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)
On the same day the State Department formally asks Clinton for her emails from when she was secretary of state, it also sends letters to her three predecessors as secretary of state—Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice—asking if they have any emails or other federal records in their possession.
Albright replies that she did not use email during the years they were in office.
Rice did have a government email account, but only used it rarely.
Powell, who was secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, had a private email account through AOL [America Online] but did not keep his emails.
The State Department’s inspector general will later find that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained “national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2015)
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)