Signs emerge FBI investigation of Hillary emails has moved to a new, more serious stage

Momentum is a concept that applies to criminal investigations almost as much as it does to sports teams.  And from the signs available, it looks as if the probe into potential criminality in the Hillary email scandal has got the Big Mo.

Despite the FBI’s efforts to remain tight-lipped over the ongoing investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, it looks as though substantial resources are being devoted, so that a political kill of the query would be difficult to justify if push comes to shove.  Politico has been interviewing as many people as it can, both on and off the record, to get a sense of where theinvestigation is leading, and the indications are that Hillary should be worried.  Rachel Bade writes:

The FBI’s recent moves suggest that its inquiry could have evolved from the preliminary fact-finding stage that the agency launches when it receives a credible referral, according to former FBI and DOJ officials inteviewed [sic] by POLITICO.

“This sounds to me like it’s more than a preliminary inquiry; it sounds like a full-blown investigation,” said Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI. “When you have this amount of resources going into it …. I think it’s at the investigative level.”

Translation: scores of agents are involved, interviewing people, conducting technical analyses, writing memos, and constructing a vast paper (actually, digital) archive accessible to many people within the bureau.  Not something easily suppressed.

Former FBI and Justice officials familiar with the investigative procedures on such matters said the agency must determine two main things: whether the use of an outside email system posed any risks to national security secrets and if so, if anyone was responsible for exposing classified information.

Now that we know that at least one email contained the highest-level secrets – satellite images of North Korea that would reveal the capabilities of our space-based intel capabilities – the first question is probably answered with yes.  As to the second, common sense suggests that the person who ordered the system established bears responsibility.  But the Clintons have a history of using fall guys.  Everyone on Team Hillary is on notice that it’s time to lawyer up.  For example:

The agency has asked documents from Tania Neild, the New York-based technology broker for millionaires, who put the Clintons in touch with Platte River Networks.

Neild confirmed the FBI request in an interview with POLITICO, saying they asked her to appear with written documents relating to the advice she gave to her client about negotiating with Platte River. Her company, InfoGrate Inc., acts as a middle man between high-worth individuals and companies that oversee their personal technologies, such as emails.

Neild operates under a confidentiality agreement with all her clients. She said the non-disclosure precluded her from cooperating with the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is also investigating the server issue and reached out to her for an interview. But the FBI notice, she said, trumped her confidentiality agreement.

Her lawyer would not confirm any contact they may or may not have had with the Department of Justice or the FBI.

The way that people like Neild get around their obligation to protect client confidentiality is to respond to a subpoena. And that means that the big question is whether or not subpoenas have been or will be issued.  So far, we don’t know:

Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division, said Justice is likely worried about issuing formal legal notices “because they know it will get out, and then you’re talking about a grand jury investigation.” But he said it’s “not uncommon” for companies to require subpoenas, court orders or other legal notices to cooperate to save their corporate reputation, which could otherwise be jeopardized for sharing personal information.

“I am sure there is hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth across the street at the Hoover Building because you’re going to have people saying ‘I don’t want to produce X documents. Give me a piece of paper that covers me.’ And that’s where push is going to come to shove,” Hosko said.

Stay tuned.  The subpoenas will tell the story