FBI interviewing Clinton aides about private server, Hillary is next

An afternoon exclusive from CNN. According to a story with three reporters in the byline, Huma Abedin and other Clinton aides have already been interviewed by the FBI in connection with the email investigation. Clinton herself will be interviewed in coming weeks. However, the big news is the claim in this story that, as of now, there is no prosecutable offense:

The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven’t found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law the U.S. officials say.

In recent weeks, multiple aides have been interviewed — some more than once, the officials said. A date for an FBI interview of Clinton has not been set, these officials said, but is expected in the coming weeks. Abedin has cooperated with the probe, the officials said. Lawyers for Abedin declined to comment. The officials say the interviews of Clinton and her aides would be a routine part of an investigation like this.

The probe remains focused on the security of the server and the handling of classified information and hasn’t expanded to other matters, the officials said. Spokesmen for the FBI and Justice Department declined to comment.

So is this over? Maybe so if this is accurate, but a few thoughts on the story. First, there’s the use of that word “willfully.” Since last year Hillary Clinton has been leaning on the claim that none of the material was “marked” classified, the implication being that even if it was classified she didn’t know it. Some observers claim that’s important legally and differentiates Clinton’s situation from that of General Petraeus. Petraeus was on tape saying he knew the material he showed his mistress was highly classified. Since there appears to be no similar recording of Clinton, she can claim she never knew there was a problem.

However, the law covering Clinton’s actions in this case also specifically mentions gross negligence which would seem to be the more appropriate category here. As you’ll see in the CNN clip below, there is apparently agreement that this private server should never have happened. Has the FBI decided she was negligent but not that negligent?

Second, there is no source named for this story but it does say the FBI and DOJ “declined to comment.” Speculating a bit here, the other agency that has been heavily involved in the process from the start is the State Department. The State Department has reliably taken Clinton’s side at every point, making their judgment somewhat suspect. Of course we can’t say for sure that’s where this is coming from but if it is then it’s little better than a press release from the Clinton camp.

Third, earlier this week Rep. Darrell Issa suggested there might be a “summary finding” about the email investigation before the election but that a second part of the investigation might continue well after the election. That analysis seems based on the assumption that the FBI is running a two-track investigation, something that Fox News Catherine Herridge reported to be the case back in January. Clinton denied that claim at the time and this CNN story says the probe “hasn’t expanded to other matters.” If that’s true then Rep. Issa and Fox News seem to have received some bad information.

Finally, we’ve seen Clinton’s camp (and the State Department is firmly in her camp) try to get ahead of negative stories before with statements that turn out to be false or at least unverifiable. For instance, last August when the FBI seized Clinton’s private server she put out a statement which said, “She directed her team to give her email server that was used during her tenure as Secretary to the Department of Justice…” That made it sound as if she was the one taking the initiative when, in fact, it appears she had nothing to do with the decision and no choice in the matter. When asked if Clinton had given this direction to her staff before or after being contacted by the FBI, her spokesman would not say.

If nothing else, this story does make it sound as if the FBI is wrapping this up in a matter of weeks. That means we’ll know the final outcome soon enough.