September 15, 2016: More information about the emails between Clinton and Obama is made public.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

While Clinton was secretary of state, she exchanged 18 emails with President Obama from her private email account. All information about these emails has remained classified. But some details are finally released due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News.

All of the emails were exchanged between May 18, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Obama sent eight emails to Clinton, and the other ten were from Clinton to Obama. None of the emails appear to contain highly sensitive or classified information, but instead are thank you notes, holiday greetings, and the like.

All of the emails were withheld under presidential privilege and privacy act and deliberative process exemptions to the FOIA. The new details are formally submitted in  what is called a Vaughn Index, a document prepared for FOIA lawsuits in which government departments justify the withholding of information. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)

In February 2016, it was reported there were 19 emails between Clinton and Obama, not 18. It is unclear if the Vaughn Index is missing one or if the report of 19 emails was off by one.

 

September 15, 2016: A former Justice Department official claims the FBI wasn’t serious about its Clinton email investigation.

A Wall Street Journal editorial entitled “The FBI’s Blind Clinton Trust” elicits a September 15, 2016 letter to the editor response from Richard W. Beckler, former Chief of the Criminal Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Richard Beckler (Credit: Bracewell Law)

Richard Beckler (Credit: Bracewell Law)

Beckler writes, “Decisions to prosecute are made by the Justice Department. It is absolutely not the job of the FBI to make prosecutorial decisions. FBI Director James Comey didn’t bother to attend Hillary Clinton’s interview, though he was acting as the ostensible decision maker in the case. One would think he would want to test the witness’s credibility in person. This was clearly no ordinary case and demanded his close attention.”

Furthermore, despite what Comey says, “the FBI doesn’t need to get a referral from Congress to investigate [Clinton’s] false statements to Congress.” He claims, “the FBI’s 302 reports (handwritten notes by FBI agents during investigations) recorded by the FBI should have been turned over to Congress immediately and in their entirety.”

Beckler continues, “Contrary to the [Justice Department]’s normal policy of announcing names of the prosecution team, Mr. Comey hasn’t told anyone who the ‘career’ [Justice Department] attorneys were who supervised the FBI investigation. They have never been named.”

He concludes, “After this long drawn-out FBI inquiry, why did Mr. Comey rush to make his determination and recommendation barely three days after the actual interview took place?” (Wall Street Journal, 09/15/16)

 

September 16, 2016: Internet sleuths discover social media posts by the manager of Clinton’s server that could impact the investigation of Clinton’s email usage.

Katica@GOPpollanalyst (Credit: Twitter)

Katica@GOPpollanalyst (Credit: Twitter)

On September 16, 2016, Twitter user Katica@GOPpollanalyst sends a message to Jeffrey Marty via his Twitter page which is a parody account for a fictitious congressional member named Rep. Steven Smith@RepStevenSmith. Katica had recently discovered posts to the Internet forum Reddit by someone using the name “stonetear,” and had deduced through various clues that this person actually is Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee who has managed Clinton’s private server since June 2013.

Katica then sends Marty a copy of stonetear’s Reddit post that was written on July 24, 2014, and includes a request for advice about “stripping out” the email address of a “VERY VIP” email account.

A photo of stonetears request for help on July 24, 2016, captured by Redditors. (Credit: Katica / Twitter)

A photo of stonetear’s request for help on July 24, 2016, found by Katica and later archived by Redditors. (Credit: Katica / Twitter)

Marty replies, “NO WAY!!!!! That’s HUGE.”

Jeffrey Marty (Credit: Daily Caller)

Jeffrey Marty (Credit: Daily Caller)

Marty will later explain in a news article, “After a lot of discussion about the potential fallout of this decision, Katica and I decided the ‘stonetear’ information had to be released.  Late Sunday night [September 18, 2016], we tweeted the (then-live) short link to the Reddit ‘VERY VIP’ post and four screenshots to Katica’s 2,000 followers, followed by an immediate re-tweet of her post to my 16,000 followers.”

Many interested people then begin finding and archiving all of Combetta’s Reddit posts, as well as other traces he’d left on the Internet using the “stonetear” alias. In the process, more evidence is found that “stonetear” and Paul Combetta are one and the same.

Within hours after the story breaking in various media outlets, including US News and World Report, “stonetear” is caught deleting all of his Reddit posts. The deletions are captured on video as they happen and are posted to YouTube. By September 20, 2016, a Congressional committee demands Combetta submit to recorded interviews by September 23, 2016 to explain these Reddit posts, as well as the deletions, or he will face another subpoena. (Daily Caller, 09/22/16)

September 19, 2016: Paul Combetta is recorded deleting his Reddit posts.

A photo captured of Combetta deleting his posts on Reddit, as it was happening. (Credit: updatedblubber)

YouTube member “updatedblubber” posts a video claiming it is a live recording of Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta deleting ‘stonetear’s posts on Reddit.  The deletion occurs in the morning of September 19, 2016, within hours after news that the Reddit posts of “stonetear” really belong to Combetta break into the mainstream.

Later on the same day, Representative Lamar Smith (R), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, writes a letter to PRN attorney Ken Eichner, expressing his concern about the deletion of the Reddit posts. Smith adds, “Given these concerns, the committee requests that you provide dates for the prioritized interview requests, as well as dates for the remaining Platte River Networks employees, by noon on Friday, September 23, 2016. If you fail to provide dates certain for each of the transcribed interviews, the committee will consider issuing subpoenas for depositions.” (YouTube, 09/19/16) (Representative Lamar Smith, 09/19/16)

September 19, 2016: A judge gives the State Department a tongue-lashing over its slow response to FOIA requests.

US District Court Judge Richard Leon criticizes the State Department over what he calls “foot-dragging” regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

160919JudgeLeonpublic

US DC District Court Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

Leon warns Justice Department lawyers, “You have a client that, to say the least, is not impressing the judges on this court, myself included. … It is in your client’s interest to start being more obviously cooperative. The State Department is at risk of being perceived as obstreperous. [They] need to get with the program.”

The hearing is due to a FOIA lawsuit trying to force the release of documents on whether Clinton and her aides were trained to handle classified information. The State Department propose a deadline of October 17, 2016 to produce about 450 unclassified documents relating to the issue sought by the Daily Caller.

However, Leon orders the department to process and release of the records by October 10, 2016. (Politico, 09/19/16)

 

September 19, 2016: A House panel is looking into Combetta’s post about Clinton’s email server.

Representative Mark Meadows (Credit: public domain)

Representative Mark Meadows (Credit: public domain)

Representative Mark Meadows (R) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is reviewing a Reddit post that suggests an IT (Internet technology) specialist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private server  asked for advice on how to alter the contents of “VERY VIP” emails. Meadows is the chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee.

Reddit users uncovered a two-year-old post from an account they believe belongs to Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server. Meadows says, “the Reddit post issue and its connection to Paul Combetta is currently being reviewed by [my] staff and evaluations are being made as to the authenticity of the post. If it is determined that the request to change email addresses was made by someone so closely aligned with the Secretary’s IT operation as Mr. Combetta, then it will certainly prompt additional inquiry.”

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the same House committee, has issued a criminal referral to the US attorney for the District of Columbia. The referral asks that the Justice Department investigate whether Clinton or her aides were involved in the decision to delete the emails while they were under subpoena and a request for preservation of records. (The Hill, 09/19/16)

 

September 20, 2016: Congressional Republicans issues a subpoena to FBI Director James Comey.

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: NYT)

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: NYT)

Representative Lamar Smith (R), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, issues a subpoena to FBI Director James Comey for documents and information related to the security of former Clinton’s private email account and server. The committee requested these documents in a September 9, 2016 letter. Comey has yet to turn over any of the requested documents. The subpoena orders him to provide the documents by September 26, 2016.

Smith’s committee has jurisdiction to evaluate the “way in which Executive Branch departments and agencies and private entities can improve their cybersecurity.” (US Congress, 9/20/2016)

September 20, 2016: Congressional Republicans press for more documents from the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a classified hearing with Peter Kadzik, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, to discuss document requests. Although the hearing is held behind closed doors, Politico will report on what takes place several days later.

Peter Kadzik (Credit: Molly Riley / The Associated Press)

Peter Kadzik (Credit: Molly Riley / The Associated Press)

Republicans believe the hearing is necessary because their request for a completely unredacted copy of the FBI’s Clinton investigation report has gone unanswered. They also have questions about the immunity deals the department handed out during the Clinton email investigation, and want to know who else besides Bryan Pagliano and Paul Combetta (both managers of Clinton’s private servers) received legal protection, who agreed to the immunity deals, and whether the deals require recipients to cooperate with other investigative bodies.

Politico writes, “Kadzik wouldn’t say. A Democratic source said he could not answer the questions because Republicans had only asked for the information a few hours earlier in a letter to the Justice Department, and the answers weren’t fully researched.”

Kadzik’s refusal to answer their questions doesn’t go over well with Republicans, and according to one Republican source, “the meeting deteriorate[s] from there.” Another Republican threatens a public hearing where Kadzik would have to testify if he fails to provide the information requested, and in effect dares him to say that “Congress [isn’t] entitled to it.”

The Justice Department will deliver the unredacted copies of the immunity agreements for Pagliano and Combetta on September 22, 2016, and the immunity agreements for former State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, and John Bentel will be provided the following day. (Politico, 09/23/2016)

September 21, 2016: A Congressional committee orders Reddit to preserve deleted posts related to the Clinton investigation.

The House Oversight and Govenment Reform Committee orders Reddit to preserve deleted posts believed to be written by Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server. The committee also suspects he may have deleted Clinton’s emails that were under subpoena.

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: The Associated Press)

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: The Associated Press)

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R) confirms to the Hill  that the committee has issued a preservation order and that Reddit is “cooperating.” He also states, “The order has the weight of law, you can’t destroy things and hope things magically get erased. The allegations fit the pattern of what we think was happening.”

Representative Mark Meadows (R), chair of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee, states, “I’m very confident that the amount of circumstantial evidence certainly points in one direction. We’re just trying to make doubly sure that we can authenticate that in a real way, because if not it will be challenged on a number of fronts.”

Chaffetz adds, “We have to verify the authenticity but we are pursuing it with vigor. On the surface it may be accurate, but we’ve got to make sure [the Reddit posts] are preserved and we have to dive deeper into the authenticity.”

Reddit has a policy to maintain deleted records for 90 days if it receives an official preservation order. Otherwise, the information will be subject to Reddit’s normal retention schedules. (The Hill, 09/21/2016)

September 22, 2016: A Congressional committee votes that Pagliano should be held in contempt of Congress.

Bryan Pagliano (Credit: public domain)

Bryan Pagliano (Credit: public domain)

Bryan Pagliano, who managed Clinton’s server when she was secretary of state, recently was served a subpoena to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But instead of pleading the Fifth, as two others did, he failed to appear altogether. The committee holds another hearing on this day, and he fails to appear again. As a result, the committee immediately votes on party lines, 19 to 15, to recommend that the House of Representatives hold him in contempt of Congress.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the committee, says, “Subpoenas are not optional. Mr. Pagliano is a crucial fact witness in this committee’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to conduct government business.”

After a required two day wait time, the resolution can be voted on by the entire House to be adopted.

Democrats on the committee argue repeatedly that the move is a politically motivated abuse of power meant to influence the November 2016 presidential election.

A letter by Pagliano’s lawyer Mark McDougall to the committee similarly claims that efforts to force Pagliano to testify show a “naked political agenda” with “no valid legislative aim.” McDougall says Pagliano is ready to appear behind closed doors, but will not appear in public. (The Hill, 9/22/2016) (Politico, 9/22/2016)

September 23, 2016: Clinton’s lawyer refuses to comply with part of a subpoena for some of Clinton’s server security details.

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall sends a letter to House Science, Space and Technology Committee chair Representative Lamar Smith (R), complaining about a recent Congressional subpoena to the computer company SECNAP, Inc., which assisted with the security of Clinton’s private server from 2013 onwards.

David Kendall (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

David Kendall (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Kendall writes, “The subpoena … is overbroad.  We have no objection to the production of documents related to the SECNAP security device used in connection with the server that … hosted Secretary Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary …. We do object, however, to the production of SECNAP documents and security information regarding security equipment that was used by CESC [Clinton Executive Security Corp.] after the prior server was provided to the FBI, and thus, never hosted Secretary Clinton’s work-related emails.”

Kendall continues, “Documents regarding this equipment are likely to contain sensitive information related to security of the current network and/or server. Because these documents are unrelated to the Committee’s investigation and contain sensitive security information, I respectfully object to the portion of the subpoena seeking their production.”

Because SECNAP was hired by CESC, a Clinton family company, they want approval from Clinton’s lawyers regarding cooperation with government authorities. (Politico, 09/23/16)

September 28, 2016: Comey suggests he didn’t try to get subpoena power for the Clinton email investigation in order to complete it faster.

Representative Tom Marino (Credit: Getty Images)

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Tom Marino (R) asks FBI Director James Comey why he made immunity deals with key figures in the Clinton email investigation instead of using subpoena power. In particular, he wants to know why deals were made to get access to the laptops of Clinton’s lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Comey replies, “Anytime you’re talking about the prospect of subpoenaing a computer from a lawyer, it involves the lawyer’s practice of law, you know you’re getting into a big Megillah.”

Marino, who was a district attorney and US attorney before being elected to Congress, then asks, “I understand that, clearly. Why did you not decide to go to an investigative grand jury? It would have been cleaner, it would have been much simpler, and you would have had more authority to make these witnesses testify. Not the target, but the witnesses testify. That seems the way to go, Director. We’ve done it thousands of times. This was just too convoluted.”

Comey replies, “Again, I need to steer clear of talking about grand jury use in a particular matter. In general, in my experience, you can often do things faster with informal agreements, especially when you’re interacting with lawyers. In this particular investigation, the investigative team really wanted to get access to the laptops that were used to sort these emails. Those are lawyers’ laptops. That is a very complicated thing. I think they were able to navigate it pretty well to get us access.”

Later in the hearing, Comey adds that the investigation “couldn’t be concluded professionally without doing our best to figure out what was on those laptops. So, getting the laptops was very important to me and to the investigative team.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (C-SPAN, 9/28/2016)

In contradiction to his answer on this day, in April 2016, he said of the investigation, “The urgency is to do it well and promptly. And ‘well’ comes first.” And in May 2016, he said “I don’t tether to any external deadline” to finish the investigation, such as the Democratic convention in July 2016.

September 28, 2016: When asked if he would reopen the Clinton email investigation, Comey says he “would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

During an appearance before a Congressional committee, FBI Director James Comey is questioned by Representative Lamar Smith (R): “[W]ould you reopen the Clinton [email] investigation if you discovered new information that was both relevant and substantial?”

Comey replies, “It is hard for me to answer in the abstract. We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Smith then asks, “In general – and let’s personalize it – in general, if you discover new information that was substantial and relevant, you would reopen an investigation, would you not?”

Comey replies, “Again, even in general I don’t think we can answer that in the abstract. What we can say is that any investigation if people have new and substantial information we would like to see it so we can make an evaluation.” (US Congress, 9/28/2016)

Exactly one month later, on October 28, 2016, Comey will announce that he is at least partially reopening the investigation, due to newly discovered emails.

October 7, 2016—October 12, 2016: A claim that recently released WikiLeaks emails contain “obvious forgeries” is quickly debunked.

Malcolm Nance (Credit: MSNBC)

Malcolm Nance (Credit: MSNBC)

Politico calls Malcolm Nance a “former US intelligence analyst who has spoken frequently in defense of the Democratic nominee” Hillary Clinton. Within hours of WikiLeaks posting the first 2,000 hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, Nance writes in a tweet: “Warning: #PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally.” (Twitter,10/7/2016)

However, no such evidence of any forgeries emerges. Five days later, on October 12, 2016, Nance reverses his claim of “obvious forgeries,” saying, “We have no way of knowing whether [the WikiLeaks emails are] real or not unless Hillary Clinton goes through everything they’ve said and comes out and says it cross-correlates and this is true.”

Politico also notes that cybersecurity experts have examined the Podesta emails released so far, and have found no evidence any of them were faked. (Politico, 10/12/2016)

October 9, 2016: Trump claims that Clinton unfairly beat Bernie Sanders in the primaries and calls Clinton “the devil.”

During in the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, Clinton claims that her opponent Donald Trump never apologizes for anything, and then lists several issues he should apologize for, but never has.

Clinton and Trump spar at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

Clinton and Trump spar at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

As part of his response, Trump claims that Clinton fairly lost the primary to Obama in 2008. However, he says this is “unlike the Bernie Sanders race where you won, but not fair and square, in my opinion. And all you have to do is take a look at WikiLeaks and just see what they said about Bernie Sanders and see what [Democratic National Committee chair] Debbie Wasserman Schultz had in mind, because Bernie Sanders, between superdelegates and Debra Wasserman Schultz, he never had a chance and I was so surprised to see him sign on with the devil.” (Politico, 10/10/2016)

October 9, 2016: Trump strangely and repeatedly claims Clinton “acid washed” her emails.

Donald Trump (Credit: Getty Images)

Donald Trump (Credit: Getty Images)

One of the stranger comments to come from the second general election presidential debate is Donald Trump’s insistence that Clinton literally washed her deleted emails with a chemical.

While Trump speaks about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and to “lock her up,” he brings up her email scandal and repeatedly mentions the idea that Clinton has “acid washed” her emails.

Right before calling for a special prosecutor, he says, “The thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 emails that you deleted and that you acid washed.”

This is an acid-washed vest. (Credit: public domain)

This is an acid-washed vest. (Credit: public domain)

Later in the debate, and just before reiterating the call for a special prosecutor, he says again, “You delete 33,000 emails. And then you acid wash them, or bleach them, as you would say—a very expensive process.”

Trump’s campaign claims that the comment is a play on words. But the meaning of such a play on word isn’t clear. Acid washing is a process to fade the colors in mostly blue jeans and tee-shirts.

Slate theorizes that Trump read news reports that Platte Rivers Neworks employee Paul Combetta used a free computer program called BleachBit to destroy all traces of Clinton’s emails from her private server. Then Trump began referring to Clinton “bleaching” her emails. But somehow that evolved into frequent mentions of “acid washing” instead.

Slate further theorizes that Trump has come to take these words literally. In a public speech in August 2016, Trump suggested Clinton used chemicals to destroy the emails: “Thirty-three thousand emails that she deleted. They’re gone. And not only deleted folks, she bleached—which somebody said they had never even heard of—in a very expensive fashion, used chemicals so nobody will ever be able to see ‘em. Who does this?” (Slate, 10/10/2016) (Slate, 9/1/2016)

October 9, 2016: Trump tells Clinton he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into her use of a private email server, and says he would put her in jail.

Just two days after Wikileaks releases their first batch of hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, there is a presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, and it includes a contentious exchange between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while she is secretary of state.

Clinton and Trump spar at a presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: John Locher / The Associated Press)

Clinton and Trump spar at a presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: John Locher / The Associated Press)

He says, “I think the one that you should really be apologizing for and the thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 emails that you deleted, and that you acid washed, and then the two boxes of emails and other things last week that were taken from an office and are now missing. And I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.”

He continues, “When I speak, I go out and speak, the people of this country are furious. In my opinion, the people that have been long-term workers at the FBI are furious. There has never been anything like this, where emails… and you get a subpoena, you get a subpoena, and after getting the subpoena, you delete 33,000 emails, and then you acid wash them or bleach them, as you would say, very expensive process. So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it, because you know what? People have been… their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Clinton responds, “Everything he just said is absolutely false, but I’m not surprised.”

Trump asks, “Oh really?”

Clinton gives a long response which ends with the comment, “It’s good that somebody with the temperament of Donald Trump is not running this country.”

Trump immediately shoots back: “Because you’d be in jail.”
Anderson Cooper (left) and Martha Raddatz are the presidential debate moderators at Washington University in St. Louis on October 9, 2016. (Credit: Washington University)

Anderson Cooper (left) and Martha Raddatz are the presidential debate moderators at Washington University in St. Louis, on October 9, 2016. (Credit: Washington University)

Martha Raddatz follows up with a question for Clinton, “And Secretary Clinton, I do want to follow-up on e-mails. You’ve said your handling of your e-mails was a mistake, you’ve disagreed with the FBI Director James Comey calling your handling of classified information “extremely careless”. The FBI said there were 110 classified e-mails which were exchanged, eight of which were top secret and it was possible hostile actors did gain access to those e-mails. You don’t call that extremely careless?”

Clinton responds,… “I take classified materials very seriously and always have. When I was on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was privy to a lot of classified material. Obviously, as secretary of state I had some of the most important secrets that we possess, such as going after Bin Laden. So, I am very committed to taking classified information seriously and as I said, there is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands.”

Trump answers, again with the suggestion that Hillary would be in jail if she were anyone else, … “If you did that in the private sector, you’d be put in jail, let alone after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.” (The Hill, 10/9/2016) (The New York Times, 10/9/2016)

Trump’s comments draw many reactions. His vice presidential candidate Mike Pence approves. However, many others, including Republicans, react negatively. That includes 23 former Republican Justicee Department officials, who write a letter condemning the comments.

October 9, 2016: Trump criticizes Clinton for her email scandal in the second presidential debate.

During the second general election presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in St. Louis, Missouri, Clinton is asked by debate host Martha Raddatz, “You disagreed with FBI Director James Comey, [who called] your handling of classified information, quote, ‘extremely careless.’ The FBI said that there were 110 classified emails that were exchanged, eight of which were top secret, and that it was possible hostile actors did gain access to those emails. You don’t call that extremely careless?”

Clinton at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Clinton at the presidential debate on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Clinton gives a long answer that includes the comment, “It was a mistake, and I take responsibility. I’m very committed to taking classified information seriously. And as I said, there is no evidence that any classified information ended up in the wrong hands.”

Trump reponds: “And yet, she didn’t know the letter ‘C’ on a document? She’s lying. Do you think it was fine to delete 33,000 emails? I don’t think so. You should be ashamed of yourself. … She said the 33,000 emails had to do with her daughter’s wedding, number one, and a yoga class. Well, maybe we’ll give three or three or four or five or something. 33,000 emails deleted, and now she’s saying there wasn’t anything wrong. And more importantly, that was after getting a subpoena. That wasn’t before. That was after. She got it from the United States Congress.”

Donald Trump speaking during the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Donald Trump speaks during the presidential debate on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

After some more commentary, he finishes, “If you did that in the private sector, you’d be put in jail, let alone after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.”

Clinton responds, “It’s just not true.”

“You didn’t delete them?” Trump asks.

“It was personal emails, not official.”

“Oh, 33,000?”

Clinton says, “Well, we turned over 35,000.” (Los Angeles Times, 10/10/2016)

This is the second time in the debate Trump threatens Clinton with jail regarding her emails. He also says she wouldn’t like it if he becomes president, “Because you’d be in jail.”

Note that Raddatz is wrong in saying Clinton exchanged eight individual “top secret” emails. In fact, there were eight “top secret” email chains involving Clinton which contained at least 22 mails. Also, Clinton actually turned over 30,068 emails to the State Department, not 35,000 as she says. She kept 31,830 emails which were later deleted, not 30,000 or 33,000, as Trump says. Furthermore, Trump’s “acid-washed” comment appears to be a garbled version of the fact that the computer program BleachBit was used to permanently wipe her emails. Finally, Clinton is incorrect claimng all the deleted emails were personal. In the month prior to this debate, it was reported that about 5,600 of her deleted emails were actually deemed work-related.

October 9, 2016—October 13, 2016: Many, including Republicans, criticize Trump for threatening to put Clinton in jail.

Donald Trump creates a firestorm of responses after the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 9, 2016, due to his threat to Clinton that “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” and that she should “be in jail.”Trump’s remarks draw widespread and bipartisan condemnation for being un-American, as well as praise coming from some supporters.

Praise for Trump’s remarks is rare, except perhaps among his ordinary supporters:

    Frank Luntz's focus group at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Fox News)

    Frank Luntz’s focus group at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Fox News)

  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz hosts a group of 30 undecided voters at the debate. According to the results of the poll, Trump’s highest moment during the first half of the debate is when he vows to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton if he is elected president, as well as telling her she should be “ashamed of herself” for misleading the American public on the email issue. By the end of the debate, 21 participants tell Luntz that Trump’s performance had a positive impact on their voting choice going forward, while nine are impressed by Clinton’s performance.  (The Washington Examiner, 10/09/2016)
  • Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters following the presidential debate on October 9, 2016, in St Louis, Missouri.

  • Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway says, “That was a quip.” And regarding Trump’s threat to appoint a special prosecutor, Conway says only that he was “channeling the frustration” of voters.
  • Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana Governor Mike Pence says this comment by his running mate Trump “was one of the better moments of the debate.” (Huffington Post, 10/10/2016)

The overwhelming majority of responses by legal experts and other politicians are critical of Trump. For instance:

  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Obama, writes on Twitter, “In the USA we do not threaten to jail political opponents. [Donald Trump] said he would. He is promising to abuse the power of the office.”
  • John Yoo (Credit: Berkley College)

    John Yoo (Credit: Berkley College)

  • John Yoo, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush who defended the US government’s use of torture, says that Trump “reminds me a lot of early Mussolini. . . . Very, disturbingly similar.” He also calls Trump’s promise to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Clinton is “a compounded stupidity,” because “if you are a Republican or a conservative, you think that special prosecutors are unconstitutional.” (The Washington Post, 10/12/2016)
  • Paul Charlton, a former federal prosecutor and US attorney under George W. Bush, states, “For Donald Trump to say he will have a special prosecutor appointed and to have tried and convicted her already and say she’d go to jail is wholly inappropriate and the kind of talk more befitting a Third World country than it is our democracy. … The Department of Justice isn’t a political tool and it ought not to be employed that way.”
  • Marc Jimenez (Credit: public domain)

    Marc Jimenez (Credit: public domain)

  • Marc Jimenez, a lawyer who served on the legal team backing Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court showdown and also was a US attorney under George W. Bush, says: “This statement demonstrates the clear and present danger that Trump presents to our justice system. For a president to ‘instruct’ an attorney general to commence any prosecution or take any particular action is abhorrent. If it occurred, it would be a politically motivated decision that would cheapen the Department of Justice and contradict the core principle that prosecutors should never consider political factors in their charging or other decisions.”
  • Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked in George W. Bush’s White House, says: “A special prosecutor is supposed to investigate and isn’t appointed to put people in jail. You’re kind of skipping over an important step there. Can you imagine being the defendant prosecuted after being told the prosecutor was someone who was appointed to put you in jail, that had already foreordained that result? … It’s absurd and, if it were serious, it would be absolutely terrifying because it suggests there’s no due process.” (Politico, 10/10/2016)
  • Ari Fleischer (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

    Ari Fleischer (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

  • Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush and a supporter of Trump, writes on Twitter, “Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. Presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals. Trump is wrong on this.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/10/2016)
  • Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general for George W. Bush, says, “That to me is the… is a watershed event… that it’s the president of a different party. That makes it an entirely different kind of exercise in my view.” Mukasey spoke at the Republican convention in July 2016, but he says Trump’s suggestion “would make us look like a banana republic.” (NPR, 10/10/2016)
  • Paul Staniland (Credit: University of Chicago)

    Paul Staniland (Credit: University of Chicago)

  • Paul Staniland, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, says these kinds of attacks “can undermine the whole idea of democratic elections, where each side agrees that whoever won will then rule. … This is something that, as someone who studies the developing world and political violence, is kind of freaky. It kind of reminds me of Bangladesh. Thailand is like this, too. You have this real sense that whoever wins the election will go after the loser. Even if leaders succeed only rarely in using the state to punish their rivals, that can quickly spiral out of control, turning politics into a zero-sum game for control over the institutions of law and order.”
  • Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College in New York, says, “The rhetoric alone is extremely dangerous because it undermines people’s belief in our democratic institutions and process. Strongmen typically come to power in democracies, by telling citizens to distrust institutions and procedure — that what is needed is to burn it all down.”
  • Adrian LeBas (Credit: Wilson Center)

    Adrian LeBas (Credit: Wilson Center)

  • Adrienne LeBas, a political scientist at American University, says Trump’s comment is “a threat to the rule of law, a threat to the stability of our institutions, a threat to basic agreements that are necessary for democracy to function. For those of us who work on authoritarian regimes and hybrid regimes, this sort of thing is just eerily familiar.” She calls this “the absolute personalization of power,” similar to what has been seen in “Zimbabwe, Togo, Ethiopia, cases like that, where there are explicit threats to imprison opponents.” (New York Times, 10/11/2016)
  • Twenty-three Republican former Justice Department officials sign a statement criticizing his jail threat and calling for Trump’s defeat in November, 2016.

October 9, 2016: Clinton confirms the authenticity of a key email about her private paid speeches.

On January 25, 2016, Clinton’s head researcher Tony Carrk sent an email to Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and other Clinton aides that consisted of dozens of pages of potentially politically damaging quotes from Clinton’s private paid speeches. The review included a speech Clinton gave that reflected on the necessity of having “unsavory” political dealings, and said that “you need both a public and private position.” (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

WikiLeaks released the email on October 7, 2016, as part of a release of thousands of emails from the private email account of Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. The Clinton campaign refuses to confirm the authenticity of any of the WikiLeaks emails.

However, during the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, on October 9, 2016, Clinton  seemingly confirms the authenticity of this key email in one of her comments.

Martha Raddatz is a moderator at the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images)

Debate moderator Martha Raddatz asks Clinton: “This question involves WikiLeaks release of purported excerpts of Secretary Clinton’s paid speeches, which she has refused to release, and one line in particular, in which you, Secretary Clinton, purportedly say you need both a public and private position on certain issues. So… is it okay for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance on issues?”

Clinton replies: “Well, right. As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called ‘Lincoln.’ It was a master class watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment. It was principled, and it was strategic. And I was making the point that it is hard sometimes to get the Congress to do what you want to do and you have to keep working at it. And, yes, President Lincoln was trying to convince some people, he used some arguments, convincing other people, he used other arguments. That was a great — I thought a great display of presidential leadership.”

Clinton speaking at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 7, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images)

Clinton speaking at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 9, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images)

In essence, Clinton acknowledges her controversial phrase “having a public and private position” in the Carrk email is authentic, by describing in detail what she meant when she said it.

Clinton then further replies to Raddatz’s question: “But, you know, let’s talk about what’s really going on here, Martha, because our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election. And WikiLeaks is part of that, as are other sites where the Russians hack information, we don’t even know if it’s accurate information, and then they put it out. We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected. They’re doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump.” (New York Times, 10/10/2016)

October 10, 2016: Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence says Trump threatening to jail Clinton “was one of the better moments of the debate.”

Mike Pence (Credit: Mark Taylor / Flickr)

Mike Pence (Credit: Mark Taylor / Flickr)

Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana governor Mike Pence agrees with Donald Trump threat to Clinton a day earlier in the second general election presidential debate that If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” and that she should “be in jail.”

Pence states, “It was one of the better moments of the debate.” He adds that “these remarks were simply referring to [Trump’s] promise to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s use of a private server during her time as secretary of state and whether she allowed special access to donors to the Clinton Foundation. … What Donald Trump said is no one is going to be above the law. There’s going to be no double standards and we’re going to look into and get to the bottom of this, which I think is what the American people would fully expect, an even application of the law and I fully support him.”

Pence also believes Trump’s plan is no different from what the FBI was considering six months ago with its Clinton email investigation, though that resulted in a decision not to indict her.

Many Republicans have largely accepted and encouraged calls to imprison Clinton. For instance, the Republican National Convention included frequent chants from the crowd to ““lock her up,” and Trump has previously said Clinton “has got to go to jail.” (Huffington Post, 10/10/2016)