Seven of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email chains will be withheld from public release because they have been found to contain top secret information. (Reuters)

The Post reports:

The State Department has concluded there is “top secret” material in Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence from the time she was secretary of state, indicating that some of her emails will never be released, even in heavily redacted form, because they are too sensitive for the public to view.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the material crosses seven email chains, amounting to 37 pages worth of material.

The finding is likely to deepen the political consequences for Clinton of her decision to use a private email account, routed through a server installed in her suburban New York home, and it comes just three days before the Iowa caucuses, as Clinton remains locked in a heated battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination.

It also has legal consequences, ones that cannot be spun away with the irrelevant excuse that they were not marked “top secret.” Moreover, if the material contained, as the Associated Press reports, “pages include messages recently described by a key intelligence official as concerning so-called ‘special access programs’ — a highly restricted subset of classified material that could point to confidential sources or clandestine programs like drone strikes or government eavesdropping,” her lack of awareness of the secretive nature of the material is eviscerated.

Former attorney general Michael R. Mukasey wrote that “from her direction that classification rules be disregarded, to the presence on her personal email server of information at the highest level of classification, to her repeated falsehoods of a sort that juries are told every day may be treated as evidence of guilty knowledge—it is nearly impossible to draw any conclusion other than that she knew enough to support a conviction at the least for mishandling classified information.” If that is the case, Mukasey concludes, “The simple proposition that everyone is equal before the law suggests that Mrs. Clinton’s state of mind—whether mere knowledge of what she was doing as to mishandling classified information; or gross negligence in the case of the mishandling of information relating to national defense; or bad intent as to actual or attempted destruction of email messages; or corrupt intent as to State Department business—justifies a criminal charge of one sort or another.”

Democrats, and to an extent the media, have been operating in a state of denial as the FBI marches forward. Neither the FBI nor the hard evidence can be spun, no matter how clever Clinton’s answers may be. As former general David Petraeus is fighting off efforts to strip him of a star, it is inconceivable that there would be no consequences for Clinton.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) released a statement: “We now know Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account during her tenure at the State Department wasn’t just negligent, it was completely dangerous. Housing top-secret emails on an unsecure, personal server put our national security at grave risk. Did our enemies hack these emails? And were lives put at risk as a result? To put our country in danger for personal convenience is arrogant and irresponsible — and it’s illegal. She should face the same consequences that any federal employee who behaved similarly would face, including criminal prosecution.” Other Republicans will surely follow with similar questions.

Skeptics will say that this Justice Department will never indict Clinton. To that there are two responses: First, I see no reason why Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch would besmirch her career and reputation by declining prosecution if the evidence warrants. This is not a presidential crony. She is no Eric Holder, who has been adept throughout his career at protecting his bosses from political disaster. Second, if the FBI does find compelling evidence and the Justice Department were to refuse to act the political hullabaloo would be enormous and the presidential election essentially handed to the Republicans.

Democrats need to get a grip and a Plan B. If Clinton is beaten in Iowa, they must decide if they are prepared to accept the possibility of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as their nominee. Really. A socialist to the left of President Obama will be the best the Democratic Party can do? Remember we are not only talking about the presidential election in November but also control of the Senate. If the Democrats feel queasy about the prospect of Sanders as their nominee they better move fast — either to dragoon Vice President Biden, entice Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or to figure out if former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has any chance whatsoever.

But if Clinton wins Iowa, the Democrats’ problem is even worse. Whom do they get to beat her if she is winning races?