What’s Next in the Clinton Email Scandal

FBI Director James Comey spoke Tuesday at FBI headquarters. FBI Director James Comey spoke Tuesday at FBI headquarters. Cliff Owen/AP

FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey made clear Tues­day why he doesn’t think Hil­lary Clin­ton should face form­al charges over her email prac­tices. But—as far as Re­pub­lic­ans are con­cerned—the con­tro­versy is far from settled.

Comey’s find­ings amount to harsh cri­ti­cisms of Clin­ton and her cava­lier at­ti­tude to­ward clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion, which will provide plenty of fuel to keep the scan­dal go­ing, even though Clin­ton, ab­sent an ex­traordin­ary turn of events, no longer faces the ex­ist­en­tial polit­ic­al threat of in­dict­ment.

“Al­though we did not find clear evid­ence that Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton or her col­leagues in­ten­ded to vi­ol­ate laws gov­ern­ing the hand­ling of clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion, there is evid­ence that they were ex­tremely care­less in their hand­ling of very sens­it­ive, highly clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion,” Comey said.

Here are four things to watch go­ing for­ward in the saga of Clin­ton’s private email sys­tem.

The push for more email dumps

The rolling, half-year State De­part­ment re­lease of roughly 30,000 of Clin­ton’s work-re­lated emails that ended in Feb­ru­ary cre­ated a feed­ing frenzy for journ­al­ists and op­pos­i­tion re­search­ers. And now, thanks to the FBI, the feast might con­tin­ue. Comey said the FBI loc­ated “sev­er­al thou­sand” work-re­lated emails that Clin­ton had not turned over to the State De­part­ment in 2014.

An at­tor­ney for Vice News re­port­er Jason Leo­pold, whose Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act law­suit was the vehicle for the pub­lic re­leases, tells Na­tion­al Journ­al that Leo­pold is en­titled to those mes­sages.

“The ‘sev­er­al thou­sand work-re­lated emails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were re­turned by Sec­ret­ary Clin­ton to State in 2014’ clearly fall with­in the scope of Mr. Leo­pold’s re­quest,” said Ry­an James.

State De­part­ment spokes­man John Kirby signaled that more emails could be made pub­lic. “As we have said for many months, we will work with the FBI to de­term­ine the ap­pro­pri­ate dis­pos­i­tion of po­ten­tial fed­er­al re­cords it has re­covered,” he said in a pre­pared state­ment.

What’s next on Cap­it­ol Hill?

Comey raked Clin­ton over the coals for her hand­ling of clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion (even if some of in­form­a­tion deemed clas­si­fied prob­ably nev­er de­served that la­bel). The find­ing is among sev­er­al by Comey that provide am­muni­tion for GOP polit­ic­al at­tacks.

Seni­or House Re­pub­lic­ans made clear Tues­day that they want much more in­form­a­tion about Comey’s in­vest­ig­a­tion and strongly at­tacked his re­com­mend­a­tion against pro­sec­u­tion. Look for Comey to be called be­fore law­makers.

“We are go­ing to have hear­ings,” House Speak­er Paul Ry­an said on Fox News on Tues­day night, adding that Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jason Chaf­fetz would call Comey as a wit­ness.

“This cer­tainly does un­der­score the be­lief that the Clin­tons live above the law, and this is one of the reas­ons why people are so dis­sat­is­fied, so up­set about gov­ern­ment,” Ry­an said of Comey’s re­com­mend­a­tion. Chaf­fetz has long been in­ter­ested in prob­ing Clin­ton’s email prac­tices, but had pre­vi­ously been sty­mied by GOP lead­er­ship. Now he has the green light from Ry­an.

It re­mains to be seen how, pre­cisely, Cap­it­ol Hill Re­pub­lic­ans will de­ploy the power of their in­vest­ig­at­ive and over­sight com­mit­tees to launch any new probes. Clin­ton’s email has already been un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion by the Sen­ate’s Ju­di­ciary and Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tees, and was also a fo­cus of the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi.

But mul­tiple oth­er com­mit­tees could get in on the ac­tion. Bey­ond Chaf­fetz, House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Good­latte wrote toComey on Tues­day at­tack­ing his re­com­mend­a­tion against char­ging Clin­ton and ask­ing for re­sponses to sev­er­al ques­tions in one week.

Across Cap­it­ol Hill, Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley signaled that he’s not done with the is­sue by de­mand­ing more in­form­a­tion from Comey. “If [the FBI] wants to avoid giv­ing the im­pres­sion that the FBI was pulling punches, be­cause many people in a sim­il­ar situ­ation would face some sort of con­sequence, the agency must now be more trans­par­ent than ever in re­leas­ing in­form­a­tion gathered dur­ing its in­vest­ig­a­tion,” Grass­ley said.

A test of Trump’s skill

Comey’s find­ings are tail­or-made for Don­ald Trump’s ef­fort to cast Clin­ton as un­trust­worthy and raise ques­tions about her judg­ment.

Bey­ond hit­ting Clin­ton on the hand­ling of clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion, Comey could not rule out the pos­sib­il­ity that Clin­ton’s email was hacked des­pite the lack of “dir­ect evid­ence,” in part be­cause Clin­ton used per­son­al email “ex­tens­ively” out­side the U.S. and in the ter­rit­ory of “soph­ist­ic­ated ad­versar­ies.”

But the young gen­er­al-elec­tion fight has already seen Trump, with his pen­chant for out­rageous and of­fens­ive state­ments and tweets, blun­der away the chance to cap­it­al­ize polit­ic­ally on oth­er is­sues.

Trump’s re­sponse and ini­tial re­ac­tions on Twit­ter—in­clud­ing a tweet not­ing: “FBI dir­ect­or said Crooked Hil­lary com­prom­ised our na­tion­al se­cur­ity. No charges. Wow! #Rigged­Sys­tem”—didn’t provide any im­me­di­ate es­cape hatches for Clin­ton or make the story about him­self.

Still, he quickly went bey­ond the in­form­a­tion that Comey provided in al­leging, “Our ad­versar­ies al­most cer­tainly have a black­mail file on Hil­lary Clin­ton, and this fact alone dis­qual­i­fies her from ser­vice.”

Mean­while, down the bal­lot …

Re­pub­lic­ans will try to use Comey’s tough cri­ti­cisms of Clin­ton’s email prac­tices as re­in­force­ments in what’s shap­ing up as a dif­fi­cult con­gres­sion­al elec­tion sea­son for the GOP. Just as Demo­crats have tried to make GOP can­did­ates squirm by ty­ing them to Trump, so too will Re­pub­lic­ans seek to make Demo­crats on the bal­lot an­swer for Clin­ton’s mis­steps.

The Con­gres­sion­al Lead­er­ship Fund, which is a su­per PAC that sup­ports House Re­pub­lic­ans, quickly tried to teth­er Comey’s find­ings to House Demo­crats.

“The FBI’s scath­ing re­view proves voters are right to dis­trust and dis­like Hil­lary Clin­ton. And try as they may, House Demo­crats will have no place to hide from a long-time Demo­crat­ic Party fix­ture like Hil­lary Clin­ton. They’ll be an­swer­ing for her scan­dal-plagued re­cord and reck­less policies all the way to the bal­lot box,” the group said.

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