Democrats are in panic mode over Hillary Clinton’s sinking political ship. Hillary was already sliding in the polls, but the most recent blow–the FBI has taken possession of her home email server–threatens to be fatal.
I don’t know whether Hillary will be criminally prosecuted–that is up to the Obama administration, so presumably it is unlikely. But she certainly has reason for concern. The obvious precedent is the prosecution of General David Petraeus, who pled guilty to violation of 18 USC §1924. (As did Sandy Berger.) That section makes it a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison, to “remove [documents or materials containing classified information] without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location.”
In Petraeus’s case, he retained his own war journals and kept them at his home. It was alleged that these journals should have been classified Top Secret. In Hillary’s case, she retained many documents containing classified information in electronic form at her home, on her server. The analogy is way too close for comfort. This, I think, is why Hillary has insisted from the beginning that none of the emails that she sent or received on her home server were classified. This is an absurd claim–how can the Secretary of State not be dealing with secret information? But Hillary had to make the assertion in order to escape criminal liability under 18 USC §1924. Her other argument, I suppose, is that her practice was not “unauthorized” because she authorized it herself. But I don’t see how that argument can fly, given that Hillary’s practice plainly contradicted State Department policies.
So the criminal jeopardy is real. But the more immediate problem is political. It seems probable that the drip, drip of newspaper headlines will continue. Hillary’s closest aides, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, reportedly have lawyered up. We don’t know what dealings the FBI is having with them. But it seems inevitable that the server story will continue to unfold and to be debated for months to come.
There are two reasons, I think, why this scenario will be devastating to Hillary. Regardless of whether she is ultimately charged–I assume she won’t be–it is blindingly obvious that she set up the home server and used it instead of her official account because she wanted to be able to delete information without leaving a trace, thereby avoiding transparency and allowing herself to alter the historical record where it might reflect poorly on her. I don’t suppose there is a single person who doubts that this was her motive.
That’s bad enough. But worse, it confirms what people already believe about the Clintons: that they are dishonest, slippery characters who engage in sharp practice and avoid accountability. The reason this perception is so widespread is that it is true, which is why the server story is so devastating to Hillary.
So I think Hillary’s ship is sinking, and I doubt there is anything she can do to bail it out. Unlike Bill, she is not a very skillful politician. I don’t expect her to give up, but Democrats are going to be looking for an alternative. Joe Biden? His time may finally come.
By the way, we discussed this on the Power Line Show yesterday. If you haven’t been listening to the show, you might consider it.
Finally, I see that Steve has been writing on this subject at the same time I have. It will be interesting to see whether we agree!