Will Obama pardon Hillary?

If reports of an imminent indictment for Hillary Clinton are true – that is, if we’re not being played by the administration – then Democrats must be immersed in intense, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to avert a disaster or mitigate the fallout.  That surely involves the White House, which may well have the final say on Hillary’s future.  Depending on the extent of the evidence, the administration might be unable to quash an indictment outright without threatening another Saturday Night Massacre, but it might be able to navigate a lesser charge.  With an assist from the president, that could conceivably make an indictment politically survivable.

Obama is already on record in a 60 Minutes interview in October stating that he didn’t believe Clinton’s use of a private email server, though a “mistake,” endangered national security.  “I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” he told Steve Kroft.  “I do think that the way it’s been ginned up is in part because of – in part – because of politics.”

If he feels that way after an indictment, and the indictment is only for email offenses, Obama could pardon Clinton from further prosecution, much as President Clinton pardoned the indicted financier Marc Rich 20 years ago.  He could claim that a pardon was crucial to preserve the election process and therefore necessary for the good of the country.

The political backlash would be tremendous, but that has never bothered the Obama administration.  Its political backlashes never incite media interest for long, and Democrats in general – and Obama and Clinton in particular – write off all criticism as partisan and groundless.  The base might even become energized in support of its beleaguered candidate.  Soon we’d be hearing that it’s time to move on, that the matter had been dealt with and was “in the past.”  Given the Republican reluctance to press the attack against Democrats in national elections – witness McCain and Romney – that might be the end of the scandal.

However, if the indictment were for corruption and not just for email misuse, a pardon becomes problematic and Clinton’s continued political viability much less likely.  Withdrawal still wouldn’t be automatic, not for a Clinton, but the party bosses might mobilize against her, believing her vulnerability too much of a risk.  That could depend on how late in the election cycle an indictment comes.

We were told last week, through an interview with former U.S. attorney Joseph DiGenova and a report on Fox News, that the FBI was widening its investigation to include corruption and possibly other charges.  We are also being assured that the FBI and its director James Comey, an Obama appointee, are impartial and independent.

But could these leaks be setting the stage for a complete exoneration of Clinton?  She could claim, as she already has, that she only made a mistake with the email handling, one that she regrets, and that now the FBI has cleared her of other charges after an exhaustive investigation.  At that point, a pardon cleanses her résumé.

What effect the outcome of this investigation, let alone a pardon, will have on the public’s trust and faith in America’s justice system is another matter.  For that reason alone, this probe – the latest of many in the careers of the Clintons – will be one of the most politically significant investigations in the history of the republic.  How politicized has our government become?  Is justice still blind?  We’re about to find out.

If reports of an imminent indictment for Hillary Clinton are true – that is, if we’re not being played by the administration – then Democrats must be immersed in intense, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to avert a disaster or mitigate the fallout.  That surely involves the White House, which may well have the final say on Hillary’s future.  Depending on the extent of the evidence, the administration might be unable to quash an indictment outright without threatening another Saturday Night Massacre, but it might be able to navigate a lesser charge.  With an assist from the president, that could conceivably make an indictment politically survivable.

Obama is already on record in a 60 Minutes interview in October stating that he didn’t believe Clinton’s use of a private email server, though a “mistake,” endangered national security.  “I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” he told Steve Kroft.  “I do think that the way it’s been ginned up is in part because of – in part – because of politics.”

If he feels that way after an indictment, and the indictment is only for email offenses, Obama could pardon Clinton from further prosecution, much as President Clinton pardoned the indicted financier Marc Rich 20 years ago.  He could claim that a pardon was crucial to preserve the election process and therefore necessary for the good of the country.

The political backlash would be tremendous, but that has never bothered the Obama administration.  Its political backlashes never incite media interest for long, and Democrats in general – and Obama and Clinton in particular – write off all criticism as partisan and groundless.  The base might even become energized in support of its beleaguered candidate.  Soon we’d be hearing that it’s time to move on, that the matter had been dealt with and was “in the past.”  Given the Republican reluctance to press the attack against Democrats in national elections – witness McCain and Romney – that might be the end of the scandal.

However, if the indictment were for corruption and not just for email misuse, a pardon becomes problematic and Clinton’s continued political viability much less likely.  Withdrawal still wouldn’t be automatic, not for a Clinton, but the party bosses might mobilize against her, believing her vulnerability too much of a risk.  That could depend on how late in the election cycle an indictment comes.

We were told last week, through an interview with former U.S. attorney Joseph DiGenova and a report on Fox News, that the FBI was widening its investigation to include corruption and possibly other charges.  We are also being assured that the FBI and its director James Comey, an Obama appointee, are impartial and independent.

But could these leaks be setting the stage for a complete exoneration of Clinton?  She could claim, as she already has, that she only made a mistake with the email handling, one that she regrets, and that now the FBI has cleared her of other charges after an exhaustive investigation.  At that point, a pardon cleanses her résumé.

What effect the outcome of this investigation, let alone a pardon, will have on the public’s trust and faith in America’s justice system is another matter.  For that reason alone, this probe – the latest of many in the careers of the Clintons – will be one of the most politically significant investigations in the history of the republic.  How politicized has our government become?  Is justice still blind?  We’re about to find out.