Friday's announcement that the FBI will examine new emails potentially connected to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's past handling of classified material highlights one of military voters' chief complaints about her candidacy: Most feel she is dishonest and untrustworthy.
It's not immediately clear what is contained in the emails, which the FBI says were discovered during an unrelated investigation of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose wife, Huma Adebin, is Clinton's top aide. The bureau has not said either whether Clinton or anyone close to her could face any criminal charges. Her campaign insists the newly discovered emails will reveal nothing incriminating and has called on the FBI to disclose publicly all of the information it has obtained.
The scandal's resurfacing at the end of an already contentious political campaign promises to polarize voters even more, and potentially damage the image of the next commander in chief even before she or he takes office.
In a September poll conducted by Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 90 percent of the active-duty military personnel surveyed said they had a negative view of her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of State. Even among those planning to vote for Clinton, 60 percent said they her handling of the issue.
In the most recent Military Times/IVMF poll, conducted earlier in mid-October, nearly 85 percent of respondents rated Clinton's honesty as "poor" or "very poor," with many citing the email scandal as the reason for their opinion.
"The question she has to answer is why she, as commander in chief, gets to play by different rules than your average E-4," said John Noonan, an Air Force veteran and national security adviser for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "If as a captain I did what she did, I'd be making little rocks out of big rocks at Leavenworth [penitentiary] right now."
Noonan was referring to the military's E-4 enlisted pay grade, and its super-max prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan renewed his previous call for the director of national intelligence to suspend all classified briefings to Clinton as the FBI investigation continues.
Officials with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have been hammering a similar message for months, with the party standard bearer asserting during the presidential debates that Clinton should not legally be allowed to run for the presidency.
On Friday, he told supporters that Clinton should be held to the same standard as two disgraced former generals, David Petraeus and James Cartwright. Earlier this month, Cartwright pleaded guilty to making false statements during a federal investigation into the leak of classified information to reporters. He faces possible jail time and hefty fines for telling those lies. Petraeus was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine in spring 2015 for mishandling classified information, including sharing top secret documents with his biographer.
Trump said that with the new FBI inquiry "perhaps finally justice will be done." The crowd responded with chants of "lock her up," a standard cheer at his events in recent months.
Clinton's Republican critics often cite cases like of Petraeus and Cartwright as proof that the former secretary of State has avoided real punishment for her alleged misdeeds.
But in testimony before Congress in July, FBI Director James Comey said Clinton’s use of a private server to store sensitive State Department emails did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution, and did not show the same level of criminal intent as Petraeus.
He has, however, called Clinton’s actions irresponsible and careless.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.