On Friday, the FBI released a second batch of documents related to its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Yet again, the FBI chose to release the information in a manner that ensures it received minimal news coverage. Perhaps that decision was made because the latest release was information that implicates the involvement of President Barack Obama in the Clinton email scandal. Yes, the same President Obama who told CBS News in 2015 that he first learned about Clinton’s use of a private email server “through news reports.”
We learned several months ago that President Obama and Clinton exchanged over a dozen emails during her time as Secretary of State. However, the newly released materials from the FBI provide more detail about those exchanges. Specifically, we now know that President Obama used a pseudonym on his email account during his exchanges with Clinton.
The president’s use of pseudonym is not particularly scandalous, by itself. In fact, it was almost certainly done for security reasons given the sensitive nature of presidential communications. The president would not want to have his name on an email if it happened to be intercepted by a hostile actor. By the same token, the use of a pseudonym also serves to protect the president from embarrassment in the event one of his email recipients leaked the contents of an email to the media.
For example, it is possible the president did not want the world to one day learn that he too exchanged sensitive or classified information with Clinton via her private server. Though, at this point, we do not have much information on the substance of the Clinton-Obama emails. The White House has claimed they are exempt from disclosure, citing a “presidential communications privilege.”
Regardless of the substance of the emails, at the very least it seems clear Obama was not telling the truth to CBS News that he first learned of Clinton’s private server through news reports. Yet, the media seems to have little interest in calling him out on this blatant misrepresentation of the truth. Furthermore, there seems to be even less interest in investigating President Obama’s involvement in the entire email scandal. Specifically, the question of whether his communications with Clinton essentially ensured she would never be prosecuted.
One of Clinton’s top aides, Huma Abedin, was asked during her interview about one such email exchange. When informed that the name on the email was a pseudonym for the president she said, “How is this not classified?” Now, if a top Clinton aide was asking the FBI why one of her boss’s emails was not classified, it must have contained some sensitive information.
Under the circumstances, it seems incredibly difficult to imagine a scenario in which the FBI could go after Clinton for mishandling material without also having to prosecute the president. While on a much smaller scale, it seems evident that President Obama also discussed sensitive matters via email.
As more and more information about the FBI investigation continues to come out, it becomes increasingly difficult to not question the way this entire investigation was handled. However, if you take into consideration that Obama was also likely doing nearly the same thing Clinton was doing via email, it becomes somewhat easier to understand the result. It certainly does not make it right or just, but given the practical and political realities, it is somewhat understandable.
If the media is not going to ask about it, hopefully the Congress will press Director Comey on this matter when he testifies later this week.
[Image of President Barack Obama via Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.