We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What are the risks that Hillary Clinton goes to jail before she could reach the White House?

This story has been around for such a long time that the cynics in the media and political world are inclined, perhaps, to roll their eyes at yet another article going on about how Hillary Clinton (who beat Bernie Sanders by a whisker in Iowa last night) allegedly put classified material through a private email account, including material considered so sensitive that the lives of CIA and other US operatives are potentially at risk. A full account can be seen at the Observer blog (not to be confused with the British newspaper.) From a reading of this tale, it seems to me that Clinton has misbehaved on a scale equivalent to say, a Bradley Manning or, maybe in some ways, an Edward Snowden (contrary to some people, I don’t regard Snowden as a libertarian hero, at least not consistently). And one effect may be that supposed allies of the US, such as the UK, may be asking very urgent questions indeed, right now, about all this. What UK intelligence material has been compromised? Have Brit agents’ lives been put at risk? And so on. And given that there is no love lost between the Obama and Clinton camps, it may be that Obama, with his Chicago-educated ruthlessness and malice, may absolutely love to torpedo the candidacy of this woman and try and get a hardline socialist into the White House (although that might be wishful thinking.)

There has been so much focus on Donald Trump’s extraordinary rise to political prominence that some of the media attention that could have been focused on the Clinton email affair has been diverted. Even allowing for media bias to the Clintons, there are enough liberal/left journalists, as well as more obviously conservative and libertarian ones, who loathe the Clinton dynasty, who are appalled by its corruption, to make a serious assault. I expect the next few weeks and months to be fascinating.

So a question for commentators on this blog is: how serious a risk does Clinton face of going down for this and are there precedents of a front-runner for a candidacy being brought down by criminal charges/investigation?


37 comments to What are the risks that Hillary Clinton goes to jail before she could reach the White House?

  • Andrew Duffin

    The risks are zero: she’s a Democrat.

  • Mary Contrary


    It may collapse her campaign (possible; I’d still say highly unlikely). The chances that she’ll serve time for this fall in the slim-to-none bracket, even if that takes an (unpublished) presidential pardon. Obama won’t do it for her for his good heart (!), but Hillary will have enough dirt stashed away to force the issue if necessary.

  • FrancisT

    I think the US intelligence agencies are, rightly, furious. And I woud expect increasingly damaging leaks unless it becomes obvious that the DoJ will seek an indictment. I don’t think Clinton really grasps why this is such a kick in the balls to the intel community, and hence won’t expect the leaks to be on anything other than the server, but I would imagne the US intel community has plenty of dirt on the Clinton Foundation, Bill and all the other scandals surrounding her and I expect all these will come out if she doesn’t quit.

    GCHQ (and other foreign agencies) may also be furious, though there’s another interesting alternative. Consider that there is evidence (per Snowden) that GCHQ has been compromising vulnerable servers pretty much anywhere in the world. Nothing would have stopped it being one of the state sponsored agencies that scanned the Clinton server (which seems to be a bog standard MS Small Business Server with RDP enabled) and, if it did, the chances are high that it had an exploit that would allow it to compromise the server and gain access. If so it may also actually KNOW what was on the server.

    In which case the question is whether the UK would prefer to have a loaded gun they could point at a future President H Clinton or whether they’d prefer that she go down in flames. That may well depend on the outcome of the Republican primaries. If it looks like someone sane is going to the Republican candidate then they’ll probably make damn sure she goes down and rely on a bit of gratitude from the next president. OTOH if it’s Clinton vs Trump the blackmail option sounds rather better.

  • CaptDMO

    “…how serious a risk does Clinton face of going down for this…”?
    Not much, I don’t think her husband is interested…other than “implications” to The Clinton Global Charitable Foundation’s coffers,…but she COULD go down..for a Presidential Pardon, or a pre-emptive Presidential “New Rules for Democrat Women” proclamation!
    But what to do with a President denied any subsequent Top Secret…um, privileges, at home OR abroad?

  • Alsadius

    The difference between Clinton and Manning is that Clinton didn’t dump it all in Assange’s lap. She wasn’t great with security measures, but she didn’t actively work to breach security. If she gets hit for it at all, it’ll be a slap on the wrist.

  • andyinsdca

    I still think it’s sort of likely. There is no love lost between Obama and Hillary and I suspect that Obama would be happy to have his admin throw her under the bus. Obama is a party man insofar as it got him to the White House. He’d have been a Whig or John Bircher if would have gotten him there, so he has no loyalty to the Dems. If nothing happens to her, I suspect the intel communities will definitely get out their book of dirty tricks and cause her all kinds of issues.

    For a while, I’ve been predicting that she’ll resign from the race for “health issues,” I still think that’s the most likely outcome.

  • Paul Marks

    Mrs Clinton has committed many crimes over the years – mostly for money. And she has never served a day in prison – the legal system is corrupt.

    As for her antics as Secretary of State – selling American influence (and secrets) for cash, to be put in the Clinton Foundation (the “charity” the Clintons and their associates use as a piggy bank) – it is par for the course really.

    Dead American agents? Why would that bother Mrs Clinton? Does it cost her any money?

    “It is like Benghazi” – yes where Mrs Clinton lied to the families of the dead, pretending they died over a YouTube film (which had nothing to do with it).

    Mrs Clinton was very bored during the Benghazi hearings – she has said so (repeatedly) and “tweeted” images of her boredom about both Benghazi and the wiped e.mails.

    Mrs Hillary Clinton stored top secret information, illegally, on her private server.

    And she has removed 35 thousand “private” e.mails from that same service.

    “What do you mean wiped? Do you mean with a cloth?”

    A scumbag.

    A complete and total scumbag.

    But Hillary Clinton will not serve a day in prison for this, or all her other crimes.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Let’s not forget that the reason for the private server wasn’t, presumably, to simplify her access to classified material but to hide malfeasance in office; she might well skate on the security violations and still be brought to grief by evidence of corruption in the released e-mails.

    However, I’m about 75% sure that, even there, she’ll be protected by the Tacit Constitution’s ‘Connected Person Clause’.

  • RRS

    @ P M:

    The U S legal system has been perverted ; but; it is NOT corrupt.

    It has been perverted by “popular demand” into a means of attaining ends. That’s what the “public” wanted, that’s what they got; now they are finding themselves mired in its processes.

    Now, in some particular jurisdictions, one might encounter corrupt persons (or groups)in those legal systems. However, the nature of the corruption usually correlated with the “use” being made of the system.

  • RRS

    The “Obama”* obsession with the Petraeus persona, and to diminish the aura of that period (particularly as it might reflect on an “Obama” period) is now likely to capture the derelictions, plus the perjury, of HRC. The recent floating of proposals to reduce the rank (remove “Stars”) of Petraeus may have been to give Obama an opening for “pardons” which he could use to prevent disaster for the party that elevated him (deservedly, of course) and might preserve his significance.

    The garbage dump of the past 8 years has only begun to smolder. The raking back to expose the fire and to extinguish its source(s) will take enormous efforts. The public will probably lose interest.

  • RRS

    Sorry forgot the * note:

    * That is the whole sycophanticity, not just the narcissistic.

  • Mr Ed

    The evidence of an offence seems to be abundant, but indictments are for little people.

    Perhaps it’s too close to call, should we toss a coin?

  • AngryTory

    Obama… may absolutely love to torpedo the candidacy of this woman and try and get a hardline socialist into the White House

    that woman (who is of course ineligible for too many reasons to count) is the only candidate promising not to repeal Obamacare — yep even the socialist will repeal Obamacare.

    Why would only one candidate swear to keep Obama’s biggest policy?

    there it is, right there. Anyone else wins, it’s a total repudiation of Obama – it’s as if, I dunno, he also was ineligible in the first place.

  • AngryTory

    The U S legal system has been perverted ; but; it is NOT corrupt.

    of course it’s corrupt. If it wasn’t corrupt, both Clintons would be in jail for life (or worse); Obama too; and we’d be looking Palin being nominated by acclamation to carry on the successful work of a McCain presidency!

  • AngryTory

    For a while, I’ve been predicting that she’ll resign from the race for “health issues,” I still think that’s the most likely outcome.

    And I was predicting Obama wouldn’t last the first year. I thought the Oathkeepers meant what they said. How wrong I was.

  • AngryTory

    GCHQ (and other foreign agencies) may also be furious, though there’s another interesting alternative

    If GCHQ were really a UK intelligence agency (instead of an extra-constitutional outsourced arm of the NSA) then the would be incompetent if they did not have complete and full access to that server. It was their job.

    More to the point, the Chinese (and Mossad, and FSS, and DGSE) would also have had full access. It was a bog-standard windows server with no other protections! This cannot have been accidental. It can only have been a deliberate choice to Alger Hiss the entire foreign and defence policies of the USA.

  • Paul Marks

    RRS I am not being anti American.

    I am simply pointing out that under the traditional Common Law most prosecutions are brought by private persons – not the state.

    England and Wales have been going wrong in this respect since at least the 1870s – here I agree with Sean Gabb (enemies though we are, he is correct about this).

    As for American law (the “Justice” Department and so on) – perhaps the word “corrupt” was wrong – and I apologise.

    I meant “intellectually corrupted” – based on corrupt principles.

    Whether the Federal system brings a prosecution is based on political considerations – and it should not be.

    And the Federal system is massively biased towards the prosecution (only a small minority of people who are charged by Federal authorities are declared fully innocent – and it is not because the Feds always charge guilty people).

    Assets are taken – without any proof that these assets come from crime.

    Many of the offences are incredibly vague.

    And on and on.

    The Federal system is a total mess and needs fundamental reform to get it back on sound principles.

    A skilled and BELIEVING Constitutional lawyer needs to get the entire Federal “justice” system and give it a good shake – by the neck.

    Someone like Ted Cruz.

  • Paul Marks

    Selling influence for money – selling secrets for money.

    Destroying evidence by “wiping” e.mails.

    E.mails that should not have been on a private server in the first place.

    Person from P. is correct.

    These are serious crimes – Mrs Clinton should be in prison.

    But she is not likely to be charged – and may even be elected President.

    But if I should not call such a system “corrupt” I am happy to substitute the word “perverted” for it.

    So the American Federal government system has become “perverted”.

  • Laird

    RRS and PM: As RRS said, our justice system isn’t “corrupt” (at least, not entirely so), although it has been perverted. But the US Justice Department is indeed corrupt, as it has been used by this administration for entirely corrupt political purposes (Holder should be in jail). So you’re both partly right.

    But as to whether Hillary will ever serve any jail time (and the evidence is abundant that she should), there are too many unknowns to predict that with any degree of confidence. It is clear that there is no love lost between the Obamas and the Clintons, and I don’t see Obama protecting her unless it serves his interests to do so. (And I suspect that nothing would please him [and Michelle!] more than to see Hillary dragged into federal court in an orange jumpsuit.) If she becomes his party’s nominee I can’t see him not protecting her (by instructing his Justice Department not to prosecute, and possibly by giving her a pre-emptive pardon). But if Bernie Sanders begins to run away with the nomination and she appears to be losing it (yet again!) he could very will authorize prosecution. Similarly, if there is no clear winner in the primaries and the Democratic National Convention looks like it will become a brokered affair, he could put his finger on the scales by authorizing an indictment, especially if Joe Biden changes his mind and decides to run for the office after all. In my view the nomination has always been Biden’s for the asking, and unless someone else has it sewn up by the Convention it still will be.

    So, it’s too soon to tell whether she’ll ever serve any jail time. But I’m hoping she does; recently I invested $5 in a bumper sticker which says “Hillary for Prison”! I makes me smile every time I see it.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird! I want one of those! It would match my “Time for Concealed Carry in Illinois” very well! (No I haven’t removed it from my bumper.)

    . . .

    But more seriously: You people are sure gullible. Benghazi itself, not to mention this whole e-mail “scandal,” is just the usual right-wing political antics and sideshow, nothing to be taken seriously.

    I have this on the authority of a Democratic SJW of firm convictions, an experienced gentleman as aged as myself, so definitely to be considered a source of Truth. Besides, I’ve read Blogs (I use the word advisedly this time) that say so.

    I’m sure that the fact that the SJW happens to be an attorney resident in the heart of Chicago has nothing to do with it. After all, he has the same hickly origins as YrsTrly.

    LOL…in point of fact, he told me with a rather rueful grin that his practice has been mostly in defending Corporations (boo-hiss) against anti-trust suits or indictments or whatever is the appropriate category of offense.

    . . .

    Actually, my bet is that Shrill really will be the nominee. But it may be interesting to watch.

  • Laird

    Julie, this isn’t the exact same one as mine, but it’s close enough!

  • Incunabulum

    There’s absolutely no risk whatsoever that she’ll end up in jail at *any* point, let alone before the election.

    To start with, American government doesn’t throw high ranking and *very public* government officials in jail anymore. They get knocked around a bit in Congressional hearings and then there’ll be a time when the public loses interest, the prosecutors decide ‘there’s simply not enough hard evidence’ and the whole thing will be swept under the rug. Doubly so if the Republicans lead the charge as it’ll be spun as an underhanded tactic to ‘steal the election’.

  • RRS

    @ P M:

    Your comments could never be understood (by the sane) as anti-American.

    Our ( U S )legal system has deep and pervasive problems, which are not all due to departures from Common Law and Equity [does anybody remember Equity?]principles.

    You have been spared my diatribes elsewhere that the greatest threat to individual liberty in our country is prosecutorial discretion. So, we may not be far apart in our observations of the symptoms, yet differ on the causes.

    There is also the inclination to infer to the legal system what are actually attributes of the political system, which, sadly, reflects the virtues of the electorate.

    Consider how we have gotten to the issues of Email, servers, private servers, “disclosures” by “Foundations,” etc. It was through the legal system that we have gotten this far initially by private actions.THEN, only then, comes the FBI cavalry (which has failed to act in an IRS matter of similar taint).

    They will probably act this time; and the questions may concern the composition of the Grand Jury – and WHERE convened. What might we expect from the population of D.C.?

  • Fraser Orr

    American government doesn’t throw high ranking and *very public* government officials in jail anymore.

    I don’t think that is true. I live in Illinois and most of our recent governors are in jail (OK I’m exaggerating a little there…)

    I really don’t know what is going to happen here. I think that if she isn’t charged then the FBI director, who seems to be a good honorable guy, will quit very publicly. I’m not sure if Obama wants that scandal at the end of his administration — better to go out with an act of “I’m impartial and even charge my closest ‘allies'”. But I could be wrong, and he could certainly do a Gerald Ford on her.

    However, I was curious about this server, so I did a little looking. Apparently two servers, including the actual email server had open remote desktop ports — open without a VPN connection. Apparently this fact had been captured on the various published scans on the internet for open ports done by hackers.
    Anyone who knows anything about computer security is feeling nauseated now. Anyone who did this with even mildly secure data in the public sector would be out of a job. God, the way it is set up it wouldn’t surprise me if the password for admin was “password”, or “BuddyTheDog”.

    And lets be clear, even the most basic national hacking agencies pwnd that server. The Chinese, the Russians, the Brits and the North Koreans for sure. Heck this is something a 14 year old kiddie can hack in his mom’s basement. It isn’t just bad, it is pathetic.

    What I am confused about though is that the NSA also MUST have known about this server and its insecurity. What is the deal there? Why didn’t they fix it?


  • Laird

    Fraser, Obama could indeed (and very likely would) “do a Gerald Ford on her.” However, keep in mind a few things: Ford didn’t pardon Nixon until it was a certainty that Nixon was going to be impeached (when the Supreme Court ordered his release of the tapes). In Hillary’s case I can’t see a pardon until an indictment has been returned. Also, the very fact of granting (and accepting) the pardon was enough to convince most people that Nixon was guilty as alleged. A presidential pardon for Hillary, even a “pre-emptive” one (if that’s even possible; with this president who knows?), would be seen by most people as an acknowledgment of guilt. It would most certainly be the end of her political career.

    And since you brought up Nixon (indirectly), recall also that he tried to have his Justice Department sweep the whole Watergate thing under the rug, but public pressure became so strong that he was ultimately forced to permit the appointment of a special prosecutor. Part of that pressure came from large-scale resignations at the Justice Department. As this whole “crisis” (for Hillary) deepens I think Obama will find himself under similar pressures to permit an indictment. Absent that he will likely see significant (in terms of numbers as well as rank) resignations from the FBI and possibly the Justice Department as well.

    And the “crisis” continues to deepen. We now know that, in addition to the 1300 classified emails from her server already released by State, the latest batch includes a few that were so sensitive (far above “Top Secret”) that they wouldn’t release even completely redacted versions. We now know: that there were emails from people at State to Hillary several years ago, so they clearly knew she was using (illegally) a private server; that Obama himself sent her at least a few emails at that address; that she was never issued a State Department email address, so the use of that private server was pre-planned even before she took office; that one of her chief deputies devised a secret method of transferring classified documents from the secure State Department servers to her private one, so there was clear intentionality here; and that Hillary refused to permit the appointment of an Inspector General at State for her entire term of office there, so her perfidies would go undetected (or at least unreported and unchallenged). The tentacles from this scandal are spreading ever farther and ever higher. It is growing more apparent by the day that this is far more serious that Watergate ever was. This is not going away any time soon.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Laird, I agree with your assessment of the seriousness of this situation, and it is compounded by the fact that there is growing evidence is just plain rank corruption in the funneling of money into the Clinton foundation in exchange for State department benefits.
    However, one should never underestimate the abilities of the Clintons for slithering out of the most impenetrable traps.
    Since you seem like a bright guy, let me reiterate a question I asked earlier. How is it possible that the NSA did not know about this situation? After all, they are constantly probing the whole net for vulnerabilities, and if some script kiddie in Serbia can find it, why didn’t they?
    And if they did, why didn’t they do something about it? Don’t you think that that is oddly curious?

  • Laird

    Fraser, those are good questions. Let me take a crack at them.

    I would be astounded if the NSA didn’t know about it. But as to why they didn’t do anything about it: Why would they?

    The NSA seems to be a lot like J. Edgar Hoover on whatever it was that made the Hulk the Hulk: they like to collect data for the mere sake of having it. It’s not likely that any of their “assets” were compromised by her emails; that’s the CIA’s problem. And there is always the possibility of blackmail (as was noted above by FrancisT with respect to GCHQ) should Hillary ascend to the presidency (which seemed eminently likely at the time we’re discussing). Having concrete evidence of criminal negligence (at best; treason at worst) on a sitting president could be quite useful, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you like to have that squirrelled away in a safe somewhere on Fort Meade?

    Your question assumes that the NSA has the best interests of the nation uppermost in its bureaucratic hive mind. That’s a touching faith in the rectitude of our government, but I don’t share your credulity.

  • Laird

    By the way, in my earlier comment I mentioned that Ford didn’t pardon Nixon “until it was a certainty that Nixon was going to be impeached“. That was in error. The pardon occurred after Nixon had resigned (Ford wouldn’t have had the pardon power before that), so obviously impeachment was no longer on the table. What I should have said was “indicted”; once Nixon left office he became just another private citizen and the special prosecutor could (and likely would) have continued his pursuit. Ford acted as he did to spare the country the agony of witnessing the criminal trial of a former president. He took a lot of criticism over that (many people thought he should have allowed justice to take its course), and it might have cost him the subsequent election, but he might have been right. Obviously we’ll never know.

  • AngryTory

    And lets be clear, even the most basic national hacking agencies pwnd that server. The Chinese, the Russians, the Brits and the North Koreans for sure. Heck this is something a 14 year old kiddie can hack in his mom’s basement. It isn’t just bad, it is pathetic.

    Right. And were a a D’RAT I’d say “thank you for providing Hitler’s clear defence to any Criminal charge: she did not know the details of her server, that was left to her IT guys and the state depts IT guys. You don’t charge the secretary of state (in the US) because some low-level loser left the door to the mailroom unlocked. (in the UK, under ministerial responsibility, of course she’d have to resign over it – but that wouldn’t stop her being PM later on).

    What I am confused about though is that the NSA also MUST

    And that’s the real point that no-one has noticed yet. The only reason is that Clinton* told the US govt agencies, including the GCHQ. not to complain, in order that the Chinese** could hack the US

    * more far-fetched possibility: at least one of Clinton’s staffers is an Aldrich Ames deep-cover agent, who left the hole open for the Chinese**

    ** or Mossad

  • AngryTory

    Pre-emptive and self-pardons are both possible (except in the case of impeachment).

    Hitlery could win, then self-pardon and pre-emptively pardon herself and Obama on day 1.
    That stops Obama being tried, and she’s safe from anything except impeachment.

  • Fraser Orr

    >That’s a touching faith in the rectitude of our government

    LOL, nobody has ever said that about me before. I get what you are saying, but I am dubious, not because of my confidence in the rectitude of the government but because the NSA doesn’t want their stuff leaking out. Better to have your evidence, squirrel it away, then plug the leak.

    But I don’t know, and probably will never know absent another Snowden. I just think it is odd, and even odder that nobody seems to be talking about this specific aspect.

    BTW, one hand washes another. The people who are most like Hoover are the Clinton’s themselves. I am sure they have a huge archive of dirt on everyone, including, perhaps the head of the NSA.

  • Laird

    “I am sure they have a huge archive of dirt on everyone, including, perhaps the head of the NSA.”

    A distinct possibility, to be sure, which would provide an alternative solution to your query. As you say, we will probably never know.

  • Fraser Orr

    So today it has been claimed that the emails contained the real names of undercover CIA operatives and foreign operatives on the CIA payroll:


    If true, this is a breathtaking revelation. If you remember Scooter Libby, who allegedly revealed the name of Valerie Plame, a non undercover CIA agent, (but in fact didn’t.) He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a quarter million dollar fine. President Bush commuted his sentence but not his conviction.

    Plainly revealing the name of one non undercover, inactive agent is a far less serious matter than revealing many active undercover agents.

    And it seems that this problems is spreading to Kerry and possibly even Obama himself.

    This could be a huge scandal, like I said earlier, it is very Watergate-y indeed.

  • gongcult

    To Fraser: I remember seeing a posting from former ? Clinton operative Roger Nichols? Posting something that Obama and a host of Republican Senators and Congressmen emailing Hilary on her insecure server. If this is true and she’s indicted she’ll release all her e-mails in her defense and then everyone will be fair game. Or so the “conspiracy” ploy goes?

  • gongcult

    I’m so sorry that should be Larry Nichols. Roger Nichols was the engineer on the “Royal Scam” &Aja by Steely Dan. All very cool, some more aesthetic than forewarning.

  • AngryTory

    If this is true and she’s indicted she’ll release all her e-mails in her defense and then everyone will be fair game

    of course it’s true and her emails are already being released after checking by the FBI


    famous line “I was surprised he [some hack] is using a personal email address if he’s at state”

  • Mr Ed

    Senator Obama campaigning for Mr Sanders’s Senate run in Vermont in March 2006.

    He talked about wanting Mr Sanders and a candidate for Congress ending up in Washington, where they can ‘stir up some trouble‘.