By winning seven out of the eleven Super Tuesday Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton solidified her stranglehold on her party’s presidential nomination. Given her enormous lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in the polls and the delegate count there wasn’t much doubt about that even before the returns came in. But with her lead piling up, it’s fairly obvious that the rest of the primary season will be nothing more than a warm-up for the general election. That’s true even if Sanders’ impressive fundraising will allow him to continue to travel the country inveighing against Wall Street and ensuring that Clinton doesn’t stray too far from the left-wing script she’s been reading from as she fended off his challenge.
But the real threat to Clinton has never been from Sanders even if he did give her a serious scare by mobilizing young supporters in the early voting states. The undemocratic system concocted by the so-called party of the people that allows for 700 unelected establishment superdelegates to choose Hillary no matter what the voters say, rendered the Democratic race something of a sham all along. Her problem is in Washington and not on the campaign trail.
So long as a battalion of FBI agents — reportedly over 100 in number — are investigating her email scandal and the overlap with possible public corruption charges that stem from the Clinton Family Foundation donors that sought favors or influence with the State Department during her tenure as secretary, the Democratic frontrunner’s political future has an asterisk hanging over it. Democrats whose attitude toward the email scandal has consisted of a childish refusal to even contemplate the facts of the case may deny the serious nature of these charges. That General David Petraeus (as well as numerous other lesser personages faced with similar accusations) was disgraced and forced to plead guilty to charges that do not approach the seriousness of the breach of security that Clinton’s homebrew server represents is something her defenders won’t consider.
But despite leaks from within the FBI that have spoken of the likelihood of a recommendation to the Department of Justice to prosecute either Clinton and/or some of her State Department aides, Democrats are complacent. They believe there is no way that the Justice Department in a Democratic administration will ever indict the party’s presidential nominee. And even if some veteran officials want to press the case, they are sure that neither Attorney General Lynch nor President Obama will let it happen.
But if there were any real doubts about that being the case — and I have harbored none at all — they were probably dispelled by an interview Lynch gave with Fox News’ Brett Baier earlier this week. Unlike most of the rest of the media that has passed on pushing for more about the email case when they had a chance to ask either Lynch or Obama about it, Baier pressed the attorney general hard about the Clinton investigation.
Lynch said very little about the case beyond the usual boilerplate quotes about it being handled in “the same way” as any other case. She wouldn’t say whether a grand jury would be convened, which sections of DOJ were considering the affair or give an inkling of information about any of it.
To be fair, that is exactly what a fair-minded attorney general ought to say when asked about a pending case. But the contrast between her by-the-books responses about Clinton and her enthusiasm for discussing other pending matters, like the dispute with Apple about unlocking a the San Bernardino terrorist’s cell phone or other issues that have been of greater interest to her during her tenure is significant. While Lynch isn’t so quiet when it comes to other matters, where it concerns something that might take down her party’s presidential nominee, she is as silent as the grave.
Everything Lynch didn’t say confirms suspicions that, at best, DOJ is slow-walking the Clinton investigation, and at worst, has no intention of ever moving it forward in time for the voters to have a clear idea of whether the law was broken. Compared to the alacrity with which the department swoops down on others even when they have far fewer resources committed to the investigation, the snail’s pace of the Clinton probe ought to raise some red flags about the matter.
Even if we are willing to believe that Lynch’s conduct is appropriate — and she does have a reputation as a straight-arrow prosecutor — she has been put in an impossible situation. Asking the DOJ to investigate a former secretary of state who is the favored candidate of the party that controls the White House was always a stretch. For Obama and Lynch to approve an indictment would be political suicide for their party. A decision not to indict will always be considered a matter of political intrigue no matter the FBI uncovered.
Lynch’s interview was just one more reason why this matter should have been referred to a special prosecutor that could have proceeded without political pressure to arrive at a finding or to delay it. Moreover, for Clinton to be on the verge of clinching her party’s nomination with this hanging over her head sets up a situation that is simply intolerable even if we believed the DOJ’s conduct was above reproach.
Instead of the swift resolution of the affair the country needed, Lynch’s language about a decision “in due course” is more or less a guarantee that there will never be a decision before November. Even if DOJ exonerated Clinton —something that seems unlikely given the evidence that has already been put forward — half the country would never believe it. But Democrats don’t seem to care so long as it means that Clinton doesn’t have to worry about her campaign being disrupted by being finally forced to answer for her misconduct. In that sense, Lynch isn’t merely doing Obama’s dirty work but proving to be Clinton’s most important ally.