challenge them on that information.”
Another former U.S. Attorney who has handled similar cases, Matthew Whitaker, was quoted as saying that investigators will be looking to see if there are any contradictions between Clinton’s answers and those of her aides and others involved with the installation and maintenance of the server. This won’t be an effort to gather new information because, “they’re only going to ask her questions that they know the answers to already.”
While this is yet another article which seeks to raise the question of whether Clinton “intended to violate the law” through her actions (which we discussed here previously) the authors did manage to speak with an experienced national security lawyer, Bradley Moss, who once again put this line of media defense to rest.
“[T]he extent to which the person intended to remove classified documents is irrelevant,” he said in an email to The Hill. “All that matters for strict legal purposes of culpability is whether the person, by virtue of their official position, came into possession of classified information and affirmatively removed the information to an unauthorized location (i.e., the private server). “
“Whether the person knew or suspected the information was classified is irrelevant.”
The truly curious aspect of the article from The Hill is that they chose to describe the comments from Bradley Moss as an indication that a perceived lack of intent, “might not necessarily get her off the hook from some misdemeanor charges.” I’m not sure which legal codes they’ve been reading, but a violation of 18 USC 793 is most assuredly not a misdemeanor. In fact it’s a felony, and one which is nestled in with other federal criminal codes which deal with spies. (Though a case such as this where there is no clear connection of the target to a foreign government shouldn’t be conflated with espionage.)
All in all, the analysts seem to have pegged this one correctly in terms of the timing at least. There have been many, many witnesses deposed, most recently including Huma Abedin and those who run in her very exclusive circle. Now Secretary Clinton herself will be questioned. At this point we’ve got to be near the end of the line. Then the only remaining question is whether or not James Comey has the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger and what the Justice Department will do with this hot potato if it lands in their lap less than two months before the Democrats name the target of this felony level national security investigation as their nominee to be the leader of the free world.