2014: The data on Clinton’s first private server is transferred to another computer, causing some of Clinton’s emails to be lost.

When Clinton became secretary of state in January 2009, her emails were hosted on her first private email server, which was an Apple computer (either an Apple Power Macintosh G4 or G5 tower). In March 2009, the server was replaced by a new one built by Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano. The old server was repurposed to serve as a personal computer and/or workstation for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York, house.

At some unknown point in 2014, the data on this Apple computer is transferred to an Apple iMac computer. The hard drive of the old Apple computer is then discarded. Clinton’s emails from January 2009 until around March 18, 2009, are apparently lost as a result.

On October 14, 2015, Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, tells the Justice Department that a review of the iMac was conducted, as requested by the Justice Department, and no emails were found belonging to Clinton from when she was secretary of state. The FBI will not directly examine the iMac. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 6, 2014: In a private speech, Clinton says when she got to State Department, employees “were not mostly permitted to have handheld devices.”

Clinton attends a meeting with General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and various business leaders on September 21, 2009. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton gives a private paid speech for General Electric. In it, she says that when she arrived at the State Department as secretary of state, employees “were not mostly permitted to have handheld devices. I mean, so you’re thinking how do we operate in this new environment dominated by technology, globalizing forces? We have to change, and I can’t expect people to change if I don’t try to model it and lead it.”

The comments will be flagged as potentially politically embarrassing by Tony Carrk, Clinton’s research director, due to Clinton’s daily use of a BlackBerry mobile device during the same time period. Although the comment is made in private, Carrk’s January 2016 email mentioning the quote will be made public by WikiLeaks in October 2016. (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

January 22, 2014: Guccifer is arrested in Bucharest, Romania, for his hacking activities.

 Romanian authorities arrested Marcel Lazăr Lehel aka Guccifer at his home on January 22, 2014. (Credit: Gawker)

Romanian authorities arrested Marcel Lazăr Lehel aka Guccifer at his home on January 22, 2014. (Credit: Gawker)

Later in the year, he is convicted of various hacking crimes and gets a seven-year sentence in Romania. He hacked into the email accounts of many famous people, including Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal in March 2013. (Reuters, 4/1/2016(The New York Times, 11/10/2014)

February 2014: A laptop containing all of Clinton’s emails from one year earlier is permanently lost in the mail.

In the spring of 2013, Clinton aide Monica Hanley made a copy of all of Clinton’s emails on a MacBook laptop to make a safe back-up copy of them. Then she apparently forgot to do anything with it for nearly a full year.

The 2013 Apple Mac Book Air Laptop (Credit: public domain)

The 2013 Apple MacBook Air Laptop (Credit: public domain)

In early 2014, Hanley finds the laptop where it has been stored at her personal residence. She attempts to transfer the archive of Clinton’s emails to Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company which is managing Clinton’s private server by this time. She works with PRN employee Paul Combetta. After trying unsuccessfully to remotely transfer the emails to him, Hanley ships the laptop to his residence in February 2014. Combetta then transfers Clinton’s emails from the laptop onto Clinton’s private server.

This server already should contain all of Clinton’s old emails. But the server that existed when Hanley made the back-up in the spring of 2013 was replaced in June 2013 by a new server, so it is possible that some emails get transferred at the time didn’t get successfully transferred before.

Combetta transfers all of the Clinton email content to a personal Gmail email address he created. Then he downloads all the emails from the Gmail account to a mailbox on the new Clinton server. He will later tell the FBI that he used the Gmail as a middle step because he had format compatibility issues.

Hanley will later tell the FBI that she recommended that PRN wipe the laptop after the emails were transferred to the server. (“Wiping” means repeatedly overwriting the data so it can never be recovered.) However, Combetta will tell the FBI that once the transfer was done, he deleted the emails from the laptop but didn’t do any wiping. He also deleted the emails uploaded to the Gmail account.

According to the FBI’s final report, Combetta then ships the laptop to a person whose name will later be redacted, but works on Clinton’s staff in some capacity. He ships it through the mail, using United States Postal Service (USPS) or United Parcel Service (UPS). The unnamed Clinton staffer will later tell the FBI that she never received the laptop. She will say that Clinton’s staff was moving offices at the time, and it would have been easy for the package to get lost during the transition period.

According to Combetta’s September 2015 FBI interview, he “shipped the foregoing MacBook back to [redacted], but recalled nothing about the return shipment.” That would presumably mean he shipped it back to Hanley, since she shipped it to him. But in Hanley’s January 2016 interview, she will claim to have asked another woman (whose name is redacted) if they ever received laptop and were told they did not. Thus it would appear Combetta and Hanley will have different accounts of who is sent the laptop.

The laptop is apparently permanently lost. However, some of Clinton’s emails will somehow be recovered from the Gmail account in 2016, even though they were all deleted. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

February 7, 2014: The State Department says classified information on devices like BlackBerrys are prohibited.

Jen Psaki (Credit: ABC News)

Jen Psaki (Credit: ABC News)

A reporter asks department spokesperson Jen Psaki if “State Department officials routinely use encrypted phones, mobile phones, for their conversations…” Psaki says in her reply, “Classified processing and classified conversation on a personal digital assisted device is prohibited.” (US Department of State, 2/7/2014) 

These comments are made before the controversy about Clinton’s use of a private BlackBerry for government emails begins.

May 8, 2014: The House Benghazi Committee is formed, in order to investigate the US government’s response to the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Representative Trey Gowdy (Credit: Crooks and Liars)

Representative Trey Gowdy (Credit: Crooks and Liars)

House Speaker John Boehner (R) formally announces its formation. Representative Trey Gowdy (R) is named the head investigator. (The New York Times, 8/8/2015) The committee is dominated by Republicans and will be frequently accused of having a partisan agenda to criticize Clinton and other Democrats.

July 23, 2014: The House Benghazi Committee reaches an agreement relating to the production of Clinton’s emails.

The committee reaches an agreement with the State Department “regarding the production of records.” This will be mentioned in a September 2016 FBI report in the context of Clinton’s emails. However, further details are not known. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

July 23, 2014: Clinton’s lawyers are sent some of Clinton’s emails so they can begin sorting them.

Unnamed employees at Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, discuss in an email sending copies of Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state overnight to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff. A company spokesperson will later confirm that the company did begin sending the emails to Mills around this time. (The Washington Post, 9/22/2015) 

A September 2016 FBI report will confirm that PRN sent some of Clinton’s emails in response to a request from Mills, but only those which were sent to or received from a .gov email address while Clinton was secretary of state. An unnamed PRN employee remotely transferred a .pst file containing the emails onto the laptops of Mills and Heather Samuelson (another Clinton lawyer) via ScreenConnect. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Two weeks after the FBI report is released, an email reported in the media will reveal that on this day, PRN employee Paul Combetta overrnighted DVDs of data from Clinton’s server to Clinton Executive Services Corp. (CESC), a Clinton family company.  The exact shipping charge of $46.38 is mentioned in the email. (The New York Post, 9/18/2016)

It is unclear if this is in addition to the files being transferred over the Internet as described by the FBI, or instead of it. Combetta will claim in a September 2015 FBI interview that he ultimately never sent the DVD and only sent the data over the Internet. However, this may not settle the question, because Combetta will be interviewed three times and his answers will often be inacurate and/or contradictory. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

July 2014 is the same month the State Department first informally requests Clinton’s emails. Mills and Samuelson will be two of three Clinton associates who sort through which emails to turn over and which to delete, along with Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall.

In late September 2014, PRN will send the rest of Clinton’s known emails to Mills and Samuelson.

July 24, 2014: The manager of Clinton’s server asks for help in a social media forum to remove Clinton’s address from her emails.

A captured shot of Combetta's 'stonetear' GMail account with picture included. (Credit: public domain)

A captured shot of Combetta’s ‘stonetear’ GMail account with picture included. (Credit: public domain)

A Reddit user by the name of “stonetear” makes a Reddit post that will later cause controversy. Overwhelming evidence will emerge that “stonetear” is Paul Combetta, one of two Platte River Networks (PRN) employees actively managing Clinton’s private server at the time. The post reads:

“Hello all — I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email that I have both in a live Exchange mailbox, as well as a PST file. Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out. I am not sure if something like this is possible with PowerShell, or exporting all of the emails to MSG and doing find/replaces with a batch processing program of some sort. Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”

July 24, 2014 Reddit post contained this request for advice about “stripping out” the email address of a “VERY VIP” email account. (Credit: Reddit)

This July 24, 2014 Reddit post contained a request for advice about “stripping out” the email address of a “VERY VIP” email account. (Credit: Reddit)

A response captured in the Reddit chat warning Combetta that what he wants to do is illegal. (Credit: Reddit)

A response captured in the Reddit chat warning Combetta that what he wants to do could result in “major legal issues.” (Credit: Reddit)

The post in made in a sub-forum frequented by other people who manage servers. One poster comments: “There is no supported way to do what you’re asking. You can only delete emails after they’re stored in the database. You can’t change them. If there was a feature in Exchange that allowed this, it would result in major legal issues. There may be ways to hack a solution, but I’m not aware of any.”

Despite this warning, “stonetear” replies, “As a .pst file or exported MSG files, this could be done though, yes? The issue is that these emails involve the private email address of someone you’d recognize and we’re trying to replace it with a placeholder as to not expose it.” (Reddit, 9/19/2016)

The post occurs one day after the House Benghazi Committee reached an agreement with the State Department on the production of records relating to Clinton’s communications. It also came one day after Combetta sent some of Clinton’s emails to Clinton’s lawyers so they could begin sorting them.

After Combetta is discovered to have authored the post in September 2016, Fortune Magazine will comment, “it’s not clear if there is anything illegal about the Reddit request. But the optics sure don’t look good, and strongly suggest that Combetta turned to social media for advice about how to tamper with government records that should been preserved.” (Fortune, 9/21/2016)

Late July 2014—December 5, 2014: Heather Samuelson, one of Clinton’s lawyers, allegedly leads the sorting of over 60,000 of Clinton’s emails.

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Samuelson’s task is to sort all the emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state into those deemed work-related and those deemed personal. She appears to have no security clearance and no special skills or experience for such a task.

In late July 2014, Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, emails some of Clinton’s emails to the laptops of Samuelson and Cheryl Mills, another Clinton lawyer (and her former chief of staff). PRN sends Samuelson and Mills the rest of Clinton’s emails in late September 2014. In 2016, Samuelson will tell the FBI that the sorting review takes several months and is completed just prior to December 5, 2014, when copies of the work-related emails are given to the State Department.

According to Samuelson’s 2016 FBI interview, she does the sorting on her laptop. She puts the work-related emails she finds into a computer folder. She first adds all emails sent to or from Clinton’s email account with .gov and .mil email addresses. Then she searches the remaining emails for the names of senior leaders in the State Department, as well as members of Congress, foreign leaders, or other official contacts.

Finally, she conducts a keyword search of terms such as “Afghanistan,” “Libya,” and “Benghazi.” Samuelson will claim that she reviews the “to,” “from,” and “subject” fields of every email; but she doesn’t read the content of every individual email. In some instances, she decides a if an email is work or personal by only reviewing the “to,” “from,” and “subject’ fields.

After Samuelson finishes her sorting, she prints all of the emails to be given to the State Department using a printer in Mills’ office. Then Mills and Kendall subsequently reviews emails that Samuelson printed. Any hard copy of an email Mills and Kendall deem not to be work-related is shredded, and the digital copy of the email is removed from the computer folder Samuelson created of all of the work-related emails.

Mills will later tell the FBI that, she only reviewed emails where Samuelson requested her guidance. There is no sign in the FBI’s final report that Kendall was interviewed about this matter.

With the sorting process completed, Samuelson creates a .pst file containing all of the work-related emails, and also makes sure that all work-related emails are printed to give to the State Department. The .pst file is given to Kendall on a USB thumb drive. On August 6, 2015, Kendall will give this thumb drive to the FBI, with consent from Clinton.

This account appears to be based mostly or entirely on the accounts of Samuelson and Mills. An FBI report will note: “The FBI was unable to obtain a complete list of keywords or named officials searched from Samuelson, Mills, or Clinton’s other attorneys due to an assertion of [attorney-client] privilege. ”

The 30,068 emails deemed work-related are given to the State Department, while the 31,830 deemed personal will later be deleted. The FBI will eventually find over 17,000 of the deleted emails, and thousands of them will be determined work-related after all. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

In Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, she will claim that she had no role whatsoever in the sorting process, other than telling her lawyers to do it.

Late July 2014: State Department officials anticipate media interest in Clinton’s emails.

In May 2016, Cheryl Mills will say in a court deposition that around the end of July 2014, she was in contact with the State Department about turning over Clinton’s work-related emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. Mills will claim “there was a set of conversations around materials that were going to be provided to [the House Benghazi Committee], and questions that [department officials] had with respect to media inquiries that they anticipated. And then subsequent to that there was communication with respect to the department potentially needing all of her dot gov emails.”

Clinton never used her state.gov government email account, so presumably the conversation switched to turning over her private emails, which she eventually does months later. (Judicial Watch, 5/31/2016)

The predicted media interest will happen in March 2015 after it is revealed Clinton exclusively used a private email address hosted on a private server.

Late July 2014—December 5, 2014: The Clinton lawyer who sorts Clinton’s emails appears to have no security clearance and no special skills to do so.

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Between late July 2014 and December 5, 2014, Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson spends “several months” sorting Clinton’s emails into work-related and personal, according to an account she will later give to the FBI.

Samuelon allegedly does the vast majority of the sorting by herself. Clinton will later claim that she had no direct involvement in determining which emails to keep or delete and left that process to her lawyers. Her personal lawyer David Kendall, her lawyer and former chief of staff Cheryl Mills allegedly only assist Samuelson when there is an email she is uncertain about.

Samuelson is said to be a Clinton loyalist, and she worked under Clinton in the State Department in the White House Liaison Office. But she has no background in federal record keeping, and it is unclear if she has any security clearance. (Politico, 9/4/2015)

In the FBI’s final report on their Clinton email investigation, released on September 2016, there will be no mention of Samuelson having any kind of security clearance when she sorts the emails. However, the report will mention when other people who handled Clinton’s emails did have security clearances, such as Bill Clinton aide Oscar Flores.

It will later emerge that thousaands of emails Samuelson sorted as personal were recovered after being deleted and found to be work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

August 2014: Senior State Department officials hold face-to-face negotiations with Clinton’s lawyers and advisers to gain access to all of her emails, but without results.

In July 2014, the State Department contacted Clinton’s staff and requested copies of all her work-related emails from her time as secretary of state. In this month, those efforts intensify with the face-to-face negotiations. However, the emails still are not handed over, so the State Department will formally request them in late October. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The New York Times, 3/5/2015)

August 2014: A top watchdog non-profit is taken over by a Clinton ally; its effort to force the release of Clinton’s emails is shut down.

David Brock (Credit: Danny Johnston / The Associated Press)

David Brock (Credit: Danny Johnston / The Associated Press)

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has been one of the top political watchdog organizations, targeting unethical and corrupt behavior in both major political parties. In August 2014, wanting to bring on a new board chair with a strong fundraising base, CREW hires David Brock. Brock does have ties to many Democratic donors, but he’s particularly tied to Hillary Clinton. He will found and run her main Super PAC [political action committee] for her 2016 presidential campaign, as well as leading other pro-Clinton groups.

Brock becomes chair of CREW, and moves the organization to a building housing the other groups led by Brock that heavily support Clinton.

A leadership change soon follows, as those who disagree with the new pro-Clinton focus depart and are replaced by Clinton supporters. CREW had published an annual list of the “most corrupt” members of Congress, as well as other critical reports, but that stops.

When Clinton’s email scandal becomes public in March 2015, CREW will stay silent, even though the State Department’s inspector general concluded that CREW’s request for Clinton’s e-mails had been improperly denied. (Bloomberg News, 4/11/2016)

August 19, 2014: Clinton and her future campaign chair Podesta appear to discuss classified information before Podesta warns her to stop.

John Podesta and Hillary Clinton in 2007. (Credit: Flickr)

John Podesta and Hillary Clinton in 2007. (Credit: Flickr)

Clinton forwards an email to her future campaign chair John Podesta. It is not clear where the forwarded email comes from, especially considering that Clinton is a private citizen at the time, since the sender’s name is not included. But it discusses nine detailed points on how to deal with the ISIS Islamist movement in Iraq and Syria. The forwarded email starts with the sentence: “Note: Sources include Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region.”

Podesta replies with some brief commentary on the email.

Then Clinton emails him back, writing, “Agree but there may be opportunities as the Iraqi piece improves. Also, any idea whose fighters attacked Islamist positions in Tripoli, Libya? Worth analyzing for future purposes.”

Podesta then replies, “Yes and interesting but not for this channel.” (WikiLeaks, 11/3/2016)

The email chain will be released by WikiLeaks in November 2016. Thus, it is unknown what parts of the chain might be deemed classified by the US government.

August 28, 2014: In a private speech, Clinton admits it was against the rules for some State Department officials to use BlackBerrys at the same time she used one.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Nexenta OpenSDx Summit, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 (Credit: Noah Berger / The Associated Press)

Clinton speaks at the Nexenta OpenSDx Summit, August 28, 2014. (Credit: Noah Berger / The Associated Press)

Clinton gives a private paid speech for Nexenta Systems, a computer software company. In it, she says, “Let’s face it, our government is woefully, woefully behind in all of its policies that affect the use of technology. When I got to the State Department, it was still against the rules to let most — or let all foreign service officers have access to a BlackBerry.”

The comments will be flagged as potentially politically embarrassing by Tony Carrk, Clinton’s research director, due to Clinton’s daily use of a BlackBerry during the same time period. Although the comment is made in private, Carrk’s January 2016 email mentioning the quote will be made public by WikiLeaks in October 2016. (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

 

Late September 2014: Clinton’s lawyers are sent the rest of Clinton’s emails so they can finish sorting them.

In late July 2014, the State Department informally requested Clinton to provide all her work-related emails from when she was secretary of state. Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers (as well as her former chief of staff), then had Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, send her and Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson copies of all of Clinton’s emails that were sent to or received from anyone with a .gov email address.

According to a later FBI report, in late September 2014, Mills and Samuelson then ask an unnamed PRN employee to send them all of Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary of state, including emails sent to or received from non-.gov email addresses. Mills and Samuelson will later tell the FBI that “this follow-up request was made to ensure their review captured all of the relevant.” The PRN employee does so. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Although the name of the PRN employee is unknown, the only two employees actively managing Clinton’s server at the time are Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton. Combetta sent the earrlier batch of emails in late July 2014.

October 28, 2014: The State Department formally asks Clinton to turn over her emails from her time as secretary of state.

Starting in July 2014, State Department officials privately reached out to Clinton’s lawyers and advisers to gain access to her work-related emails on her private server. Face-to-face meetings on the issue followed in August. But with the emails still not appearing, on October 28, 2014, the Department formally asks Clinton for the emails. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

Shortly After October 28, 2014: A computer file from Platte River has a key role in how Clinton’s emails are sorted, according to testimony by Cheryl Mills.

Cheryl Mills after testifying privately to the House Benghazi Committee while Representatives Elijah Cummings and Trey Gowdy stand behind her, on September 3, 2015. (Credit Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

On September 3, 2015, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will testify under oath in front of the House Benghazi Committee. After being asked about her role in sorting and deleting Clinton’s emails, Mills says that “after the letter came” from the State Department on October 28, 2014 asking for Clinton’s work-related emails, “Secretary Clinton asked [Clinton’s personal lawyer] David Kendall and myself to oversee a process to ensure that any records that could be potentially work-related were provided to the department.”

Mills is asked if she or Kendall were in physical possession of the server at the time.

She replies, “No. … [T]hat server, as I understand it, doesn’t contain any of her records. So we asked Platte River to give us a .pst [computer file] of all of her emails during the tenure where she was there, which they did. And we used that .pst to first search for and set aside all of the state.gov records, then to actually do a name search of all of the officials in the department so that we could ensure that all the senior officials that she would likely be corresponding with got looked at and searched for by name, and then a review of every sender and recipient so that you knew, if there was a misspelling or something that was inaccurate, that you would also have that review done, as well. And then that created the body of, I think, about 30,000 emails that ended up being ones that were potentially work-related, and not, obviously, completely, but it was the best that we could do, meaning obviously there were some personal records that are turned over, and the department has advised the Secretary of that.”

Mills further explains that she and Kendall “oversaw the process. The person who actually undertook it is a woman who worked for me.” This woman is another lawyer, Heather Samuelson, who Mills admits doesn’t have any specialized training or skills with the Federal Records Act or identifying official records.

Then Mills is asked what happened to the “universe of the .pst file” after the work-emails had been sorted out.

She replies: “So the potential set of federal records, we created a thumb drive that David Kendall kept at his office. And then the records themselves, that would have been the universe that they sent, Platte River took back. […] So they just removed it. So it ended up being on system, and they just removed it. And I don’t know what is the technological way they do it, because it’s a way you have to access it, and then they make it so you can’t access it anymore.” (House Benghazi Committee, 10/21/2015)

December 2014: Clinton’s emails are copied to a different server, but the FBI will never check if that server had any of her work-related emails.

Paul Combetta is the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee doing most of the active managing of Clinton’s private server. In a September 2015 FBI interview, he will claim that a person working for the Clinton family company Clinton Executive Service Corp. (CESC) whose name is later redacted contacts him around December 2014 and tells him that Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin are getting new email accounts on a different server not administered by PRN. Indeed, other sources indicate that in December 2014, Clinton and Abedin get new email accounts on a server with the hrcoffice.com domain name.

As part of this change, Combetta copies Clinton’s email from her hrod17@clintonemail.com email address to her new hrcoffice.com address. Clinton began using the hrod17@clintonemail.com address in late March 2013, shortly after her tenure as secretary of state ended. Combetta will claim that nobody told him “to transfer any archived email to the new server.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

However, Clinton’s earlier emails could have been transferred to her new email address around the time it was created in late March 2013, in which case they too would get copied to the hrcoffice.com server. But the FBI will never search this server to see if any of Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary of state can be recovered from it.

November 2014: The Romanian hacker “Guccifer,” who broke into the email account of Clinton associate Sid Blumenthal in 2013, appears to be freely cooperating with US investigators.

Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel-Lehel Lazar, started serving a seven-year prison sentence in Romania earlier in 2014 due to his hacking activities. A New York Times reporter who interviews him there in November 2014 writes, I learned [he was] also busy meeting with American investigators who had traveled to Romania to meet the man who had outfoxed them for so long. They, too, wanted to find out how he burrowed into so many American computers.” (The New York Times, 11/21/2014)

November 4, 2014: Reporter Jason Leopold of Vice News files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of Clinton’s emails while she was secretary of state.

Jason Leopold (Credit: Vice News)

Jason Leopold (Credit: Vice News)

It has not yet been made public that Clinton used a private email address and private server, but Leopold will later explain the request came “when it became clear that she would announce her candidacy for US president. Our goal was to provide the public with information about Clinton’s work as the nation’s top diplomat between 2009 and 2013, along with any insight it offered into what a Clinton presidency would look like.” (Vice News, 2/29/2016) (Politico, 3/28/2015) The request will eventually lead to the public release of over 30,000 of Clinton’s emails. (Vice News, 11/4/2016)

Mid-November 2014: The State Department apparently successfully thwarts an attempt by Russian hackers to penetrate its email system.

The State Department apparently successfully thwarts an attempt by Russian hackers to penetrate its email system.”’ The entire computer network is quickly shut down for several days after evidence is found that a hacker entered the system. (The Washington Post, 11/16/2014) 

It is alleged that the US government believes the Russian government is responsible. The attack begins when a department employee falls for “spear phishing,” a trick in which a computer user is is led to click on a bogus link that loads malicious software onto the network. It is believed that only the department’s unclassified network is infected, since the classified and unclassified networks are never allowed to reside on the same computer. But the damage is widespread, and thousands of computers in embassies and offices around the world are affected.

In February 2015, the Wall Street Journal will report that the department is still struggling to make sure all traces of the attack are gone from its network. (The Wall Street Journal, 2/18/2015)

In March 2015, Wired Magazine will later comment, “[A]t least, in that case, there was a response. If the same sort of highly resourced hackers had gone after the server in Clinton’s basement, there’s no guarantee that the same alarms would have gone off.” (Wired, 3/4/2015)

November 24, 2014: President Obama signs into law an updated Federal Records Act requiring public officials to forward all work-related emails to their government address so they will be incorporated into official records systems.

President Obama signs the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments on November 26th, 2014. (Credit: National Archives Press Release)

President Obama signs the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments on November 26th, 2014. (Credit: National Archives Press Release)

This does not apply to Clinton’s time as secretary of state. (Politico, 11/26/2014)

Around December 2014 or January 2015: Copies of Clinton’s emails are deleted from the computers of two of Clinton’s lawyers.

On October 28, 2014, the State Department formally asked Clinton for copies of all her work-related emails, after asking informally for several months. Three lawyers working for Clinton, Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, and Heather Samuelson, then sorted Clinton’s emails into those they deemed work-related or personal.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

According to a later FBI report, “on or around December 2014 or January 2015, Mills and Samuelson requested that [Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta] remove from their laptops all of the emails from the July and September 2014 exports. [Combetta] used a program called BleachBit to delete the email-related files so they could not be recovered.” PRN is the computer company managing Clinton’s emails at the time.

The FBI report will explain, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files, clear Internet history, delete system and temporary files and wipe free space on a hard drive. Free space is the area of the hard drive that can contain data that has been deleted. BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.”

141201ScreenConnectLogo

ScreenConnect Logo (Credit: public domain)

Combetta then remotely connects to the laptops of Mills and Samuelson using the computer program ScreenConnect to complete the deletions. Clinton’s emails are being stored in a .pst file. Combetta will later tell the FBI “that an unknown Clinton staff member told him s/he did not want the .pst file after the export and wanted it removed from the [Clinton server]” as well.

The Clinton emails are deleted from the laptops of Mills and Samuelson around this time. But another copy of all the emails exist on the server. Combetta will delete those emails as well, in late March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

December 2014: Clinton finally stops using the clintonemail.com domain and server for her daily emails.

Since early 2009, Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin have had private email accounts on the clintonemail.com domain, which is hosted on Clinton’s private email server.

Chelsea Clinton and Huma Abedin chat while on the campaign trail in 2008. (Credit: Reuters)

Chelsea Clinton and Huma Abedin chat while on the campaign trail in 2008. Huma also appears to be holding two flip phones and a BlackBerry. (Credit: Reuters)

According to a September 2016 FBI report, the new domain hrcoffice.com is created in December 2014. In a later FBI interview, Abedin stated the clintonemail.com system was “going away,” and after the initiation of the new domain, she didn’t have access to her clintonemail.com account anymore. Presumably the same is true for Clinton (and the few others who had email accounts on the domain, such as Chelsea Clinton).

The FBI report will indicate the hrcoffice.com domain is hosted on different equipment, which presumably means a different server. But the clintonemail.com server will continue to run until October 2015, when it will be confiscated by the FBI.

As part of the transfer process, Platte River Networks employee Paul Combetta copies all of Clinton’s emails from her current account on the clintonemail.com server to her new acccount on the hrcoffice.com server.

In Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, the FBI will summarize Clinton as saying: “Clinton transitioned to an email address on the hrcoffice.com domain because she had a small number of personal staff, but no physical office or common email domain. To address these issues, she moved to a common email domain and physical office space. After this move, Clinton did not recall any further access to clintonemail.com.”

The switch comes about one month after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails from her secretary of state tenure, when she used her clintonemail.com account. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

December 2, 2014: The House Benghazi Committee asks Clinton for all Benghazi-related emails from her personal email address.

Gowdy shakes hands with Clinton after she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: CNN)

Gowdy shakes hands with Clinton after she testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: CNN)

Representative Trey Gowdy (R) sends a letter to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall on behalf of the House Benghazi Committee, which he chairs. In the letter, he cites over a dozen examples of emails from Clinton’s private clintonemail.com email address relating to the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that have been recently uncovered. He suggests there are probably many more relevant emails still to be discovered. He also notes evidence that Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin has a clintonemail.com email address.

The letter concludes with a formal request for all emails relevant to the Benghazi attack from Clinton’s clintonemail.com address from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012, to be turned over by December 31, 2014. (US Department of State, 2/4/2016)

Clinton will give the State Department over 30,000 emails just three days later, but these will not yet be available to the House Benghazi Committee. The committee will not get the Benghazi-related emails until February 13, 2015, and they will be sent from the State Department, not from Clinton’s lawyer.

December 5, 2014: Two out of 14 boxes of Clinton’s work-related emails may get lost.

An unnamed State Department official who worked in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) will be interviewed by the FBI on August 17, 2015.

She says that, “Initially, IPS officials were told there were 14 bankers boxes of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails at Clinton’s Friendship Heights office” near Washington, DC. But “on or about December 5, 2014, IPS personnel picked up only 12 bankers boxes of Clinton’s emails from Williams & Connolly,” which contains the office of David Kendall, Clinton’s personal lawyer. The State Department officials involved were not sure if the boxes “were consolidated or what could have happened to the two other boxes.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016) December 5, 2014 is the day Clinton gives 55,000 pages containing 30,000 of her work-related emails to the State Department.

Although it’s unclear if any emails actually got lost, Fox News will publish an article about this on October 6, 2016, not long after the FBI interview of the official is made public. (Fox News, 10/6/2016) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will then mention the lost boxes in a presidential debate against Clinton three days later.

Between December 5, 2014 and December 11, 2014: Clinton tells Mills she doesn’t need her “personal” emails, resulting in Mills telling those managing Clinton’s server to delete them.

In 2016, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. Mills will claim that in December 2014, Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014. This decision has to take place before an email discussing it on December 11, 2014, written Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee managing Clinton’s private server.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Even so, Mills will claim she instructed Combetta to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account to reflect this change. (PRN is managing Clinton’s private server at the time.) This means that the 31,830 Clinton emails that Mills and Clinton’s other lawyers David Kendall and Heather Samuelson recently decided were not work-related will be deleted after 60 days.

However, Combetta will later say in an FBI interview that he forgot to make the changes to Clinton’s clintonemail.com account and didn’t make them until late March 2015.

Clinton will also later be interviewed by the FBI. She will claim that after her staff sent her work-related emails to the State Department on December 5, 2014, “she was asked what she wanted to do with her remaining personal emails. Clinton instructed her staff she no longer needed the emails. Clinton stated she never deleted, nor did she instruct anyone to delete, her emails to avoid complying with FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], State [Department], or FBI requests for information.”

However, Clinton saying her personal emails were no longer needed, then having Mills tell PRN to have them delete them after 60 days, will result in all of Clinton’s emails that her lawyers deemed personal getting permanently deleted. The FBI will later recover some of the emails through other means and discover that thousands actually were work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

December 10, 2014: The manager of Clinton’s private server asks for Internet advice on how to keep copies of some of Clinton’s personal emails after changing a setting to delete them all.

On December 10, 2014, “stonetear” asks for advice from Reddit users on how to implement a 60-day email “purge” policy. This will later be revealed to be an alias for Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks (PRN) employee actively managing Clinton’s private server at the time.

He writes: “Hello. I have a client who wants to push out a 60 day email retention policy for certain users. However, they also want these users to have a ‘Save Folder’ in their Exchange folder list where the users can drop items that they want to hang onto longer than the 60 day window.
All email in any other folder in the mailbox should purge anything older than 60 days (should not apply to calendar or contact items of course). How would I go about this? Some combination of retention and managed folder policy?”

141210stonetear60dayretention

Combetta as ‘stonetear’ asking Reddit users for help. (Credit: Reddit)

Cheryl Mills (Credit: Andrew Harrer / Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills (Credit: Andrew Harrer / Getty Images)

In 2016, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. Mills will claim that in December 2014, Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her personal emails, and they could be deleted after 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014.

According to a later FBI report based on a February 2016 interview with Combetta, Combetta communicates with Mills and/or Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson by email on December 10 and 12, 2014, as well as by phone on December 9 and 10,  2014. In these communications, they tell Combetta they want the last 60 days of the emails of Clinton and Clinton aide Huma Abedin moved to new accounts. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

However, as can be seen from Combetta’s Reddit post, it appears Mills wanted Combetta to figure out how to keep some of the emails “longer than the 60 day window,” in contradiction to the later claim in Combetta’s interview, as well as Clinton’s later claim that all of her over 31,000 personal emails were unwanted and should be permanently deleted.