- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s sit-down with the FBI snapped the political world to attention over the sleepy July Fourth holiday weekend, with Democrats saying charges are outside “the realm of possibility” and Republicans signaling the same, yet only because they think the Justice Department will not hurt President Obama’s handpicked successor.

Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, submitted to an interview with the FBI on Saturday as the Obama administration was nearing completion of its investigation into her exclusive use of a secret email server while she was secretary of state.

The Clinton campaign confirmed the “voluntary” interview, which took place at FBI headquarters in Washington and lasted more than three hours.

“It was something I had offered to do since last August. I’ve been eager to do it and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the department in bringing its review to a conclusion,” Mrs. Clinton told MSNBC after her sit-down with authorities.

Her campaign said she doesn’t plan to comment further “out of respect for the investigative process.”

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, cited unidentified sources and professed to have inside knowledge of the investigation’s outcome: no charges.

He appeared to be angling for a political boost no matter what the FBI recommends. If Mrs. Clinton is indicted, she might be nudged out of the race. If she isn’t, he can cry malfeasance.

“Like I said, the system is totally rigged!” he said on Twitter.

Senate Democrats whose names have been bandied as potential vice presidential nominees for Mrs. Clinton dismissed the possibility of an indictment.

“I mean, she released more emails and more pages of emails and more records than any of her predecessors of secretary of state, even before she was actually running for president. I think that speaks to her integrity,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, went a step further. He said there is no need to prepare Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont or another “plan B” Democrat for November because criminal charges are “not even within the realm of possibility.”

“That’s just not going to happen,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mrs. Clinton is being investigated for her use of a secret email account, tied to a server she kept at her home in New York, during her four years in office. The practice broke State Department policy, and nearly two-dozen of the messages she sent or received are now marked “top secret.”

She has said she didn’t break any secrecy laws, and Mr. Obama has declared her innocent. But the FBI is investigating, and security analysts debate whether she did run afoul of laws that require better protection of classified information.

“I never received nor sent any material that was marked classified,” Mrs. Clinton told MSNBC. “And there is a process for the review of material before it is released to the public.”

Vocal Republicans continued to build their case against Mrs. Clinton, weeks before the parties head to Cleveland and Philadelphia for their respective conventions to kick off the general election race in earnest.

“I think she’s disqualified herself from commander in chief by her cavalier attitude towards our nation’s secrecy laws,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The Clinton campaign and the Obama administration also are reeling from an unforced error — an impromptu meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport.

Republicans have called on Ms. Lynch to recuse herself from the investigation into Mrs. Clinton, citing the encounter on the tarmac.

Ms. Lynch said she understands questions about the episode last week. Although she wouldn’t do it again, she said, the meeting has no bearing on the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email practices.

She said the case is being handled by career agents and investigators with the Department of Justice and that recommendations will be reviewed by supervisors and, ultimately, FBI Director James B. Comey.

She stopped short of fully removing herself from the case, saying that would entail not being briefed on the findings and what actions would be taken.

Democrats rallied to her defense Sunday even as they lamented the “unfortunate” meeting.

“I wished it hadn’t happened,” Mr. Brown said. “But I think the FBI will do its job. I mean, I’ve seen the authorities in my career in the House and Senate, I’ve seen federal authorities do their jobs regardless of political machinations and political pressure sometimes.”

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez characterized the airport chat as a “chance meeting” between the top prosecutor and Mr. Clinton, a gregarious and well-known man.

“I think it’s really important for your listeners to appreciate that this was not something that was planned in advance,” he told NBC. “It happened, and she has spoken, I think, very clearly about what she intends to do.”

Others don’t see what the fuss is about.

“I am not a stone-thrower when it comes to Hillary Clinton and her emails and her server,” Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson told CNN. “I don’t think there has been criminal intent on Hillary Clinton’s part, so I don’t see an indictment.”

Stephen Dinan and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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