The "Clinton Approach" to Scandals Should Not Work For Hillary's E-Mails

Former President Bill Clinton, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledge supporters during a ca
Former President Bill Clinton, left, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledge supporters during a caucus night rally at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

For Republicans it seems like the gift that keeps on giving but Hillary's situation has grown far more difficult, or would be for normal people. It is now close to a year since her private e-mail system became an issue, and she continues to treat it with the same arrogance and self-righteous disdain that has marked the Clinton approach to every scandal for decades. They continue to operate in a world where the rules and laws that apply to all other Americans don't apply to them and have been able to get away with it, either dodging or rising above every scandal as if it didn't exist. They are all part of a Republican witch hunt or invented by a hostile press to unfairly annoy them.

Hillary's most recent brush off that "Republicans are grasping at straws" flies in the face of the fact that over 100 FBI agents are investigating the matter and the Inspectors General of several agencies, including the Intelligence Community -- all Obama appointees -- have found serious violations of security regulations and federal criminal law. The most recent disclosures provide compelling evidence of serious violations and not harmless error as she would have people think.

Since the story broke Hillary's response and excuses for use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as Secretary of State have changed, and are at best and clearly false and fraudulent. Her initial claim that there was no classified data on the server was simply absurd. Over three quarters of all State Department communications are classified. For her to maintain that none of over 30,000 emails she sent and received as Secretary were all unclassified is unmitigated nonsense. A review of the e-mails thus far released by security officials shows that over 1,300 of these are in fact classified at some level, and most recently 22 of them containing Top Secret and special access materials.

By law there is no classification level above "Top Secret" but in reality there are categories of highly sensitive information that require both additional clearances and special handling of the information. Included here are "compartmented" intelligence information (SCI), which is classified by the originating intelligence agency, as well as a large number of other special access programs (SAP and SAR) critical to national security. How this highly sensitive information is maintained is not up to the personal whim of the Secretary of State or her assistants, and the response of her campaign that all of this information is "overclassified" and appears in the press anyhow is not only false, but an affront to those who have dedicated their lives to the nation's security.

For some time now Hillary has been sticking to the story that she never sent nor received and materials that were "marked classified" at the time. The fact that she has been looking at intelligence and other highly classified materials for years and didn't recognize this is an equally absurd notion. She was a full and witting accomplice to the improper handling and storage of the nation's most sensitive data and should be held accountable for it.

Until recently it was an open question as to exactly how this Top Secret information wound up on Hillary's private server. Now, however, there is at least one "smoking gun" which has strangely gotten only limited press attention. One critical e-mail in a batch recently released, at 2:00 a.m. if you can believe that, was from Hillary to her trusted assistant Jake Sullivan at the State Department directing him to remove the classification marking from a document and send it to her in an unclassified and "non-secure" manner.

Here Hillary can yet again claim that she didn't receive a document that was "marked" classified, but refuses in the time-honored Clinton tradition to face the fact that she instructed Sullivan to remove the markings so that wouldn't happen. To the extent Sullivan actually followed Hillary's instructions here, and presumably in other similar circumstances, he too is subject to prosecution on federal criminal charges. Doubtless he has his sights on a high level post in a future Clinton administration but would face serious problems in confirmation hearings before a Republican-controlled Senate.

How this plays out isn't up to the Republicans or even Fox News. At some point in the not-too-distant future the FBI will conclude its investigation, and can either send no report to the Justice Department, or a report that does or does not recommend that the case be prosecuted. Most experts agree that there is sufficient momentum and evidence that the FBI will ultimately have to send over a report -- whether or not it recommends prosecution. The personal integrity of FBI Director Comey; thousands of man-hours devoted to the case; and leaks about the extent of the evidence in hand all argue for the case at least going forward to the Justice Department.

What then happens to Hillary's case at a highly politicized Justice Department is another story. Most experts believe that Attorney General Lynch would be unwilling to move forward in prosecuting a case against Hillary, no matter how damning the evidence, without the approval of President Obama. This isn't the way things are supposed to work, but it is the way of life in Obama's world. Here Hillary has taken the interesting tactic of trying to head off any possible disaster by suggesting last week that as President she would appoint Obama to the Supreme Court. A novel idea indeed and Hillary certainly deserves credit for trying. The tactic might even work. It is no secret that there's no love lost between the Clintons and the Obamas, but the last thing Obama wants to see is a Republican president and the destruction of his legacy.

If Justice declines to prosecute the case against Hillary and the Clinton magic works yet again, a question remains as to whether all of this is simply ignored and goes away, destined to the historic dustbin with Whitewater, Travelgate and any of the other Clinton scandals. Some commentators foresee mass resignations from the FBI, which isn't going to happen. While some agents may be outraged, but they aren't likely to give up their careers and pensions over Hillary. A more likely scenario would be for some of those with access to the evidence to leak it throughout the 2016 Presidential Campaign in an effort to inflict "death by 1,000 cuts."

How this will ultimately play out is still uncertain, but at present the situation for Hillary is far more serious than she is willing to acknowledge to those running her campaign are willing to accept. Bernie Sanders was probably right in his assessment that he and others were "tired of hearing about Hillary's e-mail" but that isn't enough to make it go away. The 2016 Presidential election is one guaranteed to be full of surprises, and the coronation of Hillary as the next President that many seemed to have thought a certainty may face more challenges before November than she expected.