For months, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ backers had held out hope — some vocally but mostly behind closed doors — that a criminal indictment of Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server would pave the way for him to become the next Democratic presidential nominee. Now that the FBI has decided not to recommend charges against her, Sanders supporters’ emotions are running high.
“The catharsis will come,” said Kat Brezler, a Sanders delegate from New York City’s the Bronx and a founding member of the People for Bernie grass-roots group.
While she said she never thought there would be an indictment, she was saddened by the news. She insisted she had not hoped Clinton would be indicted but lamented the outcome of the yearlong FBI investigation.
“You don’t hope that there are people in this country who could be traitors,” Brezler said. “It sounded like if it were any other person who had done this, it could have gone the other way … it was only a crime if you got caught, and [Clinton] didn’t get caught."
She said she was “sure” the tough words that FBI Director James Comey had about Clinton’s judgment would make it even harder for some of Sanders’ supporters to come around to the idea of backing the former secretary of state. “For some of his younger supporters, I suspect this will be more proof, ’cause the way corruption presents itself in public — it is ugly, unjust and unloving," she told ABC News.
“Aristocracies have never not been rigged,” she continued.
Another Sanders delegate, Christian Duque of Kentucky, told ABC News that many Sanders supporters were “uncomfortable” with former President Bill Clinton’s impromptu meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week.
“I have a great deal of faith in the FBI. However, I think it’s naive to believe that the highly politicized nature of this case did not have some effect on the agency’s investigation,” he said. “Conspiracy theorists will undoubtedly speculate as to the unusual coincidence that the former [secretary of state] was cleared just hours before her first joint campaign appearance with President Obama.”
Gabriel McArthur, a Sanders delegate from Colorado, told ABC News that the FBI’s comments and repudiation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server is “fodder for the Republicans.”
“I’m afraid it’s going to play into Trump’s favor. I’m terrified that he’ll be able to play into the growing distrust of the government that has been building for years,” he said in a message on Twitter.
Others took to social media with even bolder statements. Rob O’Connell, a Sanders delegate from Missouri, condemned Clinton in a post on Facebook.
He declined to speak with ABC News, saying he had no opinion on the matter.
Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said the FBI announcement would not affect the senator’s decision to stay in the race.