White House calls FBI probe into Clinton’s classified emails a ‘criminal investigation’
- Within an hour of Barack Obama’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, his spokesman acknowledged that she faces a ‘criminal investigation’
- The misstep sent Republicans cackling to reporters
- Clinton faces the possibility of prosecution for housing classified documents on a private email server
- She used the homebrew setup for all her emails – including sensitive government matters – when she was secretary of state
- White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted that the endorsement wouldn’t be interpreted inside the FBI as a signal to let her off the hook
Barack Obama’s spokesman described the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s classified email scandal as a ‘criminal investigation’ on Thursday, less than an hour after the president endorsed his embattled former secretary of state to succeed him.
Josh Earnest told reporters during a White House press briefing that Obama was committed to keeping his hands off the investigation, trusting career investigators and prosecutors to follow evidence wherever it leads.
‘That’s what their responsibility is,’ Earnest said. ‘And that’s why the president, when discussing this issue in each stage, has reiterated his commitment to this principle that any criminal investigation should be conducted independent of any sort of political interference.’
OOPS: White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that President Obama won’t interfere with ‘any criminal investigation’ like the one Hillary Clinton faces over classified documents in her private emails
HE SAID WHAT? Clinton has referred to the FBI probe as a routine ‘security inquiry,’ resisting the idea that she could face criminal charges as she makes her run for the White House
A search Thursday through White House briefing transcripts for similar acknowledgements turned up none.
Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short crowed to reporters that ‘the White House’s admission that the FBI is investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server as a “criminal” matter shreds her dishonest claim that it is a routine “security inquiry”.’
‘This is another reminder of her reckless conduct as Obama’s secretary of state, where her attempt to skirt government transparency laws exposed highly classified information and put our national security at risk.’
Obama gave Clinton his official nod Thursday in a video message, saying: ‘I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.’
In the press briefing that followed, a Fox News Channel reporter challenged Earnest on the question of whether civil servants in the U.S. Department of Justice might see the presidential endorsement as a signal that it was time to wrap up their investigations.
Clinton has been dogged for more than a year by charges that she exposed state secrets to hackers and foreign governments by keeping all her email correspondence on a private homebrew server while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Depending on evidentiary nuances, that could violate the U.S. Espionage Act and subject Clinton to 10 years in prison, even if she put classified documents in an ‘unsecured’ location through simple negligence.
Clinton said Wednesday that she ‘absolutely’ will not face a criminal indictment.
More than 2,000 such documents have been identified in State Department reviews of emails that Clinton turned over in late 2014 – nearly two years after she was supposed to. She also deleted more than 32,000 messages, unilaterally deeming them ‘personal’ in nature.
Earnest insisted that ‘the reason that the president feels confident that he can go out and make this endorsement and record a video in which he describes his strong support for Secretary Clinton’s campaign is that he knows the people who are conducting the investigation aren’t going to be swayed by any sort of political interference.’
‘They aren’t going to be swayed by political forces. They know that their investigation should be guided by the facts and that they should follow the evidence where it leads. The President has complete confidence that that’s exactly what they’ll do,’ he said.
The reporter asked Earnest whether or not Obama had ever discussed the FBI investigation with Clinton, who is now the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee.
‘He has not,’ the president’s spokesman answered.