No matter what decision federal prosecutors and FBI investigators make in the Hillary Clinton email probe, there is sure to be a public backlash from the left or the right.
If Clinton doesn’t face charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Justice Department will certainly come under criticism from conservatives who will suspect President Obama’s administration of covering up for a former Cabinet member.
Yet if charges are brought, Democrats are just as sure to question the motives of FBI Director James Comey, a Republican who worked for the Bush administration.
The stakes are huge given Clinton’s status as the likely Democratic presidential nominee, underscoring the pressure on the Justice Department. Charges against her or her aides could wound her presidential bid, while silence would ease her path to the White House.
“In this scenario, federal prosecutors are damned if they do bring a case and damned if they don’t,” said Justin Shur, the former deputy chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, who is now at the law firm MoloLamken.
“Regardless of whether the charging decision is supported by the facts and the law, there’s always someone who will suggest there was a political agenda behind it.”
The federal investigation connected to Clinton’s use of a private email server throughout her tenure as secretary of State has loomed over her presidential campaign. Central to the investigation is whether she sent classified information over her server, though more than 2,000 of the emails now considered classified were not marked as such at the time they were sent.
The investigation has gone on longer than some anticipated, though it may now be nearing a conclusion.