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A.B. Stoddard: Obama risks being stained by Clinton scandal

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As new revelations make clear the intentional and likely criminal nature of Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSanders aide: We're trying to open party to 'new blood' Poll: Most voters think Trump should release tax returns Poll: Clinton, Trump disliked by majority of Americans MORE’s email scheme, President Obama is risking his legacy on a potentially devastating corruption scandal. 

There is nothing to suggest Obama has intervened in the FBI investigation into the conduct of his former secretary of State or that he plans to, but his administration has been sullied by it. With voting now underway in the Democratic primary, the Obama administration, in words and actions, appears to be protecting Clinton.

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The State Department not only announced last week that 22 Clinton emails were “top secret” and could not be made public as part of a regularly scheduled, court-ordered release of the presidential contender’s emails from her time as head of the department, it also admitted it would miss its deadline for releasing all her emails by another month because 7,000 of them had not been properly reviewed. Those documents will now be potentially withheld until after three or four of the first primary contests. The State Department also made clear other agencies had determined the 22 emails could not be redacted or released in any form. 

“It’s a State Department decision we are doing but we are doing it at the request of the intelligence community,” spokesman John Kirby said. 

That same day the White House press secretary, when asked about the possibility of Clinton getting indicted, downplayed the possibility. Josh Earnest said the FBI investigation — which he is not allowed to know anything about — “doesn’t seem to be headed in that direction.”

Hours later one of Obama’s Cabinet secretaries suggested intelligence officials working for the same administration he serves were out to torpedo Clinton’s White House campaign. Asked about the matter by Chuck Todd on MSNBC, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The timing of it is quite suspect.” Vilsack, who has endorsed Clinton in her bid, is a former governor of Iowa and influential among Democrats who were set to vote there just three days later. 

More than 1,600 of Clinton’s emails contained classified information, top secret information and material even more sensitive than top secret known to come from “special access programs.” Sources who have reviewed them say the documents contain “operational intelligence,” according to a report by Fox News, that could jeopardize “sources, methods and lives.” Diplomatic Security Service special agent Raymond Fournier was also quoted in a New York Post report saying what Clinton and her staff did was deliberately, and illegally, copy such information by taking screen shots or retyping because material from the classified system cannot be emailed to an unsecure system.

A former inspector general for the State Department said the agency knew of Clinton’s use of a private server long before officials there admitted it, because they never even opened an official .gov account for her. “This was all planned in advance,” to protect herself from “internal investigations,” said Howard J. Krongard, according to the New York Post.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said “the odds are high” that Clinton’s server was compromised, but Obama himself downplayed the possibility in October. He told “60 Minutes” that while her decision to use an unsecured private server was “a mistake,” U.S. security had not been endangered. Days later The New York Times reported that agents at the FBI weren’t pleased with the president second-guessing the outcome of their investigation.

While Clinton floats through her campaign literally laughing off questions about her email problem, it shouldn’t be funny to any loyal, partisan Democrat invested in keeping the White House in 2017. Obama knows even without an indictment the FBI report could leak out and crush her chances at winning the election. He should make sure his administration gives Clinton a wide berth. 

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.