FBI Could Interrogate Hillary Clinton Within Weeks

Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton aide, last year invoked his right not to testify before Congress. (Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton aide, last year invoked his right not to testify before Congress. (Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

As Hillary Clinton moves toward the Democratic presidential nomination, she faces legal hurdles from her use of a private computer server as secretary of state that could jar her campaign’s momentum in the months ahead.

Foremost among a half-dozen inquiries and legal proceedings into whether classified information was sent through Mrs. Clinton’s server is an investigation by the F.B.I., whose agents, according to one law enforcement official, could seek to question Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides and possibly the candidate herself within weeks.

It is commonplace for the F.B.I. to try to interview key figures before closing an investigation, and doing so is not an indication the bureau thinks a person broke the law. Although defense lawyers often discourage their clients from giving such interviews, Democrats fear the refusal of Mrs. Clinton or her top aides to cooperate would be ready ammunition for Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner.

A federal law enforcement official said that barring any unforeseen changes, the F.B.I. investigation could conclude by early May. Then the Justice Department will decide whether to file criminal charges and, if so, against whom.

“As we have said since last summer, Secretary Clinton has been cooperating with the Justice Department’s security inquiry, including offering in August to meet with them to assist their efforts if needed,” said Brian Fallon, a campaign spokesman.

Federal law makes it a crime to mishandle classified information outside secure government channels when someone does so “knowingly” or — more seriously — permits it through “gross negligence.” Mrs. Clinton has correctly pointed out that none of the emails on her server were marked as classified at the time.

The bureau’s investigators have already interviewed Bryan Pagliano, a former aide who installed the server Mrs. Clinton had in her home in New York and used exclusively for her private and official email while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Mr. Pagliano, who last year invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify before Congress, has cooperated with the investigation, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Mr. Pagliano’s lawyer declined to comment.

Mr. Fallon said the campaign was “pleased” that Mr. Pagliano was cooperating, noting that it had previously urged him to cooperate with the Capitol Hill inquiry.

In addition to the F.B.I. investigation, there are continuing inquiries into Mrs. Clinton’s emails by the inspector general of the State Department, the inspector general of the intelligence agencies, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Aides to Mrs. Clinton and officials from the State Department also face the prospect of questioning under oath in a separate legal proceeding brought by Judicial Watch, the conservative government watchdog group, under the Freedom of Information Act. In that case, the group has sought emails related to the special employment status given to Mrs. Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin so she could receive additional salaries beyond the one she received from State.

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The New York Times