September 2, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report and its summary of her FBI interview are released.

The FBI’s 47-page final report on its Clinton email investigation and the FBI’s 11-page summary of its July 2016 interview with Clinton are publicly released. However, both are heavily redacted. The last third of the final report is entirely redacted.

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A Secret Service agent stands guard while two other agents close a gate after a Secret Service vehicle arrived at the home of Clinton in Washington, DC, July 2, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

The Washington Post notes, “Ordinarily internal documents from FBI investigations are not made public. However, [FBI Director James] Comey has said the unusually high profile case warranted more robust public disclosures than is standard.”

It is believed both reports were finished just prior to when Comey gave a public speech on July 5, 2016, stating that he wouldn’t recommend any indictments in this case. Clinton’s interview occurred only three days prior to this.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers make the release of the two documents the main headline.

The Post comments, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staffers employed an informal and sometimes haphazard system for exchanging and storing sensitive information and were at times either unaware or unconcerned with State Department policy…” (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)

The Times comments: “The documents provided a number of new details about Mrs. Clinton’s private server, including what appeared to be a frantic effort by a computer specialist to delete an archive of her emails even after a congressional committee had requested that they be preserved.”

This is a reference to the revelation that Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta confessed to deleting and then wiping all of Clinton’s emails off her server in late March 2015, despite him being aware of a Congressional order to preserve them. This had been entirely unknown prior to the publication of the report. (The New York Times, 9/2/2016)

The following are other key findings in the FBI documents, as pointed out by the Times or the Post:

A snippet from the FBI report released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

A snippet from the FBI report released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain) The opening paragraph of the FBI’s summary on Clinton’s interview, released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

  • Clinton defended her handling of the private server by repeatedly saying that she deferred to the judgment of her aides.
  • She regarded emails containing classified discussions about planned drone strikes as “routine.” (In fact, such discussions make up most of her “top secret” emails.)
  • She said she did not recall receiving any emails “she thought should not be on an unclassified system.” Furthermore, she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.” (In fact, she sent or received over 2,000 emails later deemed classified, including at least 22 at the “top secret” level.)
  • She emailed Colin Powell a day after she was sworn into office to ask him about his use of a personal email account when he was secretary of state. Powell warned her to “be very careful” because if she used her BlackBerry for official business, those emails could become “official record[s] and subject to the law.”
  • Some of her closest aides were aware she used a private email address but didn’t know she had set up a private server. (However, this is actually contradicted by other evidence.)

The front page of the FBI’s final report, released on July 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

  • She regularly brought her BlackBerry into a secure area near her office where it was prohibited, according to three of her aides. However, one aide said it was only stored there, not used.
  • She used 13 BlackBerrys to send emails. The FBI was unable to recover any of them. Two aides said “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.”
  • One aide recalled two occasions “where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.” (The New York Times, 9/2/2016) (The New York Times, 9/2/2016)
  • The FBI wrote that “investigative limitations, including the FBI’s inability to obtain all mobile devices and various computer components associated with Clinton’s personal email systems, prevented the FBI from conclusively determining” whether her emails had been successfully hacked.
  • Shortly after she left office, a laptop was made to contain back-up copies of all her emails. However, it got lost in transit.
  • According to the Post, Clinton claimed she “did not know much about how the government classified information. For instance, she said she did not pay attention to the difference between levels of classification, like ‘top secret’ and ‘secret,’ indicating she took ‘all classified information seriously.'” And when she was shown an email with the (C) marking, which is commonly used by the department to indicate classified information, she didn’t recognize the marking.
  • The Post also notes, “she repeatedly told agents she could not recall important details or specific emails she was questioned about.” (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: The FBI says they recovered over 17,000 of Clinton’s missing emails, but it’s unclear how many of these are work-related.

In the FBI’s report on the Clinton email investigation, which is released on this day, it is revealed: “To date, the FBI has recovered from additional data sources and reviewed approximately 17,448 unique work-related and personal emails from Clinton’s tenure [as secretary of state] containing Clinton’s hdr22@clintonemail.com email address that were not provided by [Clinton’s law firm] Williams & Connolly as part of Clinton’s production to the FBI, including emails from January 23, 2009 through March 18, 2009.”

The report also mentions that at least some of the emails going back to the time from before March 2009, when Clinton’s first server was replaced by another one, were recovered from the first back-up of all the data on Clinton’s third server, made on June 29, 2013. That was shortly after this new server was turned on and all the data from the previous server was transferred to it.

Clinton has claimed that she kept 30,068 emails from when she was secretary of state, and deleted the other 31,830 as personal. The FBI claims they had trouble recovering all the deleted ones, because an employee of Platte River Networks, the company that managed Clinton’s servers from June 2013 onwards, used a computer program to wipe the server clean in March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

It isn’t clear how many of the 17,448 recovered emails come from the June 29, 2013 back-up and how many come from other sources, such as the inboxes of people who sent and received emails from Clinton, or FBI efforts to recover the wiped emails. The FBI also doesn’t mention how many of the recovered emails are work-related. It was reported on July 21, 2016 that the FBI gave about 14,900 of Clinton’s recovered emails to the State Department, and the department has promised to make all the work-related ones public. But it isn’t clear why the 17,448 and 14,900 numbers differ by about 2,500 emails.

September 2, 2016: Trump criticizes Clinton after the release of her FBI interview summary.

Hours after the FBI’s summary of Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview is released, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says: “Hillary Clinton’s answers to the FBI about her private email server defy belief. I was absolutely shocked to see that her answers to the FBI stood in direct contradiction to what she told the American people. After reading these documents, I really don’t understand how she was able to get away from prosecution.” (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: The FBI was unable to confirm hackers broke into Clinton’s system, but it cites an inability to gather enough evidence to do so.

The FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report, released on this day, states, “FBI investigation and forensic analysis did not find evidence confirming that Clinton’s email server systems were compromised by cyber means.” (Elsewhere in the report, it is mentioned that one email account on the server appears to have been broken into by hackers.)

A generic sample of what an attempted hack would look like in the log data. (Credit: public domain)

But the report goes on to state, “The FBI’s inability to recover all server equipment and the lack of complete server log data for the relevant time period limited the FBI’s forensic analysis of the server systems. As a result, FBI cyber analysis relied, in large part, on witness statements, email correspondence, and related forensic content found on other devices to understand the setup, maintenance, administration, and security of the server systems.”

Elsewhere in the report, it is noted that the FBI was unable to recover any of 13 the BlackBerry mobile devices Clinton used while or shortly after her tenure as secretary of state, a laptop containing a back-up of her emails was lost, the server most recently containing her emails was wiped with BleachBit software, the server used for her first two months in office was also lost, hard drive back-ups made were also lost, and so on.  (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

At the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation on July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said there was no “direct evidence” Clinton’s email account had been successfully hacked. But the next day, the New York Times reported, “both private experts and federal investigators immediately understood his meaning: It very likely had been breached, but the intruders were far too skilled to leave evidence of their work.”

September 2, 2016: Clinton’s supporters and opponents react differently to the release of FBI Clinton investigation documents.

After the FBI releases the FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report and the summary of Clinton’s FBI interview, there are different political reactions.

Brian Fallon (left) Reince Preibus (right) (Credits: (CNN and NBC News)

Brian Fallon (left) Reince Priebus (right) (Credits: (CNN and NBC News)

Clinton doesn’t immediately comment after the reports are released. However, the Clinton campaign claims she is pleased the documents have been made public.Her spokesperson Brian Fallon says, “While her use of a single email account was clearly a mistake and she has taken responsibility for it, these materials make clear why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case.” (The Washington  Post, 9/2/2016)

By contrast, Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), calls the documents “a devastating indictment of her judgment, honesty and basic competency.” He adds that her responses in her FBI interview “either show she is completely incompetent or blatantly lied to the FBI or the public. Either way it’s clear that, through her own actions, she has disqualified herself from the presidency.” (The New York Times, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: The FBI provides statistics on the number of Clinton’s classified emails, but those numbers diverge wildly from the State Department’s numbers.

The FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report, released on this day, details how many of Clinton’s emails were deemed classified, and when, and at what level. This data is according to FBI and Intelligence Community (IC) classification reviews, which is different from a State Department review mentioned below:

  • 81 email chains containing approximately 193 individual emails were classified at the “confidential,” “secret,” and “top secret” levels at the time the emails were drafted on unclassified systems and sent to or from Clinton’s personal server.
  • Of the 81 email chains classified at the time they were sent, 68 remain classified.
  • Twelve of these email chains, classified at the “confidential” or “secret” levels, were not included in the over 30,000 emails turned over by Clinton in December 2014. Apparently, no “top secret” emails were in this category.
  • Thirty-six of the 81 email chains were classified at the “confidential” level.
  • Thirty-seven of the chains were at the “secret” level.
  • Eight of the chains were at the “top secret” level.
  • Out of the eight “top secret” chains, seven chains contained information associated with a Special Access Program (SAP), and three email chains contained Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). One “top secret”/SCI email was later downgraded to a current classification of “secret.”
  • Thirty-six of the 81 classified email chains were determined to be Not-Releasable to Foreign Governments (NOFORN) and 2 were considered releasable only to Five Allied partners (FVEY) – the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Sixteen of the email chains, classified at the time the emails were sent, were downgraded in current classification by Intelligence Community (IC) agencies.
  • By contrast, the State Department’s FOIA process identified 2,028 emails currently at the “confidential” level and 65 currently at the “secret” level, for a total of 2093 emails.

The FBI report further notes: “Of these emails, FBI investigation identified approximately 100 emails that overlapped with the 193 emails (80 email chains) determined through the FBI classification review to be classified at the time sent. All except one of the remaining 2,093 emails were determined by the State FOIA process to be ‘confidential’, with one email determined to be ‘secret’ at the time of the FOIA review. State did not provide a determination as to whether the 2,093 emails were classified at the time they were sent.”

It is unclear why the FBI and IC numbers are so different from the State Department numbers when it comes to “confidential” level emails. The FBI and IC identified 36 of the 81 email chains were classified at the “confidential” level, while the State Department identified 2,028 emails at the “confidential” level. And while one cannot compare email chains to emails, all 81 classified emails chains only contained 193 individual emails, so the 36 “confidential” chains must contain fewer emails than that.

Furthermore, the FBI found an additional 17,000 emails to the over 30,000 work-related emails Clinton gave to the State Department, and it appears these largely haven’t been analyzed. It hasn’t even been reported how many of them are work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin denied they knew about the existence of Clinton’s private server, despite evidence otherwise.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report, released on this day, mentions: “Clinton’s immediate aides, to include [Cheryl] Mills, [Huma] Abedin, [Jake] Sullivan, and [redacted] told the FBI they were unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at [the State Department] or when it became public knowledge. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

However, emails from when Clinton was secretary of state indicate otherwise, at least for Mills and Abedin:

  • Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s server that she often used. On February 27, 2010, she sent an email to Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide helping to manage the server, “HRC [Clinton] email coming back—is server okay?” Cooper replied, “UR [You are] funny. We are on the same server.” These emails were sent to Mills as well.
  • On January 9, 2011, Cooper sent Abedin an email mentioning that he “had to shut down the server” due to a hacking attack.. He sent her another email later in the day, saying he had to shut it down again.
  • On August 30, 2011, State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull emailed Mills, Abedin, and two others, informing them that he was trying to give Clinton a State Department-issued Blackberry “to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning… possibly because of [sic] her personal email server is down.” Abedin sent an email in reply, and a discussion in person apparently followed.
  • The FBI’s final report also indicates that Abedin was instrumental in the creation of the server. “At the recommendation of Huma Abedin… in or around fall 2008, [Cooper] contacted Bryan Pagliano… to build the new server system and to assist Cooper with the administration of the new server system.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: The FBI concludes Clinton contributed to discussions in 11 email chains, including four at the above top secret level.

A FBI report released on this day will mention: “The FBI investigation determined Clinton contributed to discussions in four email chains classified as ‘confidential’, three email chains classified as ‘secret’/NOFORN, and four email chains classified as ‘top secret’/ SAP.” (“SAP” stands for “Special Access Programs.”)

However, FBI classification is wildly different from State Department classification when it comes to “confidential” emails, with the FBI deeming 36 email chains of around 100 emails or less classified at that level, compared to the State Department deeming 2,028 individual emails classified at that level.

Furthermore, the FBI puts emails where Clinton asked aides to print out emails as different from replies that added to discussions. The FBI identified 67 times where Clinton forwarded emails for printing at either the “confidential” or “secret” levels. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

A snippet from the graphic created by the Washington Post. (Credit: Washington Post)

A snippet from a graphic created by the Washington Post, indicating the number of emails written by Clinton that were deemed classified. (Credit: Washington Post)

By contrast, a March 2016 Washington Post analysis concluded that 104 of all the emails deemed classified were written by Clinton. Presumably, they used the State Department definition of which ones were classified (since it was the only one publicly available at the time), and they were measuring individual emails instead of email chains. Furthermore,  the Post noted that at least some of Clinton’s comments were deemed classified in three-fourths of these 104 emails, so presumably these were not emails where she just asked fo print-outs. (The Washington Post, 3/5/2016

September 2, 2016: Clinton often told an aide to forward Blumenthal’s emails to the White House and others, but the FBI was unable to prove this actually happened.

In the FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report released on this day, the FBI discusses the at least 179 “intelligence memos” Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal emailed to Clinton. Media reports indicate that some memos were accurate and some were totally inaccurate, but none of them were vetted by any US government official, because Blumenthal was and is a private citizen with no security clearance sending the emails directly to Clinton.

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An email in which Clinton wanted Sullivan to send a Blumenthal email to Obama, without mentioning who it was from. (Credit: public domain)

According to the FBI report, “Clinton often forwarded the memos to [her aide Jake] Sullivan, asking him to remove information identifying Blumenthal as the originator and to pass the information to other State employees to solicit their input. According to emails between Clinton and Sullivan, Clinton discussed passing the information to the White House, other [US government] agencies, and foreign governments.”

However, the report also mentions that the FBI was unable to determine if any of the memos were actually sent to such recipients, because the State Department didn’t give the FBI any of Sullivan’s emails sent to anyone other than Clinton. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (Department of State, 2/29/16)