Micek: Hillary's lingering e-mail problem

John L. Micek
John Micek, editorial and opinions editor for PennLive/The Patriot-News.

A federal investigation into Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton's unusual email habits while she was President Barack Obama's secretary of state appeared to be finally reaching its end this week.

Cue the trumpets and choirs of angels along the Hutchinson River Parkway leading to the once (and perhaps future) First Couple's compound in suburban Chappaqua, N.Y.

But that doesn't mean the scandal over Clinton's home-made email server has lost any of its political potency.

For many, the scandal, coupled with Clinton's repeated claims she did nothing wrong, remains a symbol of how out-of-touch she is with average voters.

Late last week, The Washington Post reported that "prosecutors and FBI agents investigating [Clinton's] use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence," that she intended to break classification rules.

The Post also reported that "U.S. officials also dismissed claims by a Romanian hacker now facing federal charges in Virginia that he was able to breach Clinton's personal email server."

Even so, "they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself," The Post reported, citing "U.S. officials familiar with the matter."

CNN reported last Thursday that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin had been interviewed about the email matter. And The Post noted that prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office from Virginia's Eastern District had also become involved in the probe.

But the fact that the U.S. Attorney's Office is involved wasn't a sign that, despite her opponents' fondest wishes to the contrary, that charges against Clinton were imminent — or even likely.

An official told the newspaper that "prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not." Clinton herself is likely to be interviewed soon, Reuters and other outlets reported.

Attorney Gregg Jarrett said earlier this month that it doesn't matter if Clinton believes she didn't put the nation at-risk with her email habits:

"Clinton's acts were clearly intentional," Jarrett wrote on Fox News. "She intended to create a private server. She knew it was unsecured. She intended to retain classified materials on the server, and she proceeded to do so (with some 2,000 classified and 22 "top secret" documents)."

"Remember, knowingly storing classified information at an unauthorized location is a crime," he concluded.

In the political arena, it scarcely matters whether Clinton is legally guilty.

In a March CNN poll, 51 percent of respondents said Clinton's use of a personal email system, rather than a government server, was a "very" or "somewhat" serious problem. Forty-eight percent said it was no problem at all.

Respondents to the CNN poll were similarly split over whether Clinton did something wrong (51-47 percent) by using the system.

Apart from any allegations of impropriety or criminal behavior, Clinton's attitude about the private server is already troubling on a couple of levels.

As I wrote last year, giving Clinton control over what emails she released to the State Department afforded her an opportunity to rewrite history to her own liking — always a mistake when it comes to a politician.

It also feeds into the lingering (and not unjustified) perception that the Clintons are inauthentic, arrogant and aloof.

Jeffrey Lord, a CNN political analyst and Donald Trump sympathizer, says the presumptive GOP nominee will make the case that, while Clinton may have experience, her judgment "is poor," and point to not only email but the Benghazi attacks as well.

And, in fact, that's what Trump did say in an interview with Fox News:

"She's got bad judgment. Who would do this with emails? That is a very serious problem," he told an interviewer

Speaking to CNN's Anderson Cooper, Clinton laughed off a question about whether she was ready for those attacks.

"Oh, please," she said. "This is to me is a classic case of a blustering, bullying guy."

She even gave him a nickname: "Loose Cannon," a rejoinder to Trump's "Crooked Hillary."

So in the fight over email (and other matters) this fall, "Crooked Hillary" will face off against "Loose Cannon Donald."

It's an argument that could just as easily take place in a website's comments section as a debate stage.

And you can bet the ranch that it'll be just as civil.

John Micek is the opinion editor and political columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.