April 2012: A photo leads to confirmation Clinton is not using a government email account, but no action is taken.

Clinton checks her Blackberry in a military C-17 plane bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / The Associated Press)

Clinton checks her Blackberry in a military C-17 plane bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / The Associated Press)

A photo of Clinton using her BlackBerry while wearing sunglasses on a military plane in 2011 becomes popular on the Internet, prompting a “Texts from Hillary” meme.

In court testimony in 2016, State Director of Executive Secretariat Staff Karin Lang will recall that Clarence Finney, who oversees the State Department’s responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) searches, sees the photo in the media and wants to know if Clinton still does not have a government email account. Finney checks with the department’s information management staff and confirms she still doesn’t have one. According to Lang, Finney will not recall who told him this, or when it happened exactly. (Politico, 6/9/2016

However, the photo’s popularity starts and peaks in April 2012. The Washington Post comments about the photo at the time, “When Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her phone, she’s probably reading top secret e-mails…” But this does not lead to any attempt by Finney or others to find if she might have a private email account that could be responsive to FOIA requests. (The Washington Post, 4/5/2012)

May 21, 2013—February 12, 2014: Clinton’s emails are not searched in response to a relevant FOIA request.

On May 21, 2013, Judicial Watch files a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request relating to Clinton aide Huma Abedin and the six-month time period starting in 2012 when she held three outside jobs in addition to being Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. Part of the request is for communications about this matter from Clinton and Abedin.

State Department official Jonathon Wasser is asked to search for relevant records on October 1, 2013. He searches several department databases in November 2013, but does not check for emails from Abedin’s government email account or her private account, or Clinton’s private account. As a result, the official response given to Judicial Watch on February 12, 2014, contains only eight documents, and none of them are emails. Thus, Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account will remain a secret.

It will later be revealed that department officials at the time generally did not search for emails even when a FOIA request asked for that type of communication.

In 2015, after Clinton’s email scandal becomes public, the department will finally search for and find emails from both Clinton and Abedin responsive to the FOIA request. (Politico, 6/9/2016(Judicial Watch, 6/8/2016)

June 6, 2016: Because of FBI Director Comey, Republican Congresspeople would “probably” accept an FBI decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment.

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Lyn DeBruin / The Associated Press)

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Lyn DeBruin / The Associated Press)

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R) is asked if he and other Republicans in Congress would accept no indictment recommendation from the FBI. “Probably, because we do believe in [FBI Director] James Comey. I do think that in all of the government, he is a man of integrity and honesty. […] His finger is on the pulse of this. Nothing happens without him, and I think he is going to be the definitive person to make a determination or a recommendation. We’ll see where that goes.” (Politico, 6/6/2016)

June 10, 2016: A Congressperson claims Clinton’s “top secret” emails reveal classified means, methods, and human assets.

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

Representative Chris Stewart (Credit: public domain)

Republican Representative Chris Stewart, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has access to unredacted versions of Clinton’s emails, including her 22 “top secret” emails. He says of Clinton, “She did reveal classified means. She did reveal classified methods. She did reveal classified human assets.”

Stewart, a former Air Force pilot, adds, “If I had behaved that way in the military, I would be very concerned about my legal future.” (The Guardian, 6/10/2016)