The FBI may charge Hillary Clinton with “gross negligence” for her handling of classified information while secretary of state, but agents are saying the same thing about President Obama’s public comments on their ongoing investigation.
Officials in the agency are livid with Obama for throwing a rhetorical wrench into their nonpartisan fact-finding inquiry into the extra-governmental email server Clinton used during her tenure with the administration. They are trying to determine if Clinton violated certain sections of the Espionage Act.
“I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” Obama said Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to convince reporters on Tuesday the president was not trying to influence the FBI’s investigation. He said Obama’s remark, “certainly was not an attempt, in any way, to undermine the importance or independence of the ongoing FBI investigation.”
Ron Hosko, a former senior FBI official who retired in 2014, told the New York Times on Friday that agents were livid.
“Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the FBI’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case,” Hosko said.
A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment for the newspaper’s story, but “several” current and former law enforcement officials – including those close to the investigation – echoed Hosko’s sentiments.
Obama’s “60 Minutes” comments are reminiscent of public comments he in made 2012 about former CIA Director David Petraeus, who at the time was being investigated by the FBI for giving classified information to a mistress, Paula Broadwell.
The retired four-star general avoided felony charges and a possible prison sentence when the Justice Department allowed him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
Current and former senior officials at the Justice Department who were involved in the Petraeus case told the Times that Obama’s comments were, for all intents and purposes, taken as a dog whistle signaling his preferred outcome.