Observer Suddenly things were aligning perfectly for Hillary Clinton in her quest for the presidency. After months of embarrassing inability to vanquish Senator Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old socialist who represents a state with just two-tenths of a percent of the American population, she wrapped up her party’s nomination for the White House. The Democratic convention in Philadelphia next month will be a formality, no matter how loudly Bernie Bros stomp their feet.
To cap that triumph last week, President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton as their party’s nominee for 2016. While this, too, was a formality, since Mr. Obama was eventually going to endorse her—no matter how much bad blood lingers between them from the 2008 race—it was satisfying to her supporters, if perhaps overdue.
The president’s praising assessment of Clinton, including “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” should go a long way toward unifying their party as she faces her Republican opponent, presumably Donald Trump, this autumn.
Obama’s praise was salve on the wounds Clinton recently suffered at the hands of the State Department over EmailGate. The long-awaited report by the Office of the Inspector General at Foggy Bottom can be fairly termed scathing and, as I assessed in this column, it leaves no doubt that Hillary Clinton systematically dodged a raft of laws and regulations on the keeping of Federal records and the handling of classified information.
Worse, the IG report leaves no doubt that Clinton has lied profligately about EmailGate from the moment the scandal broke over a year ago. Since the State Department, which Clinton headed during President Obama’s first term, cannot plausibly be painted as part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that Team Clinton sees lurking behind every piece of bad press, this report caused real damage to Hillary’s presidential campaign.
True to form, she began punching back herself and through surrogates. Their main talking point—that EmailGate remains a nothing-burger, a figment of the overheated FoxNews imagination more than a bona fide story—continues to be peddled daily. As she confidently said to the cameras last week, there’s “zero chance” she will be indicted over EmailGate, no matter what the FBI finds in its still-active investigation of the matter.
For good measure, Clinton stated for the umpteenth time, “nothing I sent or received at the time was marked classified.” This dodge has been employed for a year as cover by Team Clinton to explain how so much classified information, including at least two dozen emails classified top secret or higher, among them enormously sensitive special access programs from both CIA and NSA, wound up in Clinton’s “unclassified” private email. [...]
To make matters worse for Hillary, it recently emerged that at least one of the emails she handed over to investigators under subpoena in fact did contain classified information that was marked as such. The April 2012 email chain discusses an impending phone call with Malawi’s new president. The important part is an email from Monica Hanley, an aide, to Clinton, including the “call sheet” for the secretary. In layman’s terms, this was a note for Secretary Clinton telling her what she needed to discuss during her scheduled phone conversation with a foreign head of state.[...]
In reality, nobody goes to jail for mishandling classified information at the Confidential level. However, the Hanley email proves that Hillary’s staff was emailing her classified information in unclassified channels, that it was marked classified, and that it was transiting Clinton’s personal email server. It’s difficult to believe that a mere aide like Monica Hanley decided to break the law like this, as she surely knew she was, on her own initiative.[...]
Last week the Associated Press broke a big story about how Clinton’s “unclassified” emails included the true names of CIA personnel serving overseas under cover. This was hardly news, in fact I broke the same story four months ago in this column. However, the AP account adds detail to what Clinton and her staff did, actions that placed the lives of CIA clandestine personnel at risk. It also may be a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, a 1982 law that featured prominently in the mid-aughts scandal surrounding CIA officer Valerie Plame, which so captivated the mainstream media. More recently, former CIA officer John Kiriakou spent two years in Federal prison for violating this law.
To make matters worse for Team Clinton, last week it emerged that several of the classified emails under investigation involved discussions of impending CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Clinton aides were careful to avoid hot-button words like “CIA” and “drone” in these “unclassified” emails, engaging in a practice that spies term “talking around” an issue.[....]
How the FBI can look at all this and not recommend prosecution of someone for something in EmailGate strains the imagination. Yet President Obama has clearly signaled that it’s all no big deal. Director James Comey has a tough job before him when he takes the FBI’s official recommendations regarding EmailGate to Attorney General Lynch for action, probably sometime this summer. Since Comey is now under a cloud over the FBI’s embarrassing mishandling of Omar Mateen, the Orlando jihadist mass murderer, perhaps his resignation over that matter would be welcome in the White House, which then could find a new director more willing to bend to Obama’s wishes.
Make no mistake, there are more than a few senior intelligence officials in Washington, DC, who are livid about Hillary Clinton’s willful disregard of clearly defined laws on the handling of classified information. Her misconduct endangered sensitive intelligence programs—and lives. Even if Comey is a sacrificial lamb here, there are high-ranking spies who are perfectly willing to leak the sordid details of EmailGate to the media if the president pulls a Dick Nixon and tries to subvert our Constitution to protect himself and his designated successor.[...]