One astonishing characteristic about this presidential race is that Democrats who were justifiably outraged about every violation of the rules and acts to obstruct government transparency under George W. Bush are willing to defend actions which were often worse when committed by Hillary Clinton. Even if they are willing to excuse her actions on partisan/tribal grounds, it is a risky proposition to nominate a candidate whose activities are under FBI investigation. It would be like the Republicans nominating Nixon after the facts about Watergate were known. The Hill considers Clinton’s problems in discussing The Chaos Scenario for Democrats:
It’s the scenario that Republicans dream of and Democrats believe is all but impossible: Hillary Clinton being forced to drop out of the presidential race due to criminal charges over her email server.
Any bombshell findings in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton could plunge the Democratic race into chaos…
In the event that Clinton stepped aside after winning the nomination at the convention, the Democratic National Committee could decide on the replacement on its own.
If an indictment came before the convention, the path would be more difficult.
Unlike the Republican Party, which binds most of its delegates to candidates regardless of delegates’ personal preferences, Democratic candidates have input on who represents them on the convention floor.
“There are no Clinton-bound delegates who would prefer voting for Sanders, for example,” delegate expert and University of Georgia professor Josh Putnam, told The Hill.
“Those folks are essentially hand-picked to be loyal. They are unlikely to stray.”
They discussed options including Sanders winning the nomination based upon his delegate strength, versus party leaders turning to a more establishment candidate:
“The superdelegates would flee first because they are politicians,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns.
“They are most likely to feel the pressure not to cast their ballots in favor of a nominee under indictment.”
If enough pledged Clinton delegates and superdelegates went to Sanders and delivered him 2,383 delegates, he would win the nomination.
But delegates could also coalesce around a new candidate not in the race. One likely fallback would be Vice President Biden, who came very close to running for president last year.
But denying Sanders the nomination could come with a heavy price, potentially alienating the millions of Democrats who cast ballots for him in the primary process…
Should the party be forced to leave Clinton, one thing that could work against Sanders is his late arrival to the Democratic Party. He’s spent his entire 30-year career in Congress as an Independent, and recently said he ran for president as a Democrat for media coverage.
“Most of these other politicians and political leaders in the community, they don’t really know Bernie Sanders because he’s never been a national Democrat,” the Democratic strategist said.
“They know Joe [Biden], they know John Kerry. It’s completely conceivable that they would turn from somebody they know and respect — Hillary — to somebody else they know and respect and bypass Sanders.”
This assumes a clear cut result should Clinton be indicted when there is time to chose another candidate. I suspect the outcome of the current investigations might not be so clear cut. The FBI could recommend indictment, but this does not mean that the Obama Justice Department would agree to prosecute. News of such an FBI recommendation would be huge if it were to come out. Is is quite possible that they might see Clinton as too big to prosecute, but she has three top aides in her campaign who also were involved in the handling of classified information under her at the State Department. Clinton might go on as the nominee if one or more of them were indicted, but it could greatly cripple her campaign.
It also must be kept in mind that, while the mishandling of classified information is the most dramatic complaint against her, with others prosecuted for doing less, this is only part of the entire scandal. Her actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.
Reportedly the FBI has extended its investigation to such conduct at the State Department. Congress is also investigating, and I bet the Republicans will time matters to use this to embarrass Clinton during the general election campaign. It will not be as easy for her to respond to these legitimate concerns as it was to blow off the Benghazi nonsense from Republicans. All of this will provide a tremendous amount of ammunition for the Republican candidate this fall. If Donald Trump could destroy Jeb Bush by calling him low energy, imagine what he might do with actual evidence of unethical behavior by Clinton.
Democrats might wind up wishing that one of the scenarios play out early to allow them to pick a different nominee. Voters in the remaining primaries should also keep in mind that Bernie Sanders does better than Clinton against potential Republican candidates in the polls, and he is not under FBI investigation.