If Hillary Clinton needs some assurance that her use of a private email server won’t lead her to an indictment, she should look at precedent.
For high-ranking officials, leaking or risking classified information is rarely punished on a criminal level, according to NPR.
Providing access to top-secret information, lying to the FBI, and subverting federal law about classified documents didn’t send former General and CIA Director David Petraeus to prison. He was sentenced to probation on a misdemeanor charge.
"Few top officials ever face criminal prosecution for breaking the rules or the laws on classified information,” Carrie Johnson wrote for NPR.
Leaking classified information gets punished when it reflects negatively on the administration currently in power. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning faced the brunt of that double standard, as Manning remains in jail and Snowden fled to Russia to escape prosecution for exposing the unconstitutional actions of the NSA.
The system has been criticized as “being arbitrary” and “rife with double standards depending on where a government official sits on the ladder.” The intern will face heavy scrutiny, but the director has influence and agency-wide support. For Clinton to be hurt by the federal investigation into her private email server, the wrongdoing will have to be stark and beyond the pale of dismissing the scandal as an overblown witch hunt.
It also helps when the security breaches aren’t done with deliberate harm as the intent. Were Clinton leaking state secrets to the Russians, the matter wouldn’t be so easily dismissed. Unwise technical violations, while punishable by law, tend not to stick.
Even if Clinton is found to have demonstrably violated federal law, she could avoid any consequence beyond a slap on the wrist.