January 31, 2016: Clinton suggests that even her “top secret” emails should be made public.

In the wake of revelations that 22 of Clinton’s emails have been retroactively classified “top secret,” she says, “Let’s just get it out. Let’s see what it is and let the American people draw their own conclusions. […] I think it’s pretty clear [the Republicans are] grasping at straws…” (CNN, 1/31/2016)

John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) counterintelligence officer, comments that “this is pure political theater: she surely knows that the emails are not going to be released on security grounds anytime soon, probably not for several decades, at least.” (The New York Observer, 2/1/2016)

January 31, 2016: Clinton dodges a question about the irrelevance of classification markings.

George Stephanopoulos (Credit: ABC News)

George Stephanopoulos (Credit: ABC News)

ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos asks Clinton, “You know, you’ve said many times that [your] emails were not marked classified. The non-disclosure agreement you signed as secretary of state says that that’s really not that relevant. It says classified information is marked or unmarked classified and that all of you are trained to treat all of that sensitively and should know the difference.”

Clinton replies, “Well of course and that’s exactly what I did. I take classified information very seriously. You know, you can’t get information off the classified system in the State Department to put on an unclassified system, no matter what that system is. We were very specific about that. And when you receive information, of course, there has to be some markings, some indication that someone down the chain thought that this was classified and that was not the case.”

The Washington Post reviews the exchange and says that Clinton’s answer is “only half of the story. Even without markings, officials are supposed to recognize that information passed through an unclassified system might be deemed as classified and should take steps to protect it.” Furthermore, Clinton did sign a non-disclosure agreement legally obligating her to do just that. (The Washington Post, 3/4/2016)

January 31, 2016: For the first time, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticizes Clinton over her email scandal.

Senator Bernie Sanders (Credit: public domain)

Senator Bernie Sanders (Credit: public domain)

Asked by a reporter if voters should interpret his refusal to highlight the issue means that Clinton did nothing wrong, Sanders replies “No. Nope, nope. That is not, I think, a fair assessment. That is, I think, a very serious issue,” However he adds, “There is a legal process taking place, I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.” (CNN, 1/31/2016

Sanders’ more critical stance comes two days after news reports that 22 of Clinton’s emails were retroactively classified “top secret.” (The New York Times, 1/29/2016)

Before February 2016: The FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation gains evidence from at least two confidential informants involved in other investigations.

Peter Schweizer (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting between FBI and Justice Department officials about the direction of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation. The investigation began in the summer of 2015, following the publication of the book Clinton Cash by conservative author Peter Schweizer.

At first, the investigation mostly focused on the allegations against the foundation in the book. But the Wall Street Journal will report that by the time of the February 2016 meeting, “Within the FBI, some felt they had moved well beyond the allegations made in the anti-Clinton book. At least two confidential informants from other public-corruption investigations had provided details about the Clinton Foundation to the FBI, these people said.”

The Journal will report, “The FBI had secretly recorded conversations of a suspect in a public-corruption case talking about alleged deals the Clintons made… The agents listening to the recordings couldn’t tell from the conversations if what the suspect was describing was accurate, but it was, they thought, worth checking out.”

However, prosecutors in the Justice Department think “the talk was hearsay and a weak basis to warrant aggressive tactics, like presenting evidence to a grand jury, because the person who was secretly recorded wasn’t inside the Clinton Foundation.” This causes some FBI agents to grow increasingly frustrated with resistance from the Justice Department as well as some leaders in the FBI.

In the February 2016 meeting, the Justice Department will turn down a request from the FBI investigation for grand jury backing. Without it, they can’t gather evidence using subpoenas or search warrants. But the investigation will continue without those legal powers. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

Before February 2016: A suspicious bank transaction draws the attention of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

In November 2016, CNN will report that in the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, “at least one FBI field office also received notification of a possible suspicious bank transaction. The transaction involving a Clinton Foundation donor was flagged in what is known as a suspicious activity report, routine notices sent through the Treasury Department’s financial enforcement arm.”

The timing of this incident is not clear. But the CNN article will mention it prior to describing a pivotal meeting between the FBI and Justice Department in February 2016. (CNN, 11/2/2016)