WASHINGTON - Prominent Democrats predicted their party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, will not be indicted for her use of a private email server for official business as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state.
"That’s just not going to happen," said Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, appearing on CNN's State of the Union program Sunday. "That’s something that, to me, is not within the realm of possibility."
Intrigue mounted after Clinton met for more than three hours Saturday with FBI investigators. The interview could be the final step before the Justice Department decides whether to indict or clear Clinton of wrongdoing.
"It was something I had offered to do since last August," Clinton said on MSNBC. "I’ve been eager to do it, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the [Justice] Department in bringing its review to a conclusion."
While Clinton wants to quell furor over an issue that will not go away, her expected Republican opponent, Donald Trump, pounced on Twitter, writing Saturday: "It is impossible for the FBI not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. What she did was wrong!"
Not so, according to Clinton allies.
"I am not worried about it," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said Sunday on ABC’s This Week program. "There will not be an indictment, and that means she did what many secretaries of state have done in the past."
While Democrats dismiss the possibility of formal charges against Clinton, revelations that she evaded State Department guidelines for electronic communication could reinforce broad public perceptions that she is secretive, unbound by rules that apply to everyone else, and untrustworthy.
In two recent public opinion polls, roughly two-thirds of respondents doubted her honesty or expressed concerns about her trustworthiness.
It’s a stumbling block Clinton herself has acknowledged.
“A lot of people tell pollsters they don’t trust me. I don’t like hearing that, and I’ve thought a lot about what’s behind it,” she said at a campaign event last week. “I take this seriously, as someone who is asking for your votes, and I personally know I have work to do on this point.”
Republicans have long sought to exploit what they see as one of Clinton’s core weaknesses, with Trump referring to her as “crooked Hillary” and others alleging she has received special treatment.
"If she was not Hillary Clinton, if she was an under secretary of state who had done the same types of things, number one, he or she would have been fired, and, yes, they would have been brought up for prosecution by the Justice Department," said former Republican senator Rick Santorum, also on This Week.
Clinton’s FBI interview came days after a firestorm erupted over a meeting between her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who bears ultimate responsibility for the government’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
"Certainly my meeting with him raises questions and concerns," Lynch admitted late last week. "I certainly would not do it again. But it really was a social meeting."
An unwritten rule in Washington is that wise officials avoid even the appearance of potential impropriety. Trump and other Republicans suggest the encounter proves the Obama Justice Department cannot conduct an impartial probe of someone the president has endorsed as his successor.
The White House insists its approach to the Clinton email investigation is "hands off."
"The president’s expectation is that this investigation will be handled just like all the others, which is that the investigators will be guided by the facts," said White House spokesman John Earnest.
Democrats hope the FBI probe concludes before the Democratic National Convention later this month. Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to hammer away at the controversy right up to the November election.