Up first, a flashback: Last November, Fox News' Catherine Herridge reported that federal investigators had expanded their probe into Hillary Clinton's email scheme by looking into evidence of a cover-up (and while we're on the subject of willful intent, read this). Herridge tapped her intelligence and law enforcement community sources again in January, who told her that the investigation had taken on an additional, intriguing dimension. Remember this?
The FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state has expanded to look at whether the possible “intersection” of Clinton Foundation work and State Department business may have violated public corruption laws, three intelligence sources not authorized to speak on the record told Fox News. This track is in addition to the focus on classified material found on Clinton’s personal server. "The agents are investigating the possible intersection of Clinton Foundation donations, the dispensation of State Department contracts and whether regular processes were followed," one source said. The development follows press reports over the past year about the potential overlap of State Department and Clinton Foundation work, and questions over whether donors benefited from their contacts inside the administration.
One of the many reasons that the now-infamous tarmac powwow between Attorney General Lynch and former President Clinton was so inappropriate was that, as far as we were aware, the Clinton family foundation may have been an element of the Bureau's active email scandal investigation -- which was widely reported to be in its final stages. Did agents sniff around the foundation stuff and come up empty? House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz raised that issue with FBI director James Comey toward the tail end of yesterday's marathon hearings. His response was...interesting:
CHAFFETZ: Did you look at the Clinton Foundation?
COMEY: I'm not going to comment on the existence or non-existence of any other investigations.
CHAFFETZ: Was the Clinton Foundation tied into this investigation?
COMEY: I'm not going to answer that.
Well then. Clintonistas will latch onto the "or non-existence" qualifier to assure everyone that this is probably just another crazy conspiracy from those right-wing nutters whose crackpot allegations about Hillary's emails have been...almost entirely vindicated by the FBI and an Obama-appointed Inspector General. Hillary haters will say that Comey's "no comment" must mean that something's still up. While it's impossible to know for sure, circumstantial evidence suggests that the Clintons' FBI woes may not be over. First, take the Catherine Herridge report excerpted above into account. Three separate sources told her that the feds were digging into the Clinton Foundation early in the year. The Utah Congressman asks Comey if the FBI looked at ("did you" -- past tense) that organization. He's asking about a closed investigation, mind you. Comey considers how to answer the question for a beat, then declines to say anything about "other investigations." Prodded on whether the foundation factored into the now-resolved email case, Comey flat-out refuses to comment. Follow along: If Herridge's sources were correct that the FBI was examining the Clinton Foundation in relation to the email situation, why would Comey refuse to comment unless a concurrent or separate probe is underway? He was more than willing to answer other specifics about the email case -- stating, for example, that the decision not to prosecute extended to Clinton's top aides. But mum's the word here. Hmm.
Let's pretend for a moment that in the process of digging into Hillary's emails, investigators started to piece together a case that the Clinton Foundation "slush fund" was actually an illegal orgy of quid pro quo pocket-lining and improper influence peddling. Let's pretend that even as they've ended the email matter, the FBI is now focused on the foundation as the target of a separate probe. (1) Is there any chance whatsoever that those findings would become public before the November election? If so, that could be a truly huge land mine buried along Hillary's (fairly smooth-looking, at the moment) path to victory. If not -- and given that political pressures very well may have played a major role in Comey's non-indictment recommendation, I'd bet on not -- perhaps this oldie but goodie from Marco Rubio may become less of a punchline at some point down the road: