President Barack Obama downplayed the significance of Hillary Clinton's email scandal as the FBI continues to look into whether the former secretary of state's private setup endangered any sensitive government information, prompting anger from some within the agency who say it was inappropriate for the president to weigh in.
“I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” Obama said in an interview aired on CBS' "60 Minutes" last weekend. “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
In this Jan. 25, 2013 file image taken from video and provided by CBS, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak during "60 Minutes" segment in Washington. (AP)
That insistent comment ahead of a formal conclusion by the FBI has angered those who say it was inappropriate for the president to “suggest what side of the investigation he is on" before the inquiry is even complete, the New York Times reported.
“Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the FBI’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case,” Ron Hosko, a former senior FBI official and president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told the Times.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended Obama's comments on Thursday, saying that national security experts are still debating how or whether sections of information contained in Clinton's emails should be classified.
The White House spokesman further asserted that there is "no evidence" to indicate that the information contained in the emails endangered national security. But as the Times noted, Obama's comments about Clinton's emails ahead of the FBI's findings echo remarks he made in 2012 about former CIA Director David Petraeus, who ultimately pleaded guilty to giving classified material to his biographer, whom he also had an affair with.
“I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security,” Obama said of Petraeus' case in 2012 before the FBI had completed its investigation. Petraeus was sentenced in April to two years of probation plus a $100,000 fine.