The Justice Department has granted immunity to the former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email server, a sign the FBI investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing is progressing.
A senior U.S. law enforcement official said the FBI had secured the cooperation of Bryan Pagliano who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009.
As the FBI looks to wrap up its investigation in the coming months, agents will likely want to interview Clinton and her senior aides about the decision to use a private server, how it was set up, and whether any of the participants knew they were sending classified information in emails, current and former officials said.
The inquiry comes against a sensitive political backdrop in which Clinton is the favorite to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
So far, there is no indication that prosecutors have convened a grand jury in the email investigation to subpoena testimony or documents, which would require the participation of a U.S. attorney’s office.
Spokesmen at the FBI and Justice Department would not discuss the investigation. Pagliano’s lawyer also declined to comment.
In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said: “As we have said since last summer, Secretary Clinton has been cooperating with the Department of Justice’s security inquiry, including offering in August to meet with them to assist their efforts if needed.”
He also said that the campaign is “pleased” that Pagliano, who invoked the Fifth amendment before Congress, is now cooperating with prosecutors.
As part of the inquiry, law enforcement officials will look at the potential damage had the classified information in the emails been exposed. The Clinton campaign has described the probe as a security review. But current and former officials in the FBI and at the Justice Department have said investigators are trying to determine if a crime was committed.
“There was wrongdoing,” an official said. “But was it criminal wrongdoing?”
Clinton has since apologized for what had happened: “Yes, I should have used two email addresses, one for personal matters and one for my work at the State Department. Not doing so was a mistake. I’m sorry about it, and I take full responsibility.”
Any decision to charge someone would involve Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch who told Congress when asked earlier this month about the email inquiry: “That matter is being handled by career independent law enforcement agents, FBI agents, as well as the career independent attorneys in the Department of Justice. They follow the evidence, they look at the law and they’ll make a recommendation to me when the time is appropriate.”
“We will review all the facts and all the evidence and come to an independent conclusion as how to best handle it,” she added.
Current and former officials said the conviction of retired four-star general and CIA director David H. Petraeus for mishandling classified information is casting a shadow over the email investigation.
The officials said they believe that Petraeus’ actions were more egregious than those of Clinton and her aides since he lied to the FBI, and classified information he shared with his biographer contained top secret code words, identities of covert officers, war strategy and intelligence capabilities. Prosecutors initially threatened to charge him with three felonies, including conspiracy, violating the Espionage Act and lying to the FBI. But after negotiations, Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.
He was fined $100,000 and sentenced to two-years probation. FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.
Petraeus “was handled so lightly for his offence there isn’t a whole lot you can do,” said a former U.S. law enforcement official who oversaw counterintelligence investigations and described the email controversy as “a lesser set of circumstances.” Read More