Few jobs are as demanding as the U.S. attorney general’s. The AG’s popularity peaks at the swearing-in ceremony and goes downhill from there. It’s not just the hard cases on the docket. It’s that attorneys general have two mandates that sometimes conflict. Do they follow their responsibilities as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, wherever those responsibilities lead? Or do they act as the president’s top appointee in law enforcement and do his bidding?
AGs do not keep their jobs unless they know which mandate takes priority. They serve at the president’s pleasure.
This bedrock choice between blind justice and political calculation is almost certain to confront Loretta Lynch once the FBI concludes its investigation into Hillary Clinton, her top aides, and the Clinton Foundation.
FBI Director James Comey, an experienced prosecutor and consummate professional with some 100-150 agents investigating the Democratic front-runner, the Clinton Foundation, and (presumably) several of Hillary’s closest aides: Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Jake Sullivan.
What are the key legal dangers facing Clinton and her aides? Here are just a few.
* Hillary Clinton deliberately set up a private email server for herself and her top State Department aides. She used it to store over 1,800 documents now deemed classified, some highly classified. The sheer bulk of the security violations is extraordinary. Intelligence professionals agree the server was almost certainly hacked by foreign agencies—probably by several.
* Secretary Clinton specifically instructed aides to send her classified materials on that insecure network. We know of at least one such instruction. We don’t know how many others were redacted by the State Department.
* Because her server was private, the State Department’s records did not include its contents when responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. The department wrongly told FOIA applicants that no such materials existed. Not only did the materials exist (on Clinton’s server), senior officials knew it and allowed false denials to be made.
* Some documents on the Clinton server contained the intelligence-gathering methods, the names of undercover agents, and real-time disclosures of top officials’ movements. Aside from the nuclear launch codes, these are the most closely guarded secrets in the U.S. government. That material is “classified at birth,” as Clinton, Mills, Abedin, and Sullivan certainly knew. To avoid any misunderstanding, they had all taken mandatory training in the proper treatment of sensitive and classified materials.
* Some of the classified materials on Clinton’s server originated in intelligence agencies outside the State Department and came into the department on a secure, classified network. They were marked as such. They could only be transferred to Clinton’s unsecured network by hand. Each occurrence was a felony. Since the server has now been recovered, the FBI and intelligence agencies know who sent those messages and who received them at the State Department.
* The Clinton Foundation and some private businesses were deeply involved in the State Department’s business. The lines were blurred between Hillary Clinton’s official role as secretary of state and her unofficial role at a major foundation, headed by her husband, that was showered with money from people and companies working with the State Department. At best, the arrangements were sleazy. At worst, they were criminal “pay to play.”
* Hillary’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, had blurred roles, too. While working at State, she was also employed by a private company whose clients did business with her department and the government.