March 2016: The FBI warns the Clinton campaign that it is a target of a hacker attack, but the campaign doesn’t assist the FBI.

160301ClintonFBIpublic

The Clinton campaign logo superimposed over the FBI logo. (Credit: public domain)

This is according to what two unnamed “sources who have been briefed on the matter” will tell Yahoo News in July 2016. FBI officials privately meet with senior Clinton campaign officials and express concern that hackers are using “spear phishing” techniques to access the campaign’s computers. They ask the campaign to turn over internal computer logs and the personal email addresses of top campaign staffers to help the FBI’s investigation. But the campaign declines to do so after deciding the request for personal data is too broad and intrusive. The FBI doesn’t give any mention as to who the hackers might be.

One month later, the campaign will learn on its own that its computers have been hacked and they will use a private cybersecurity company to combat the hackers.

Yahoo News will comment that the FBI’s “warning also could raise new questions about why the campaign and the DNC didn’t take the matter more seriously.”

At the time, the FBI has an active investigation into Clinton’s email usage while she was secretary of state, and Clinton’s campaign isn’t sure how extensive that inquiry is. There have been media reports that the investigation extended into unethical practices at the Clinton Foundation, which could theoretically include interest in more recent communications.

Yahoo News will report that, according to an unnamed internal source, “Campaign officials had reason to fear that any production of campaign computer logs and personal email accounts could be used to further such a probe.” But the FBI insists that its request for data to combat the hacking has no connection to any other investigation, and since there is no subpoena forcing the issue, the Clinton campaign turns down the request. (Yahoo News, 7/29/2016)

March 2016: The State Department’s internal Clinton email server investigation is put on hold.

The pause happens some unknown time this month, due to the FBI’s investigation taking precedence. A State Department spokesperson says, “Law enforcement comes first,” and “We are prioritizing the law enforcement investigation.” (Bloomberg News, 4/1/2016) Note that this is different from the State Department inspector general’s investigation, which continues.

March 2, 2016: It is reported Clinton’s former computer technician has made an immunity deal.

Hillary Clinton and Brian Pagliano at a party, date and location unknown. (Credit: Facebook)

Hillary Clinton and Brian Pagliano at a party, date and location unknown. (Credit: Facebook)

It is reported that Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton staffer who helped set up her private email server, has accepted an immunity deal from the FBI and the Justice Department.

In September 2015, Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to speak to the House Benghazi Committee. He managed the server from 2008 until mid-2013. He actually started secretly cooperating with investigators in late 2015. The Clinton campaign claims they are “pleased” Pagliano is finally cooperating with prosecutors. (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016) 

The next day, Congressional Republicans say they want to interview Pagliano, since the deal means his Fifth Amendment pledge is no longer applicable. They also want to see the exact terms of the deal. (The Associated Press, 3/3/2016)

March 2, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation is looking into retyping of classified information.

The New York Times reports that FBI agents investigating Clinton’s emails “have sought to compare electronic timestamps on classified sources to figure out whether [her] aides reviewed the sources and then retyped the information into emails that were sent or forwarded to Mrs. Clinton’s private server. That has proved challenging, and one official said investigators have not concluded that such retyping occurred.” (The New York Times, 3/2/2016)

March 2,2016–March 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation is focusing on possible crimes.

On March 2, 2016, the Washington Post reports, “The Clinton campaign has described the [FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails] as a security review. But current and former officials in the FBI and at the Justice Department have said investigators are trying to determine whether a crime was committed.” One former senior law enforcement official asks, “There was wrongdoing. But was it criminal wrongdoing?” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016) 

The next day, CNN similarly reports, “FBI investigators are expected to shift their focus on whether the highly sensitive government information, including top secret and other classified matters, found on Clinton’s private email server constitutes a crime.” (CNN, 3/3/2016)

March 2, 2016–March 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation could conclude by May 2016.

The New York Times reports, “A federal law enforcement official said that barring any unforeseen changes, the FBI investigation [into Clinton’s emails] could conclude by early May. Then the Justice Department will decide whether to file criminal charges and, if so, against whom.”

In addition to the FBI investigation, there are continuing inquiries by the State Department inspector general, the Intelligence Community inspector general, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the House Benghazi Committee. There are also numerous on-going lawsuits that could reveal more information to the public. (The New York Times, 3/2/2016)

March 3, 2016: The FBI has the computer security logs from Clinton’s private email server, and they allegedly show no evidence of foreign hacking.

Morgan Wright (Credit: Gov Tech)

Morgan Wright (Credit: Gov Tech)

The logs were given to the FBI by Bryan Pagliano, a Clinton aide who is cooperating with the FBI and who managed Clinton’s server during the time she was secretary of state. However, sophisticated hacking attempts sometimes leave no evidence in the security logs. (The New York Times, 3/3/2016) 

Additionally, cybersecurity expert Morgan Wright will later suggest the server may not have had an adequate detection system. “If you have a bank and you have one video camera when you need 20, then you missed it. If they weren’t capturing all the activity, their security logs may say they didn’t see anything.” (Fox News, 5/7/2016) 

In May 2016, it will emerge that there were hacking attempts on the server during the time Pagliano was managing it, for instance in January 2011. It’s not clear why these attacks didn’t appear on the server logs or why previous media reports of the logs were incorrect. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) 

Also, it appears there were hacking attempts on the server after June 2013, when Pagliano was no longer involved, but when all of Clinton’s emails were still on the server. (The Associated Press, 10/7/2015)

March 5, 2016: Clinton wrote 104 emails containing classified information.

This is according to a Washington Post analysis of the more than 30,000 released emails on her private server during her time as secretary of state. Clinton has maintained that while some of her emails had classified content, they were emails sent to her. While over 2,000 of those emails are classified, and thus partially or fully redacted, the names of the senders and recipients are given for each, allowing the Post to analyze them. (This does not count the 22 “top secret” emails, or the 19 emails between Clinton and President Obama, since all information about those emails is redacted.)

As secretary of state, Clinton was emailed a lot of information by her aides. Of the classified emails sent by Clinton, in many cases she wrote short commentaries on longer informative emails sent to her. In three-fourths of these 104 emails, at least some of Clinton’s comments were classified.

Clinton argues that these emails are only retroactively classified and there was considerable over classification. The State Department has largely dodged the issue, saying they have only analyzed what content is classified now, not what should have been classified then. (The Washington Post, 3/5/2016

At least 46 of the 104 emails contain text classified as “foreign government information,” meaning information from, to, or about foreign governments. (The New York Times, 5/10/2016)

March 11, 2016: Clinton’s former computer technician Pagliano is reportedly giving very useful information to the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Bryan Pagliano struck an immunity deal with the Justice Department in late 2015. According to an unnamed intelligence source, “Pagliano is a devastating witness and, as the webmaster, knows exactly who had access to [Clinton’s] computer and devices at specific times. His importance to this case cannot be over-emphasized.”

This source says Pagliano’s testimony is being used with other evidence to prove there are gaps in the over 30,000 work-related emails Clinton turned over to investigators. “Don’t forget all those photos with [Clinton] using various devices and it is easy to track the whereabouts of her phone. It still boils down to a paper case. Did you email at this time from your home or elsewhere using this device? And here is a picture of you and your aides holding the devices.”

The investigation is also said to be pursuing other leads, such as emails retroactively classified “top secret” that were sent by Clinton. (Fox News, 3/11/2016)

March 11, 2016: Clinton’s computer technician Pagliano still refuses to testify before Congress.

The Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security committees want Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano to testify before their committees, especially since it has been reported that he has made an immunity deal with the Justice Department. However, Pagliano’s lawyer sends the committee chairs a letter on this day saying that Pagliano will “respectfully decline” their invitation.

Pagliano pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights when he was asked to speak before the committees in late 2015. The letter says that he still has “not waived his rights under the Fifth Amendment as a matter of fact or law,” regardless of the immunity deal. (The Associated Press, 4/22/2016)

March 14, 2016: A State Department official is refusing to answer questions about Clinton’s private server.

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

It is reported that Senate Republicans have been trying to interview John Bentel since December 2015. Bentel was the director of Information Resources Management (IRM) in the State Department’s Office of Executive Secretariat when Clinton was secretary of state, and thus he may have knowledge about both Clinton’s private email account and her private server. But he has refused to answer their questions about Clinton’s private server. Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees respectively, have told Bentel that they would prefer a “voluntary and informal” meeting, but “will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation,” potentially referring to a subpoena.

Bentel was secretly questioned by the House Benghazi Committee in June 2015, and claimed he had “no memory or knowledge” about such issues.

But in May 2016, evidence will emerge suggesting otherwise, and that he might have played a role in a cover-up. (The Hill, 3/14/2016) (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016)

March 20, 2016: The FBI allegedly is moving towards recommending an indictment of Clinton, but it is facing political pressure not to do so.

The New York Post reports, “FBI chief James Comey and his investigators are increasingly certain that presidential nominee Hillary Clinton violated laws in handling classified government information through her private email server, career agents say.”

One unnamed former official says, “You don’t start granting people close to Clinton immunity unless you are seriously looking at charges against your target.”

However, it is also believed that the Obama White House is putting pressure on Comey not to recommend charges against Clinton. The Post further reports that “some FBI staffers suggest the probe’s at a point where Comey might quit in protest if [the] Justice [Department] ignores a recommendation to pursue a criminal case against Clinton.” (The New York Post, 3/20/2016)

March 24, 2016: More of Clinton’s work-related emails that Clinton did not turn over are found.

Tom Fitton (Credit: WorldNetDaily)

Tom Fitton (Credit: WorldNetDaily)

Clinton has claimed that she turned over all her work emails and deleted only the ones that were personal. She also has claimed that she only began using her private email account on March 18, 2009.

However, Judicial Watch forced the State Department to release two previously unknown Clinton emails due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of her records relating to her iPhone or BlackBerry use. It’s not clear why the emails did not appear before.

Judicial Watch makes public an email to Clinton from her chief of staff Cheryl Mills on February 13, 2009 about her BlackBerry, and Clinton’s short email response.

Tom Fitton, the head of Judicial Watch, says, “So now we know that, contrary to her statement under oath suggesting otherwise, Hillary Clinton did not turn over all her government emails. We also know why Hillary Clinton falsely suggests she didn’t use clintonemail.com account prior to March, 18, 2009—because she didn’t want Americans to know… that she knew her BlackBerry and email use was not secure.” (The Hill, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/17/2016)

March 27, 2016: Federal investigators have begun setting up formal interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides.

James McJunkin (Credit: Ebru News)

James McJunkin (Credit: Ebru News)

This is according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reports that they are also expected to seek an interview with Clinton herself. The timing is clear, and could still take weeks. But the Times reports that development is “an indication that much of the investigators’ background work—recovering deleted emails, understanding how the server operated and determining whether it was breached—is nearing completion.”

James McJunkin, former head of the FBI’s Washington field office, comments, “They are likely nearing the end of the investigation and the agents need to interview these people to put the information in context. They will then spend time aligning these statements with other information, emails, classified documents, etc., to determine whether there is a prosecutable case.”

The FBI has finished their review of the Clintons’ server and emails. They also already have interviewed a number of former aides “so they could better understand how the system was used and why Clinton chose to use it,” according to the Times. (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016)

March 27, 2016–March 31, 2016: Accounts differ on the number of FBI investigators.

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Credit: FBI)

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Credit: FBI)

A March 27, 2016 front-page Washington Post story claims that 147 FBI agents have been working on an investigation into Clinton’s emails. The Post soon issues a correction that states, “Two US law enforcement officials have since told the Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

On March 30, an unnamed source tells NBC News, “There are currently about 12 FBI agents working full-time on the case.” (NBC News, 3/30/2016)

On March 31, Time Magazine says, “20 to 30 agents, technical specialists and analysts have been assigned to the investigation, according to sources familiar with it.” (Time, 3/31/2016) 

One explanation of the differing numbers could be that the number of people working on the case changed over time.

On March 27, the Los Angeles Times reports that the FBI has finished their work-intensive review of Clinton’s server and emails. (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016)

March 31, 2016: Time Magazine reveals some details about the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

“The [FBI] agents have conducted interviews and done forensic analysis of the evidence collected. And they have executed process, the sources say, referring to a category of investigative tools that can include, among other things, subpoenas. As they near the end of the investigation, the agents are preparing to interview several of Clinton’s closest aides, and perhaps the candidate herself, according to the sources, a move Clinton campaign officials say she will comply with. […] [FBI Director James] Comey is keeping a close watch on the investigation, getting briefings from team leaders and personally overseeing the case. Agents have been told they may be polygraphed to prevent leaks, the sources familiar with the probe say.” (Time, 3/31/2016)

March 31, 2016: Fox News claims that FBI Director James Comey is trying to make a case to indict Clinton herself.

Ron Hosko (Credit: Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

Ron Hosko (Credit: Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

This is based on an inside source into the FBI investigation of Clinton’s emails. That source says Comey is said to be frequently meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in order to prepare to interview Clinton and her top aides soon. The source says, “In a case like this, you get one shot at the queen” [referring to Clinton]. “The pressures are enormous on the agents, as the case has to be airtight and perfect.”

Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, says, “This in an incredibly high stakes, high-wire act. Timing is of the essence, but being right is absolutely critical. Comey must be the one to make the case that the law has been broken and a prosecution is recommended.” It is believed that the one approach the FBI is taking is seeing if Clinton or any of her aides can be caught lying under oath during their interviews. If they do, they could be prosecuted for that, as happened to Martha Stewart and many others. (Fox News, 3/31/2016)

Late March 2016: Guccifer talks to the FBI while he is extradited to the US.

The Romanian hacker Guccifer is extradited to the US at some point in late March 2016.

In early May 2016, he will claim that on the airplane ride from Romania to the US, “They came after me, a guy from the FBI, from the State Department.” Fox News will report, “A government source confirmed that the hacker had a lot to say on the plane but provided no other details.”

Guccifer will also claim that he talked about some large data files he kept in secure locations as a sort of insurance policy: “I can’t tell now. I can’t tell because I want to talk to the FBI. It is a matter of national security.” However, he seems to indicate the data is not connected to the FBI’s Clinton investigation. (Fox News, 5/7/2016) 

Guccifer has also said he’s talked to US officials since his arrest in Romania in January 2014, including with the FBI in March 2014. (LawNewz, 5/6/2016)

April 1, 2016: Guccifer has been extradited to the US and makes his first appearance in a US court.

Marcel-Lehel Lazar a.k.a. "Guccifer" after being arrested in Romania in 2014. (Credit: Reuters)

Marcel-Lehel Lazar a.k.a. “Guccifer” after being arrested in Romania in 2014. (Credit: Reuters)

Guccifer, a Romanian hacker whose real name is Marcel-Lehel Lazar, was extradited to the US in late March 2016. He hacked into the email accounts of many famous people. In March 2013, he broke into the account of reporter Sid Blumenthal and found emails that used Clinton’s private address, revealing that address to the public for the first time.

Guccifer was arrested in Romania in 2014 and given a combined seven-year sentence in that country for his illegal hacking activities. Last month, the Romanian government agreed to extradite him to the US for 18 months only. It is not clear why, since he is already serving that time in a Romanian prison. (Reuters, 4/1/2016)

Several days later, it is reported that it is “not a coincidence” he is extradited while the FBI is investigating Clinton’s emails and server. This is according to “an intelligence source close to the case.”

Former FBI official Ron Hosko also says, “Because of the proximity to Sidney Blumenthal and activity involving Hillary’s emails, [the timing] seems beyond curious.” (LawNewz, 4/8/2016)

April 1, 2016: Four of Clinton’s closest aides have hired the same attorney to represent them in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Beth Wilkinson (Credit: Marissa Rauch / Wall Street Journal)

Beth Wilkinson (Credit: Marissa Rauch / Wall Street Journal)

The attorney is Beth Wilkinson, who Politico says has “deep ties to Washington politics and the Department of Justice,” and is the wife of CNN journalist David Gregory. Wilkinson is representing Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, Heather Samuelson, an assistant of Mills, and Philippe Reines, who was Clinton’s spokesperson.

Politico reports, “The united front suggests they plan to tell investigators the same story—although legal experts say the joint strategy presents its own risks, should the interests of the four aides begin to diverge as the probe moves ahead.” Reports say the FBI is planning to interview Clinton and her top aides soon.

Former US attorney Bill Killian says the united strategy “is fraught with danger” for the Clinton aides. “In my 30 years as a defense attorney, almost ten as a state or federal prosecutor, I have rarely or ever seen a situation where a lawyer can provide a common defense to multiple people without there being a conflict of interest at some point in some regard. It’s rare that the common defense would in fact be the best defense for all the people under investigation.” (Politico, 4/1/2016

It is also notable that other aides are not part of this united front, including top aide Huma Abedin.

April 4, 2016: Questions remain about Clinton’s server.

The Hill notes there are many lingering questions about Clinton’s email scandal, including a lack of information about the security of Clinton’s server. “Clinton’s camp has refused to outline precisely which digital protections she used to safeguard the information on her private server.” Other questions include what laws might have been broken, who other than Clinton might be in trouble, and if Clinton’s over 31,000 deleted emails were ever recovered. (The Hill, 3/4/2016)

April 4, 2016: Comey says quality comes before speed in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

FBI Director James Comey at Kenyon College, Ohio, on April 6, 2016. (Credit: Carlos Osorio / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey at Kenyon College, Ohio, on April 6, 2016. (Credit: Carlos Osorio / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey says he does not feel he has to conclude the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s private server before the Democratic National Convention in July 2016. “The urgency is to do it well and promptly. And ‘well’ comes first.” He won’t reveal any details of the investigation, but says that he is keeping close tabs on it “to make sure we have the resources to do it competently.” (Politico, 4/5/2016)

However, in September 2016, after the investigation has been concluded, Comey will say that he didn’t ask for subpoena power so he could finish the investigation faster.

 

 

April 5, 2016: Clinton aide Huma Abedin is interviewed by the FBI.

Karen Dunn (Credit: Twitter)

Karen Dunn (Credit: Twitter)

Huma Abedin, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, is interviewed by FBI agents investigating the Clinton email scandal. She is questioned for about two hours at the FBI’s field office. The interview will not be reported on until early May 2016. Other Clinton aides are also interviewed, but only the interview of Cheryl Mills will also reported on before the FBI’s final report is released in September 2016.

Abedin’s lawyer Karen Dunn and the FBI have no comment. (The Los Angeles Times, 5/5/2016)

April 9, 2016: Cheryl Mills is interviewed by the FBI; she isn’t concerned about classified information in emails she forwarded to Clinton.

Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff when Clinton was secretary of state and since then has been one of Clinton’s lawyers. The date and most details of the interview will remain secret until it’s mentioned in a September 2016 FBI report.

Mills refuses to answer some questions, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Cheryl Mills and Hillary Clinton at the House Benghazi Committee hearing on June 28, 2016. (Credit: Chip Somodaville / Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills and Clinton at the House Benghazi Committee hearing on October 23, 2015. (Credit: Chip Somodaville / Getty Images)

The FBI shows Mills seven emails that she forwarded to Clinton which contain information later determined to be classified. Acccording to the FBI, although “Mills did not specifically remember any of the emails, she stated that there was nothing in them that concerned her regarding their transmission on an unclassified email system. Mills also stated that she was not concerned about her decision to forward certain of these emails to Clinton.”

Apparently, some of the emails reviewed by Mills are classified at the “top secret/Special Access Program” (TP/SAP) level. Because the FBI will mention that while “reviewing emails related to the SAP referenced above, Mills explained that some of the emails were designed to inform State [Department] officials of media reports concerning the subject matter and that the information in the emails merely confirmed what the public already knew. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

April 9, 2016: Cheryl Mills tells the FBI she never knew Clinton’s emails got deleted.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

In late March 2015, Paul Combetta, an employee of Platte River Networks (PRN), deleted all of Clinton’s emails from her private server and then used a computer program to permanently wipe them. Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers and her former chief of staff, had communications with Combetta in that time period, including speaking in a conference call in which he also participated just after the deletions were done, on March 31, 2015.

However, Mills is interviewed by the FBI on this date, and the FBI will later report that “Mills stated she was unaware that [Combetta] had conducted these deletions and modifications in March 2015.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Mills’ claim is particularly surprising considering that Mills has continued to work as one of Clinton’s lawyers and in August 2015, it was reported that Clinton’s campaign had acknowledged “that there was an attempt to wipe [Clinton’s private] server before it was turned over last week to the FBI.” (NBC News, 8/19/2015)

April 10, 2016: President Obama downplays the seriousness of Clinton’s email scandal.

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama comments about Clinton’s email scandal. He says, “I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that, and she’s acknowledged, that there’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.” (MSNBC, 4/10/2016)

When asked about some of Clinton’s emails that were deemed to have a “top secret” classification, he says, “What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are—there’s classified, and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret, top secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source.”

When asked about the independence of the FBI investigation, he says, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.” (CBS News, 4/10/2016)

April 12, 2016: President Obama is criticized for his recent comments about Clinton’s email scandal.

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

According to the Associated Press, “The White House [is] under pressure to reconcile… asserting Obama’s public defense of Clinton was not an attempt to meddle in an ongoing probe and [his claim] that federal investigators will not be swayed by the boss’ views.” There is “growing criticism that Obama had put his finger on the scale with recent comments describing Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state as mere ‘carelessness.’ […] The White House routinely dodges questions about ongoing Justice Department investigations, saying it does not want to appear to be trying to influence the outcome. Obama’s [comment] seems to cast aside some of that caution in favor of defending a political ally and former administration official.”

Peter Henning, a law professor and a former federal prosecutor, says, “It does raise concerns for prosecutors. If it’s a close case, how am I to judge whether to pursue charges when the president has said he doesn’t think there’s anything there? I don’t think it will prejudice any decision but it certainly gives the appearance of that.” (The Associated Press, 4/12/2016)