Of course I had to ask Sen. Bernie Sanders about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email account when he came to a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board meeting Tuesday. When Sanders famously offered that he didn't want to hear about those "damn emails" — the focus of an FBI investigation — during the first 2016 Democratic primary debate, he forfeited a potent issue. (Some Democrats fear the Department of Justice actually might indict Clinton after she wins the nomination.)
So I asked Sanders: Do you think the secretary of state's use of a personal server was safe and legal? Are you worried that foreign intelligence services might have hacked her account? Forget about whether she's indicted. Clinton's unforced error of using a "homebrew" server is the real story. It was reckless. In 2013, the Romanian hacker known as "Guccifer" released information about her personal account after he drilled into the AOL emails of former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. If Chinese and Russian operatives were paying attention — how could they not? — Clinton's use of an unsecured system opened a door for their prying eyes. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden calls the secretary of state's decision to use a private server for official correspondence Clinton's "original sin."
Sanders' reply? "I'm gonna answer that question the same way I did famously back then. And that is, look, there is an investigation, as we all know, undergoing. You're asking me my opinion. Presumably, the people who are doing the investigation have a lot more information on that than I do or you do. And whatever happens will happen." Sanders added that he prefers to focus on issues that impact American lives, such as "why the middle class of this country is in decline."
It's odd how Sanders trusts the Department of Justice to investigate Clinton's emails when he repeatedly faults the feds for not charging Wall Street banks for criminal fraud despite his stated belief in their guilt.
Team Clinton has tried to make light of the FBI investigation by calling it a "security inquiry." Talk about fraud. FBI chief James Comey corrected the record Wednesday when he told reporters the "I" in FBI is for "investigation."
I don't want to see a former first lady hauled into court. I just want to hear Democrats acknowledge that Clinton recklessly — inexcusably — endangered national security. Sanders doesn't need to hear from the FBI to question Clinton's destructive judgment.
"I would lose respect for a variety of intelligence services around the world if they weren't thumbing through all the email," Hayden, author of "Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror," told me. If he learned another country's top diplomat used a homebrew server, "I would move heaven and earth as the head of the NSA to get access to the unclassified information," just for the valuable clues. (And we know Clinton sent and received material later deemed classified). For anyone with federal experience to set up a private account "is inconceivable and all the subsequent explanations as to why it was done are incoherent."
Why doesn't Bernie Sanders know that?