Where you come down on the Hillary Clinton email scandal is likely a matter of political—or at least candidate—preference.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus believes Hillary Clinton will get indicted. So does former attorney general Michael Mukasey, a Republican who served in the George W. Bush administration, as does the Senate majority whip, John Cornyn of Texas.
Many—perhaps even most—Republicans believe the former secretary of state will face some sort of legal consequence for keeping classified information on her private email system.
Republicans cite the cases of national security adviser Sandy Berger, CIA director John Deutch, and General David Petraeus to show clear precedent for prominent officials facing consequences for mishandling classified information. They point to the preponderance of public evidence clearly and indisputably showing a bevy of classified information was stashed on Clinton's home-brew server.
Democrats, no surprise, are curious to know what Republicans are smoking. Bernie Sanders famously declined to make an issue of the emails in his campaign against Hillary Clinton for the party's presidential nomination. Clinton herself recently said in an interview that Republicans "live in that world of fantasy." She added, when an interviewer raised the possibility of a perp walk: "There is not even the remotest chance that it's going to happen."
Perhaps Clinton's opinion is not uninformed—her ties to the Department of Justice are deep, a benefit of being married to an ex-president, being a former U.S. senator, and serving as a cabinet member in the Obama administration. Her key spokesman, Brian Fallon, was the top press wrangler at Justice, and Eric Holder, the former attorney general who is believed still to be close to the president, is a big booster of her presidential candidacy.
Or perhaps her opinion reflects a political calculation that it is better to show steely resolve and to insist nothing wrong was done than to reveal true concern.
Regardless, there is no public explanation for Clinton's confidence in being exonerated. But surely it helps to have the president of the United States—the boss of the top cop, Attorney General Loretta Lynch—in your corner. Even if Barack Obama maintains the investigation is being done without political interference.
"I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line and always have maintained it," Obama told Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday. "I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case."
So partisan expectations are set on a collision course, and a day of reckoning approaches. Or does it?
The FBI will be interviewing Clinton soon, according to news reports, signaling a possible winding down of the many-months-long investigation. The bureau will have to review all the evidence—most of which, it's worth recalling, has likely not been released to the public, despite massive document dumps of tens of thousands of Clinton's emails. The bureau will then recommend to the lawyers at the Justice Department whether Clinton should be indicted, or perhaps one or more of her assistants.
The key question will be whether there is enough evidence to prosecute a case that will hinge on whether Clinton knowingly and intentionally broke the law.
What Loretta Lynch does after that is almost guaranteed to be a scandal for the Obama administration. Indicting the Democratic nominee for president would once again pit the Clinton machine versus Team Obama, setting off a battle royal that would in all likelihood tarnish the reputations of everyone involved.
But not pursuing legal action on Clinton opens up the administration to the very charges Obama was so sensitive to avoid in his interview with Wallace—that his Department of Justice is a political organ, working to save the Democratic nominee. The Obama IRS targeted Republicans and conservative groups, while Justice covers for Democrats.
All of which is to say that, for Hillary Clinton and for her former boss, Barack Obama, the least discomfiting outcome might be for the email investigation to continue to drag out inconclusively, at least for the rest of the campaign.
That would leave Republicans unhappiest of all. As one top GOP hand advised, "I don't think anyone should base their strategy for November on a hope that the Obama administration's own Justice Department will indict their party's nominee."
Of course Republicans might be less given to fantasies of Hillary's downfall if they weren't flirting with nominating the most unpopular candidate in the history of either party.
Daniel Halper is online editor of The Weekly Standard.