The Corner

Is the FBI Actually Serious About Its Clinton Investigation?

Two stories indicate maybe, possibly yes. First, Fox’s Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne report that the FBI’s investigation is zeroing in on a specific, potential legal violation:

Three months after Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address and server while secretary of state was referred to the FBI, an intelligence source familiar with the investigation tells Fox News that the team is now focused on whether there were violations of an Espionage Act subsection pertaining to “gross negligence” in the safekeeping of national defense information.

Under 18 USC 793 subsection F, the information does not have to be classified to count as a violation. The intelligence source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the ongoing probe, said the subsection requires the “lawful possession” of national defense information by a security clearance holder who “through gross negligence,” such as the use of an unsecure computer network, permits the material to be removed or abstracted from its proper, secure location.

Then there’s this intriguing story from the New York Times indicating that the FBI was not pleased when President Obama downplayed Hillary’s email issues on Sixty Minutes, declaring, “I don’t think it posed a national security problem.” 

Those statements angered F.B.I. agents who have been working for months to determine whether Ms. Clinton’s email setup had in fact put any of the nation’s secrets at risk, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

Investigators have not reached any conclusions about whether the information on the server had been compromised or whether to recommend charges, according to the law enforcement officials. But to investigators, it sounded as if Mr. Obama had already decided the answers to their questions and cleared anyone involved of wrongdoing.

The White House quickly backed off the president’s remarks and said Mr. Obama was not trying to influence the investigation. But his comments spread quickly, raising the ire of officials who saw an instance of the president trying to influence the outcome of a continuing investigation — and not for the first time.

Not for the first time? It turns out there are still hard feelings about the Obama Administration’s handling of General David Petraeus’s case:

But Mr. Obama’s remarks in the Clinton email case were met with particular anger at the F.B.I. because they echoed comments he made in 2012, shortly after it was revealed that a former C.I.A. director, David H. Petraeus, was under investigation, accused of providing classified information to a mistress who was writing a book about him.

“I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security,” the president said at a 2012 news conference, as the F.B.I. was trying to answer that very question about Mr. Petraeus.

At the time, the Obama administration was leading a historic crackdown on government officials who discussed national security matters with reporters, even when that information was never disclosed publicly. But Mr. Petraeus was a four-star general, a White House adviser and the most celebrated military leader of his generation. F.B.I. officials were concerned that he would receive preferential treatment.

The F.B.I. ultimately concluded that Mr. Petraeus should face felony charges and a possible prison sentence. Not only had he provided highly classified information to his biographer — including notes about war strategy and the identity of covert officials — but he also lied to agents about it. James B. Comey, the F.B.I director, made the case to the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., that Mr. Petraeus deserved to face strenuous charges.

But the Justice Department overruled the F.B.I., and earlier this year the department allowed Mr. Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He was spared jail time and remained an informal White House adviser.

For now, at least, it appears the FBI is letting it be known that it’s taking the Clinton investigation seriously and that it resents administration pressure for preferential treatment. Is the FBI prepping the political battlespace for an aggressive recommendation to the Department of Justice? We’ll find out soon enough.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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