Why Sanders must stay in the race
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (Vt.) must stay in the race for the Democratic nomination primarily because the Democratic Primary won't be determined by delegate count. Democrats can't defeat a Republican on Nov. 8 with the possibility of their candidate facing indictment. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has explained that "gross negligence is not a defense" for any laws broken due to front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE's use of a private server while serving as secretary of State. Because of the various laws that Clinton could have been broken (for example, "gross negligence" is enough to prosecute under the Espionage Act), Democrats must wait for the FBI and the Department of Justice to decide upon whether or not to indict.

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Furthermore, only Sanders has positive favorable ratings, while both Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE rival one another for unfavorable ratings this election. In hypothetical general election polls, Sanders already defeats Trump by a wider margin than Clinton (without the hindrance of being the subject of a year-long FBI criminal investigation). While behind in delegates, Democrats already have a winner in Sanders.

Although Clinton has 1,768 pledged delegates, nobody at FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times or The Washington Post ever imagined Sanders could earn 1,494. The 525 superdelegates thus far who've sided with Clinton should wait for the FBI to disclose its findings before choosing her. In 2016, there's only one presidential candidate who faces the possibility of future jail time. For Democrats, and especially Democratic superdelegates, the upcoming convention symbolizes a profound choice. The FBI investigation could easily lead to Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, especially since Democrats can't defeat Trump with a person facing criminal indictments. This story just got even more complicated, with ABC News reporting that four years of Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano's State Department emails are missing:

The State Department said today it can't find Bryan Pagliano's emails from the time he served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior information technology staffer during her tenure there.

Pagliano would have been required to turn over any official communications from his work account before he left the government. ...

"The Department has searched for Mr. Pagliano's email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton's tenure," State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau said today [May 9, 2016], referencing a file format that holds email. ...

It's unclear why the State Department does not have his email records for the time [he] served as her IT director or whether or not he purposefully withheld them.

The fact that four years of Pagliano's emails are missing correlates to the 31,830 deleted emails from Clinton's private server. It also ties into the reality that Clinton's political motive had nothing to do with "convenience" when paying Pagliano to set up her private server.

Then of course, CNN reported earlier this month that several of Clinton's top aides have already been interviewed by the FBI:

Some of Hillary Clinton's closest aides, including her longtime adviser Huma Abedin, have provided interviews to federal investigators, as the FBI probe into the security of her private email server nears completion, U.S. officials briefed on the investigation tell CNN.

Clinton herself will likely be interviewed soon, signifying the last stages of an email investigation that could lead to dire political consequences for Clinton's campaign.

Finally, a great many Sanders supporters will never support Clinton, as noted in a Wall Street Journal poll this March:

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates one third of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' supporters cannot see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in November. This could spell trouble for Clinton who will likely need Sanders' backers in order to win the White House.

Even if Clinton circumvents indictments, the media frenzy regarding emails will increase the number of progressives who refuse to support the former secretary of State.

The uncertainty regarding those emails, combined with the uncertainty pertaining to a great number of progressives refusing to support Clinton, makes Bernie Sanders more important than ever for Democrats. Superdelegates exist to ensure that Democratic presidential candidates don't enter Election Day with indictments  or other issues that tarnish electability. He must stay in the race and enter a possible contested convention with the mindset of winning it all. Democrats will need Sanders when it's all said and done because of Hillary Clinton's inability to type an email without scandal.

Goodman is a columnist and journalist who has been published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Jerusalem Post, Salon, The Huffington Post and other publications.