Before too many people get carried away thinking Donald Trump-as-GOP-nominee would hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton, it’s a good time to remember Clinton has her own very real problems on her hand. The latest, via the Washington Post:
“The Justice Department has granted immunity to a former State Department staffer, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as part of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information, according to a senior law enforcement official.
“The official said the FBI had secured the cooperation of Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009.
“As the FBI looks to wrap up its investigation in the coming months, agents are likely to want to interview Clinton and her senior aides about the decision to use a private server, how it was set up, and whether any of the participants knew they were sending classified information in emails, current and former officials said.”
Now, I’m no lawyer. But is it commonplace to grant immunity to a witness in a case where investigators don’t anticipate charging someone with something? I think not.
That someone may not be Clinton, and it wouldn’t have to be her to be severely damaging to her presidential campaign. If — as has been speculated — State Department staffers under Clinton are found to have copied sensitive information from the classified system into an unclassified system for the purposes of emailing it to her private, un-secure server, simply limiting indictments to those staffers wouldn’t keep the taint of impropriety off Clinton. That’d be especially true if those staffers were some of her closest aides, some of whom have roles in her presidential campaign. In the case of such charges, Clinton could not shirk responsibility for having put them in the position of potentially breaking the law because of her paranoid insistence on maintaining control over her emails.
Nor are her problems confined to the FBI’s investigation. The New York Times reports that court filings indicate Judicial Watch, a conservative government-watchdog group suing for access to emails related to Clinton staffers at the State Department, is seeking to take depositions not just from Pagliano but with two of Clinton’s closest aides: Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. The group may also seek testimony by Clinton herself, and the judge in the case indicated that may be necessary: “I think there are some legitimate issues that arise because of this very atypical system that was created,” the Times quotes District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan as saying.
With Trump also embroiled in a legal controversy — the state of New York is suing him for fraud in relation to his “Trump University,” and he faces two class-action lawsuits related to that business in California — both parties face the prospect of having front-runners who are making headlines from courtrooms this spring and summer. That is no small part of the Republican establishment’s efforts to keep Trump from winning the nomination outright before the convention in July. Democrats are in a tighter spot, having no alternative in the race besides Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been all but eliminated mathematically from winning the nomination himself.
This political cycle may not have hit peak absurdity just yet.