These are heady days for Hillary Clinton and her supporters. She has the Democratic nomination locked up and most polls show her running ahead of Donald Trump. Her path to becoming the first woman President seems clear sailing. The only potential fly in the ointment is the lingering shadow of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
FBI investigation has gone on for ten months
The FBI has been investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails practices since August 2015. The longer the investigation continues the more problematic it becomes for Clinton. Many had anticipated that the Justice Department would endeavor to announce the results before the Democratic convention, but time is getting short.
We aspire to do all our investigations in two ways -- well and promptly, especially investigations that are of great interest to the public. We want to do them promptly. I get that people care about this investigation, and so we're working very hard to ensure it's well and promptly. But as between the two, if we have to choose, we will do it well. But again we aspire to do it well and promptly.
— FBI Director James Comey
The FBI has been tight-lipped about the status of the investigation and no one outside the Bureau or DOJ has any concrete information on the status of the inquiry. However, it’s reasonable to conclude that the length of the investigation indicates that there is at least a question of criminal culpability in the use of the private server and how classified information was managed. That could include jor exclude Hillary Clinton.
Clinton deleted at least 30,000 emails
What is known is that Hillary used a private email system while she was Secretary of State. Clinton claimed about 50% of the emails were personal in nature and not related to government business. She and her staff deleted those emails they determined were not related to government business.
The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton's filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn't have.
— Chris Cillizza - The Washington Post
Should the FBI announce that Clinton has criminal liability it would likely result in Hillary having to withdraw from the race. Should that happen before the Democratic convention, then the delegates pledged to Hillary would be free to cast their vote for a different candidate. Should an indictment happen after the convention has nominated Clinton, then the Democratic National Committee would name a new nominee.
Who would replace Hillary
So whom would the Democrats pick? The DNC might decide to elevate the vice presidential nominee to the top spot, but there’s no requirement to do so. They could turn to Bernie Sanders who finished second to Clinton in the delegate count and popular vote in the primaries. Or, the DNC could choose someone new.
Bernie Sanders would be the emotional choice of the progressive wing and might well be the logical one, even though most Party regulars have little love for Bernie, who only became a registered Democrat after deciding to run for the nomination. Not choosing Sanders would inflame his army of supporters, although they might be placated if Party chose Elizabeth Warren. However, Warren is untested on the national stage and would be a wild card.
Joe Biden would be the safe bet
The safe bet would be to call on Joe Biden. Biden toyed with running for President last year but decided not to. His favorability ratings are above 50% and he has had eight years of on the job training to be President. Biden would not be the most exciting choice, but he might be the best solution for the Democrats.
The wild card is, of course, how Hillary dropping out would affect Donald Trump. Polls have shown Bernie Sanders beating Trump by double digits, but many Americans have not considered Bernie as a viable candidate. It’s the same story with Joe Biden. An indictment of Hillary would vindicate Trump’s attacks against her and reinforce the country’s distrust of the “old guard.”
While it’s interesting to speculate on what might happen with the FBI investigation, the most likely outcome remains that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face each other in November.