FBI agents are set to investigate security concerns related to the private email server used by Clinton during her time as U.S. Secretary of State.
In addition to the email server, agents will also look into the security of a flash drive which contained copies of Clinton’s emails, according to Sky News. David Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer, currently has possession of the drive.
Investigations relates to time as U.S. Secretary of State
Kendall has since confirmed that the FBI had contacted him: “The government is seeking assurance about the storage of those materials. We are actively cooperating.”
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Clinton is currently the Democratic frontrunner in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Her decision to use a private email server has attracted widespread criticism since the story broke in March.
The server handled emails at Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, New York, and investigators are looking into whether it was used to send or receive any classified information during her time in office.
Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs Clinton’s presidential campaign, took to Twitter to play down the importance of developments. He tweeted that a report in The Washington Post: “Doesn’t change anything… IG (Inspector General) sent ask to DOJ to confirm emails are secure. IG request was non-criminal & didn’t accuse Clinton of wrongdoing. FBI is ‘not targeting her’.”
NBC News has since confirmed that the investigation relates to the system used in the server, not a person.
Email controversy has dogged Clinton for months
In June the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community asked the Justice Department whether classified information sent over the server had been mishandled. There was no call for a criminal investigation, nor did the IG target Clinton specifically.
Journalists asked State Department spokesman Mark Toner if the department was “open” to the idea of the FBI investigating the flash drive.
“We’ve made sure that the documents with her lawyers’ are in a secure setting, but I’m not going to speak to what the FBI should or shouldn’t do,” he said.
Since the story broke, Clinton has maintained that she did not break the rules by using a private email server to handle State Department communication, and that it was simply a matter of convenience.
Email investigation could affect presidential bid
The fact that Clinton set up a separate communication channel outside of government systems raises security concerns, and has affected her current campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Should an investigation prove that emails which passed through her private system contained classified information, Clinton would certainly face claims that she had played fast and loose with national security. In the current climate, allegations of a lackadaisical attitude to security could prove fatal to her campaign.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, said that the candidate “did not send nor receive any emails that were marked classified at the time. We want to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed as these emails are reviewed while not unduly delaying the release of her emails. We want that to happen as quickly and as transparently as possible.”
Clinton makes assurances on email security
Clinton commented on the affair in March. “The system we used was set up for President Clinton’s office. And it had numerous safeguards. It was on property guarded by the Secret Service. And there were no security breaches,” she said.
Despite assurances that no classified information was compromised, there are other concerns. Lawmakers and transparency activists are worried that the use of a private server has allowed Clinton to prevent her official emails being released as part of requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.
Clinton has since claimed that she did not intend to hide her emails, and believed that they would be stored on State servers as they were sent to officials on their government accounts. However it must be said that there was no routine archiving of email at the State Department until February 2015, which means that Clinton is far from a case apart.
Recent polls have shown a downturn for support for Clinton among white women, a demographic which was expected to rally around her campaign. A joint poll undertaken by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News revealed that just 35% of white women had positive views of Clinton at the end of July, while over half claimed to have a negative impression of her.
The results of the FBI investigation could affect her campaign even further, although some Republicans are presumably hoping that a scandal breaks after she has won the Democratic primaries, giving the Republican candidate an easy path to office.