News that the Department of Justice granted immunity to Bryan Pagliano -- the IT guy who set up Hillary Clinton's private email server -- has set off premature celebration in some quarters, most notably among admirers of the Democratic longshot and self-described socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The news means Pagliano will talk to the DOJ and FBI and give a full account of the work he did for Clinton. Presumably, that includes why the Democratic frontrunner told Pagliano she wanted a private, unsecured email server in her Chappaqua, New York, basement, and whether Pagliano warned her about potential repercussions.
Clinton used the private email server for her personal communication, as well as all her business as secretary of state. It's the latter that's the focus of a federal investigation, as some of those emails perhaps contained sensitive state secrets, classified documents and information on American intelligence assets in the field.
Sanders supporters are overjoyed at the news, and some -- like The Huffington Post's H.A. Goodman -- are declaring "Sanders just won the presidency" because they believe Pagliano's testimony will sink Clinton.
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Straight news reports, like a March 2 story in The Washington Post, are more measured. The FBI would have needed to interview Pagliano anyway to wrap up the investigation, The Washington Post noted, and so far there's been no evidence that federal authorities are looking to convene a grand jury.
Sanders supporters are right about one thing -- it doesn't look good for Clinton that Pagliano, who previously invoked the Fifth Amendment, is now talking to the feds. They're also correct in asserting Pagliano's chats with FBI agents will have an impact on Clinton's campaign. That's not a stretch considering news about the Clinton email probe comes out in drips, almost always sourced to anonymous law enforcement officials.
For Clinton, that means the email scandal never dies, and every new story reminds voters that the former secretary of state may have kept top secret information on a server that could be easily hacked.
But anyone cheering for a Clinton campaign crash should remember that voters place ideological loyalty above the law. That means, in voters' minds, the question of whether Clinton is guilty or not almost entirely depends on whether they support her.
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To a person who opposes Clinton, her email setup was clearly illegal, and her excuses don't pass muster. To a person who supports Clinton, it's all a big misunderstanding, much ado about nothing. Sure, she may have exposed state secrets and flouted open records laws, but doesn't everyone do that?
As of March 7, Clinton enjoys a huge lead in the delegate count, with 1,130 delegates to Sanders' 499, according to Real Clear Politics. More disheartening for Sanders fans, if the email scandal is going to hurt Clinton at any phase of the campaign, it will be during the general election, not the primary.
The sad truth is, Democrats will vote for Clinton no matter what she does. If a video suddenly emerged on YouTube showing Clinton mowing down puppies with an AK-47, Democrats would still vote for her. Clinton herself would say the video's a right-wing smear, and her supporters would repeat her talking points, indignant that the Republicans would bring cute puppies into the race.
Likewise, anything damning to Clinton isn't going to make Republicans dislike her any more. Like everyone else, they only get the one vote.
So if the email scandal is going to truly hurt Clinton, it's going to be in the general election, among independents. Because all indications point toward the federal investigation wrapping up around June, it'll be too late for Sanders -- but not too late for Clinton's eventual Republican rival.
We'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.