At the White House on Thursday, minutes after President Obama officially endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted that the FBI probe into her emails is a “criminal investigation.” The Republican National Committee caught the remark during Earnest's answer to a question regarding whether the FBI can remain neutral now that Obama has declared he wants Clinton succeed him.
"They don't have political jobs," Earnest said. "They have career jobs as law enforcement officers and as prosecutors and investigators. That's what their responsibility is. 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 and that people should be treated the same way before the law regardless of their political influence, regardless of their political party, regardless of their political stature and regardless of what political figure has endorsed them.”
This classification is at odds with Clinton’s. The former secretary of state, when she’s not completely dismissing questions about the unsecure private server she used to deal with classified information, chooses to refer to the FBI probe as nothing more than a “security inquiry.” She is so confident it is a non-issue that she told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Wednesday that there is “zero chance” of the FBI finding reason to indict her and she doesn’t expect it to hurt her general election hopes.
RNC Spokesman Michael Short noted the contrast between Clinton’s nonchalance and Earnest’s comments.
“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.”
Now that President Obama has thrown his support behind Clinton in the 2016 race, he will be tasked with defending her in the midst of the ongoing email investigation. He has noted in former interviews that Clinton “made a mistake” by choosing to use a private email server, but stopped short of saying it jeopardized national security or disqualifies her for the presidency.
Yet, he will hard pressed to continue defending Clinton if his staff keeps referring to the FBI analysis as a “criminal” situation.