The Hillary backer who will pose problems for her 2016 bid

An unlikely critic of Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham Clinton15 reminders of the real Donald Trump Gennifer Flowers says she will attend debate Kaine participates in Native American pow wow MORE could pose significant problems for the Democratic front-runner for the White House.

Dan Metcalfe, who previously oversaw the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at the Department of Justice, has been publicly ripping Clinton for her exclusive use of a private email account during her time as secretary of State. 

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But the soft-spoken academic who resembles Santa Claus maintains he’s not looking to derail Clinton’s anticipated 2016 bid. To the contrary, he says. Metcalfe notes he is a registered Democrat and will vote for the former first lady if she runs for the White House. That makes his criticism even more damaging.

While Democrats are largely rallying behind Clinton, Republicans have seized on the email uproar. And the matter isn’t going away anytime soon: The State Department has said it is reviewing the issue, congressional committees have launched probes and The Associated Press has filed a lawsuit.

Months ago, it would have been unthinkable that the worlds of Metcalfe and Clinton would collide. The married father of two was born in Queens, New York, and was raised on Long Island. He first worked for the DOJ as an intern in 1971 and later was tapped to found the department’s Office of Information and Privacy. Eight years ago, he retired from the government and is now is an adjunct professor of law at American University.

Metcalfe isn’t a public figure, but he is a respected expert who has been asked to address legal groups, government agencies and Congress.  

In the wake of the Clinton email controversy, the 63-year-old has attracted a lot of media attention. He has appeared on CNN and C-SPAN. He has been quoted in the Los Angeles Times, PolitiFact and elsewhere. He wrote an op-ed for Politico, claiming that Clinton’s explanations about her private email server had been “laughable.”

But he didn’t stop there.

On C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” show, he said, “Based upon my first-hand involvement in a number of things during the Clinton administration, I have absolutely no doubt that Secretary Clinton well knows the operation of the Freedom of Information Act and knows what, frankly, what she was doing.”

In an interview with The Hill, Metcalfe disputed Clinton’s assertions that she didn’t do anything wrong with her email communications: “There was indeed much wrong with what happened.

“There’s no doubt in my mind and in the minds, frankly, of people at the National Archives and Records Administration, what she did was contrary to the Federal Records Act,” he added. 

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell predicted that Metcalfe’s comments would be used against Clinton in the general election.

When it comes to the email controversy, O’Connell said Republicans “want to create a narrative about Hillary that may not necessarily bring voters over to their side but could potentially keep some of her potential supporters at home.”

“That’s why they’re not just jamming this down the throat as much as they could because they recognize they’re going to have to reintroduce this in the general election and [say] that she’s inauthentic; she’s willing to cut corners and acts in her own self-interest,” he added.

A Clinton representative didn’t comment for this article.

The former New York senator is a “very smart lady” and an “astute attorney,” Metcalfe said. But he makes it clear that he was not fond of her March 10 press conference. Clinton said she followed the rules, but that’s not true, Metcalfe argues.

In what surely got the attention of GOP operatives, Metcalfe has said there are two scandals that occurred in the Bill ClintonBill ClintonGennifer Flowers says she will attend debate Trump threatens to bring Gennifer Flowers to debate Michelle Obama, Biden, Bill Clinton to hit post-debate campaign trail MORE administration that never became public. 

As FOIA chief, Metcalfe said he worked on both of them: one centered on the misconduct of someone who wasn’t a federal employee and the other involved administration officials.

He thinks the latter could very well make it into the press. But Metcalfe said he wouldn’t be revealing the secret and pointed out that neither scandal directly involved Clinton or the former president.

Asked if anyone from Team Clinton has contacted him this month, Metcalfe deadpanned, “Are you referring to the fact that [Clinton adviser] James Carville has been seen lurking around my parking lot at home?”

With a wry smile, Metcalfe said some people have told him it’s a good thing he lives in a gated community.

No one from Clinton’s orbit has reached out to him, Metcalfe says, but he has received angry feedback for daring to “criticize the putative candidate.”

Metcalfe doesn’t hide his political leanings, saying he has “zero respect” for former President George W. Bush.

“It’s no secret I’m a registered Democrat. … If [Clinton is] the nominee, I will vote for her,” he told The Hill.

In many ways, Metcalfe portrays himself as an unbiased referee on FOIA and government records. Though he is calling a flagrant foul on Clinton, he stresses that nothing she has done is criminal.

During his C-SPAN appearance last week, Metcalfe said, “I’m not after Secretary Clinton. I’m just calling it as I see it.”

Alexandra Oliveira contributed