The Clintons have never taken a political hit lying down. But given their weak and panicky reactions to Mr. Obama’s current, well-orchestrated hit on her — the FBI investigation into her alleged mishandling of classified material as secretary of state — they have appeared to passively absorb the escalating attack. Until now.
As he presses his attack, Mrs. Clinton has two choices. Option one: fold early and negotiate a mild end to the investigation in exchange for dropping out of the race. But Mr. Obama is not a forgiving sort, and now that he’s drawn blood, he’s likely to go for the kill.
That suggests that the Clintons are going with option two: fight him — as part of an elaborate, unspoken negotiation between them over their secrets and futures. That requires a plausible defense. Their go-to strategy has always been to blame others, or inanimate objects such as documents, servers, “processes” — and to designate a fall guy (or gal) to take the rap.
This is the well-worn path they now appear to be pursuing to try to escape Mr. Obama’s ever-tightening political and legal vise.
According to a well-placed source, the four known documents at the center of the FBI investigation are deeply problematic. (They came from a relatively small sample; with each new email dump, there are more questionable documents.) Some of the documents appear to have had no original classification markings. A critical point: the federal government classifies by information, not by marking; that is, if a document contains obvious classified material, ie. information provided by a foreign government, it is automatically considered classified, even if it isn’t marked as such. Mrs. Clinton knew this — or should have.
Initially she claimed unequivocally that there “was no classified material.” She now says, “The facts are I did not send nor did I receive material marked classified.”
This appears to be the basis for her defense: that some of the documents’ classified markings were removed or changed — without permission — before she saw them.
By whom? There are only three people who were close enough to her to have had that kind of access: Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, Deputy Chief of Staff Jacob Sullivan, and her longtime Gal Friday, Huma Abedin.
Ms. Mills, Mrs. Clinton’s Valerie Jarrett and shadowy hatchet gal, is a lawyer, which may present evidentiary issues for the government as much of her communication with Mrs. Clinton may be privileged.
Ms. Abedin, who has had her own issues involving her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, her family’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and her extracurricular employment activities while at State, is not a lawyer and may be more exposed. She lawyered up recently, but like Ms. Mills, she knows too much about the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton operations and how they mixed with Mrs. Clinton’s State Department (and server) to be sacrificed.
This leaves Mr. Sullivan, the outsider. If it’s true that he is cooperating with the FBI, Mrs. Clinton may try to smear him as a John Dean-style rogue, who either didn’t alert her to unmarked classified material or removed the markings himself and is now trying to save his own hide.
So: Mrs. Clinton may claim ignorance, blame the documents and her former lieutenant and dare Mr. Obama to charge ahead.
Sound familiar? It’s the Whitewater strategy.