Reports: Clinton email investigation may be nearing final phase
The federal investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email practices may now be entering its final phases just over a year after the public learned of her use of a private server, according to recent reports.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that investigator have contacted attorneys for Clinton's top aides about setting up interviews. Federal prosecutors also want to interview Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, herself.
Dates have reportedly not been set for those interviews and the process could take several weeks, but legal experts said the move indicates that investigators are nearly done with their background work.
According to The Associated Press, a second federal judge said he would allow a conservative legal group to seek more documents and depositions in a lawsuit over access to emails sent or received by Clinton during her tenure.
"They are likely nearing the end of the investigation and the agents need to interview these people to put the information in context," former FBI official James McJunkin told the Times. "They will then spend time aligning these statements with other information, emails, classified documents, etc., to determine whether there is a prosecutable case."
The Washington Postis reporting that two law enforcement officials would not specify the number of agents involved in the investigation but it fewer than 50. Reports from Fox News and the Washington Examiner in recent months have also estimated the number of agents involved to be around 150.
One source familiar with the investigation told Politico that the 150 number reported by some outlets is "greatly exaggerated."
FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch have told members of Congress that the investigation will not be impacted by election year politics, but the Washington Post reported the FBI's work has been accelerated to avoid announcing action too close to the November election.
Clinton's exclusive use of a private email server to conduct her government business was revealed last March. More than 30,000 of her work-related emails have since been released by the State Department as a result of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, but she deleted close to 32,000 emails that her attorneys deemed to be personal.
Officials have determined that 2,093 of the work-related messages contained information that is now classified. Clinton has denied sending or receiving any information that was marked as classified at the time, but she would have been responsible for recognizing classified material even if it was not marked.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Clinton's server appears to have lacked standard encryption for the first few months it was in use. A law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that security logs for the server showed no evidence of foreign hacking.
Clinton's campaign has alleged that the classified material found in the emails is an example of "over-classification run amok." They have also noted that other secretaries of state and cabinet officials have used private email for official business in the past, but none did so exclusively or set up their own private server for that purpose.
Although legal experts say criminal charges against Clinton are unlikely, the latest revelations in the investigation of her activities will provide more ammunition for Republican critics who have accused her of being irresponsible and putting national security at risk. Democratic primary voters have not demonstrated much concern over the issue, but polls show a majority of the public believes Clinton did something wrong and it is certain to be a political problem for her in the general election.
Update: An earlier version of this story cited a Washington Post report that 147 FBI agents are involved in the Clinton investigation, citing a lawmaker briefed on the case by Comey. Two law enforcement officials have since told the Post the actual number of agents is less than 50.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.