CNN's Toobin: Hillary's E-Mail Scandal Not A 'Big Legal Problem'

On Wednesday's AC360, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin downplayed the latest development in Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal — the revelation that her private e-mail server "contained highly-classified intelligence from the most top secret of programs," as host Anderson Cooper reported. Toobin asserted that "it's a huge political problem," but added, "I don't think it's a big legal problem. I don't think the FBI is going to wind up charging her with a crime." [video below]

Cooper reported the news on Mrs. Clinton's server as "big news tonight on the Democratic side." He continued by noting that "Clinton told NPR today that this is just another leak and attempt to inject the issue back into the campaign; and a Clinton's spokesman said on New Day that the information could have been nothing more than a forwarded news article." The anchor also pointed out, "You may remember Bernie Sanders saying in a CNN debate that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about her — quote, 'damn e-mails.'" He added, "The question is whether this will ever go away; and also, if Clinton can withstand a surge in the polls that the Sanders camp is enjoying right now."

The CNN journalist turned to Toobin and asked, "How big, Jeff, do you think a political problem this is for — for Clinton?" He replied with his not a "big legal problem" assertion, and continued by giving pro-Clinton talking points:

JEFFREY TOOBIN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER: I think it's a huge political problem. I don't think it's a big legal problem. I don't think the FBI is going to wind up charging her with a crime. You know, it is only a crime if you knowingly distribute classified information. And from everything we've been able to see — and we don't know all the facts — there is nothing with a classified stamp on it that she ever just handed out inappropriately. There is information that, retroactively, has been declared classified, but that's — that's a very different thing.

Toobin then underlined that "this idea of using a private server was a terrible idea; she is paying a major political price; and until the FBI comes forward — which they may do — and says, we have closed our investigation — it is a festering wound; and it's a big one; and it doesn't go away until Jim Comey, the director of the FBI, says it does."

Hours earlier, the CNN analyst contended that the Democratic presidential candidate was "now suffering from" the federal government's tendency to "over-classify" sensitive information, as "people are saying there's all this classified information she's dealing with, but there is not a bright line between classified and unclassified, and you can see, at least to a certain extent, why she was not clear on what was what."

It should be pointed out that the following morning, Fox News's Andrew Napolitano contended on Thursday's Fox & Friends that Mrs. Clinton's e-mail scandal was much worse than the one that surrounded former General David Petraeus:

Tell the Truth 2016

HEATHER NAUERT: Let's remind people, by the way: he's [David Petraeus] been out of the military since 2011.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Right.

NAUERT: Left the CIA — resigned from CIA in 2012—

NAPOLITANO: Right. And — and also, to remind everyone, he was indicted, charged, convicted — pleaded guilty to—

NAUERT: A misdemeanor, right?

NAPOLITANO: A misdemeanor. The original charge was a felony. Guess what it was? Failure to safeguard national security secrets — does that sound familiar?

NAUERT: Hillary Clinton!

NAPOLITANO: Of course. What General Petraeus pleaded guilty to doing was keeping two looseleaf notebooks in an unlocked drawer in a desk in his house. The house was guarded 24/7 by security personnel from the — from the CIA — and having his biographer in the house with him. They originally charged him with showing the documents to her. They eventually dropped those charges.

NAUERT: But Judge, this is very rare for the military to demote a four-star general....Also, the army declined the decision to demote him. So, Ash Carter would review this and would make the decision himself (unintelligible). So, why would they do this now?

NAPOLITANO: So that — that's the great question. Is this political? Is this to send him a message? Don't tell everybody what you know about Benghazi — because we'll keep coming after you? Is it to send Hillary Clinton a message? This is what we do to people who misuse national security secrets. Is it to send the military a message?...You can't get away with anything, even if you're a four-star general—

(...)

NAUERT: Well, what do you think is going to happen? Do you think this will happen?

NAPOLITANO: I don't know. But it will only happen with the President's personal permission.

NAUERT: Ah!

NAPOLITANO: Now, what is the President's end game here? Is it Hillary Clinton indicted and not running for president? Is it Hillary Clinton somehow exonerated from having done thousands of times what General Petraeus was — was convicted of? More to come.

The transcript of the relevant portion of the panel discussion segment from the January 20, 2016 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

ANDERSON COOPER: Recapping the big news tonight on the Democratic side: a new report says Hillary Clinton's private e-mail servers contained highly-classified intelligence from the most top secret of programs. It's the report that the intelligence community inspector general sent to leaders on congressional intelligence committees, according to a spokeswoman. Clinton told NPR today that this is just another leak and attempt to inject the issue back into the campaign; and a Clinton's spokesman said on 'New Day' that the information could have been nothing more than a forwarded news article.

You may remember Bernie Sanders saying in a CNN debate that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about her — quote, 'damn e-mails.' The question is whether this will ever go away; and also, if Clinton can withstand a surge in the polls that the Sanders camp is enjoying right now.

I want to bring back our panel. How big, Jeff, do you think a political problem this is for — for Clinton?

[CNN Graphic: "Battle For The White House: New Email Woes For Hillary Clinton"]

JEFFREY TOOBIN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER: I think it's a huge political problem. I don't think it's a big legal problem. I don't think the FBI is going to wind up charging her with a crime. You know, it is only a crime if you knowingly distribute classified information. And from everything we've been able to see — and we don't know all the facts — there is nothing with a classified stamp on it that she ever just handed out inappropriately. There is information that, retroactively, has been declared classified, but that's — that's a very different thing.

Still, this idea of using a private server was a terrible idea; she is paying a major political price; and until the FBI comes forward — which they may do — and says, we have closed our investigation — it is a festering wound; and it's a big one; and it doesn't go away until Jim Comey, the director of the FBI, says it does.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Foreign Policy Government Agencies Labeling Military War on Terrorism Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Video Andrew Napolitano Jeffrey Toobin Anderson Cooper Hillary Clinton David Petraeus
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