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Hillary Clinton's Private Emailer Server Is Once Again Under Investigation


The Trump administration is investigating the emails of current and former senior State Department officials. Now, these are people who sent messages to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email back when she was secretary of state. The Washington Post broke this story, and Greg Jaffe is one of the reporters. He's with us on Skype. Good morning, Greg.

GREG JAFFE: Good morning.

KING: OK, so tell us exactly who is being investigated. How widespread is this?

JAFFE: So it's very widespread. It's about 130 to 140 people, and it ranges through many of the most senior people in the State Department - assistant secretaries, senior ambassadors - who either sent emails to Hillary's private email or sent emails that then made their way there through other folks.

KING: And what exactly are they being investigated for? When an investigator gets in touch with them and says, hey, we need to talk to you, what are they saying?

JAFFE: So they're basically saying, we found information on Hillary Clinton's private email that we determined to be of a classified nature. In virtually all of the cases, the information's retroactively classified, which means the person thought that they were passing along something that was unclassified, and the investigators looking on the computer determined, no, this actually should have been classified; now you have to account for it 3 1/2 years later. Actually, in some cases, these emails are a decade old.

KING: OK. So for people - and I know that you've talked to them, some of the people who are being investigated - they're being told, emails that you sent that you thought were unclassified, it turns out they are classified. How are these people responding to this?

JAFFE: You know, I think everybody - I shouldn't say everybody. A number of people feel like this is really absurd. I think they feel like it's sort of low-level harassment - essentially diplomatic stop and frisk. And so - and even the investigators, from what I'm told - and this is from the people who are being investigated, so you can take it with a slight grain of salt - will say the investigators are even sort of apologetic as they're talking through these with people, saying I'm sorry we have to do this.

KING: Wow, OK. Just a bit of background - the FBI started to investigate Hillary Clinton's emails in 2015. They didn't pursue charges. They closed the case. So why would the State Department still be investigating these emails today?

JAFFE: So the State Department says that they have to, that this was referred to them by the FBI once the FBI was done with the criminal investigation and that they needed to dive in and figure out, you know, if people had passed along classified information and if they needed to be sanctioned for that. Essentially, in most cases, if you were found to have done this improperly that, you know, a letter could wind up in your file. But it makes it hard if you want to get back into government and get a classification, you know, to see classified material.

KING: Let me have you expand on that a little bit more. The people who are being investigated - including those who are told, you thought what you were sending was not classified, but it was - if they are found to have done something improper, what does that mean for them? Could they be criminally prosecuted or just - does it just make it harder for them to get a job?

JAFFE: I think it could make it harder for them to get a job. The letters they're getting say, you know, the incident was found to be valid, but you're not culpable. So that goes in their file. If they didn't cooperate or the investigators didn't accept their excuse, you know, a slightly stronger letter could go in their file. But, you know, these are very senior folks - in some cases, you know, really the stars of the Democratic foreign policy firmament. And so they want to get back into government, and so the worry is that it could make it harder to get a clearance again, yeah.

KING: And this investigation is happening as President Trump is facing these allegations from a whistleblower complaint. Does the timing of these two things have anything to do with one another?

JAFFE: Not as far as I can tell. Yeah, it just seems to be that we're nearing the end of a marathon process.

KING: OK (laughter). Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post. Thanks so much for your reporting.

JAFFE: No problem. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.