June 29, 2013: Some of Clinton’s emails are later recovered due to a back-up of computer files made on this date.

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The Datto SIRIS S2000 (Credit: Datto, Inc.)

In June 2013, Platte River Networks (PRN) takes over management of Clinton’s server. Late in the month, they replace the server with a new one and then transfer the data to it. They subcontract with the company Datto, Inc. and purchase a device called the Datto SIRIS S2000 to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the new server. The first such back-up takes place on June 24, 2013.

But data is still being transferred from the old server to the new one. The June 29, 2013 back-up will later prove to be the most important one for FBI investigators, as it apparently is the first one after the data transfer is completed. From that point onwards, emails from Clinton’s four years as secretary of state are likely to only get lost from the server, not added.

The FBI will later report that all of Clinton’s emails at the start of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, from January 23, 2009 to March 17, 2009 were missing from the over 30,000 emails Clinton handed over. But the FBI’s Clinton investigation recovered some these emails because they were “captured through a Datto backup on June 29, 2013. However, the emails obtained are likely only a subset of the emails sent or received by Clinton during this time period.”

Clinton’s first server was replaced around March 18, 2009 by the same server that PRN then decided to replace in June 2013. But presumably some of the emails on the first server were transferred to the second server, from instance by being in email inboxes, and then were transferred again by PRN to the newest (and third) server.

One thing that isn’t clear is how many of the emails from after March 18, 2009 were recovered by the FBI. It also isn’t clear if the FBI recovered emails from a Datto device attached to the new server, or if it was from a copy of the data that Datto kept in the “cloud,” over the Internet. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Around December 2014 or January 2015: Copies of Clinton’s emails are deleted from the computers of two of Clinton’s lawyers.

On October 28, 2014, the State Department formally asked Clinton for copies of all her work-related emails, after asking informally for several months. Three lawyers working for Clinton, Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, and Heather Samuelson, then sorted Clinton’s emails into those they deemed work-related or personal.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

According to a later FBI report, “on or around December 2014 or January 2015, Mills and Samuelson requested that [Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta] remove from their laptops all of the emails from the July and September 2014 exports. [Combetta] used a program called BleachBit to delete the email-related files so they could not be recovered.” PRN is the computer company managing Clinton’s emails at the time.

The FBI report will explain, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files, clear Internet history, delete system and temporary files and wipe free space on a hard drive. Free space is the area of the hard drive that can contain data that has been deleted. BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.”

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ScreenConnect Logo (Credit: public domain)

Combetta then remotely connects to the laptops of Mills and Samuelson using the computer program ScreenConnect to complete the deletions. Clinton’s emails are being stored in a .pst file. Combetta will later tell the FBI “that an unknown Clinton staff member told him s/he did not want the .pst file after the export and wanted it removed from the [Clinton server]” as well.

The Clinton emails are deleted from the laptops of Mills and Samuelson around this time. But another copy of all the emails exist on the server. Combetta will delete those emails as well, in late March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Between December 5, 2014 and December 11, 2014: Clinton tells Mills she doesn’t need her “personal” emails, resulting in Mills telling those managing Clinton’s server to delete them.

In 2016, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. Mills will claim that in December 2014, Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014. This decision has to take place before an email discussing it on December 11, 2014, written Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee managing Clinton’s private server.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Even so, Mills will claim she instructed Combetta to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account to reflect this change. (PRN is managing Clinton’s private server at the time.) This means that the 31,830 Clinton emails that Mills and Clinton’s other lawyers David Kendall and Heather Samuelson recently decided were not work-related will be deleted after 60 days.

However, Combetta will later say in an FBI interview that he forgot to make the changes to Clinton’s clintonemail.com account and didn’t make them until late March 2015.

Clinton will also later be interviewed by the FBI. She will claim that after her staff sent her work-related emails to the State Department on December 5, 2014, “she was asked what she wanted to do with her remaining personal emails. Clinton instructed her staff she no longer needed the emails. Clinton stated she never deleted, nor did she instruct anyone to delete, her emails to avoid complying with FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], State [Department], or FBI requests for information.”

However, Clinton saying her personal emails were no longer needed, then having Mills tell PRN to have them delete them after 60 days, will result in all of Clinton’s emails that her lawyers deemed personal getting permanently deleted. The FBI will later recover some of the emails through other means and discover that thousands actually were work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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.