What if she takes the Fifth?

Judge-Emmet-G-SullivanA provocative possibility looms in Hillary’s e-mail controversy. The presiding judge, Emmet G. Sullivan, has suggested that deposing Hillary under oath may be necessary and says that he wouldn’t shrink from that in spite of the political situation. Judge Sullivan was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Bill Clinton in 1994, and he has presided over complex and politically controversial cases before. We should take him at his word.

Now just suppose that this happens and that he asks a question that her lawyers think might expose her to criminal prosecution. They would undoubtedly advise her to claim the protection against self-incrimination afforded every citizen under the 5th Amendment of our Constitution. What if she does? After all, she is a skilled attorney herself and fully understands the folly of disregarding her best legal advisors.

There should be no adverse conclusions drawn from asserting this right, but let’s be honest. We know exactly what Republicans would make of it and how they would seek to exploit it in the Presidential contest. But how would her supporters react? I suspect that the vast majority would remain loyal. They could logically rationalize that it proves nothing, that all politicians have skeletons in their closets, and anyway that she remains far superior to her opponent, whomever that might be. But that might not be true for weakly attached voters. At the fringes of her support coterie, this might be enough to break them loose, perhaps not to vote against her but rather to stay home and abstain in disgust. Everyone anticipates a close election. Well, perhaps not everyone, as there are many dreamers on both sides of the political chasm. But if it is close, this might have a significant impact.

Or maybe not. The one certainty in this weird political season is that predictions are especially hazardous. And in any case, all of this is pure speculation and rests upon several somewhat flimsy hypotheticals. Rest easy, you hopeful Democrats, none of this may come to pass.

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