What Sanctions Could The State Department Bring Against Hillary Clinton? There Might Be A Huge Consequence

In light of the FBI's announcement that it will not recommend a criminal indictment of Hillary Clinton, the State Department is reopening its own probe into Clinton's email activities, which it had closed in order to avoid interference with the bureau's investigation. If the department concludes that Clinton mishandled information during her time as secretary of state, she could be subject to sanctions. But what sanctions could the State Department bring against Clinton?

It's an interesting question: Clinton doesn't work for the department anymore, which rules out many of the standard forms of disciplinary action. Department spokesperson John Kirby addressed that question directly on Thursday.

“The State Department’s process for reviewing potential cases of mishandling information does not apply exclusively to current employees,” Kirby said. “Our process can result in a variety of outcomes, including counseling, issuing warnings, security infractions, security violations, and possibly the revoking of an individual's clearance.”

It's that last one that would be the most consequential for Clinton. By "revoking an individual's clearance," Kirby is referring to security clearances, which allow the holder to access classified information at the State Department. If the department concludes that Clinton mishandled classified information, the harshest sanction it could hand down would be to revoke her security clearance. And if that happened, it would make things a tad awkward if she also ended up getting elected to the presidency.

It's unclear whether Clinton currently has a security clearance from the State Department. On its website, the department says that clearances are subject to review every five years, and that "access to classified information will be terminated when an individual no longer has need for access." It's been less than five years since Clinton stopped working for the State Department, but whether or not she still "has need for access" is a subjective determination to be made by the department itself. In any event, Kirby refused to reveal Clinton's current level of clearance when asked about it two days ago.

In related news, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner introduced a bill Thursday that would effectively prevent Clinton from receiving classified security briefings from the White House due to her email activities as secretary. It's unlikely to make much of an impact, though, as President Obama would almost certainly veto it the bill if it were to land on his desk.

In any event, the department hasn't set a deadline to conclude its investigation into Clinton, so it could be a while until we know what consequences she'll face, if she faces any at all.