May 10, 2013: The State Department responds to a FOIA request that there is no evidence of a Clinton email address when there clearly is.

On December 6, 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, asking for records that show the number of Clinton’s email accounts.

Anne Weismann (Credit: public domain)

Anne Weismann (Credit: public domain)

On this day, State Department official Sheryl Walter sends a response letter to CREW’s chief counsel Anne Weismann that states “no records responsive to your request were located.” No details or reasons are given. (US Department of State, 8/29/2016)

In fact, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills was informed about this FOIA request while Clinton was still secretary of state, and she knew Clinton’s private email address was responsive to the request, but she took no action and merely had another official monitor the progress of the request. Clinton may have been sent an email about it as well.

Also, in the months since the FOIA request was made, Clinton’s exact email address was revealed to the media, due to the Guccifer hack of a Clinton associate in March 2013. But the department’s “no response” reply would mean she used no email address for work.

Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, will conclude in a 2016 report that the State Department gave an “inaccurate and incomplete” response about Clinton’s email use in this case and in other similar cases. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) (The Washington Post, 1/6/2016)

May 31, 2013—June 2013: A device is bought to make back-ups of Clinton’s private server, but a Clinton company makes clear it doesn’t want any back-up data stored remotely.

130531austinmcchorderiktraufmannhearstctmedia1

Datto Cloud engineer Charles Lundblad (left) chats with CEO and founder of Datto, Austin McChord, at the firm’s Norwalk, CT headquarters. (Credit: Erik Traufmann / Hearst Connecticut Media)

On May 31, 2013, Platte River Networks (PRN) takes over management of Clinton’s private server. On the same day, PRN buys a Datto SIRIS S2000 data storage device, which is made by Datto, Inc. Over the next month, this is attached to Clinton’s server to provide periodic back-up copies of the data on the server. PRN sends a bill for the device to Clinton Executive Service Corp. (CESC), which is a Clinton family company.

CESC employees work with PRN employees on how the Datto device is configured. Datto offers a local back-up and a remote back-up using the Internet “cloud.” CESC asks for a local back-up and specifically requests that no data be stored in the Internet cloud at any time.

However, due to an apparent misunderstanding, back-up copies of the server will be periodically made both locally and in the cloud. This will only be discovered by PRN as a whole in August 2015. (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

However, despite internal PRN emails from August 2015 indicating many PRN employees didn’t know about the Datto cloud back-up until that time, the FBI will later find evidence that an unknown PRN employee deleted data from the cloud back-up in March 2015, meaning that at least one PRN employee had to have known about the cloud back-up by that time.

August 7, 2013: State Department officials find 17 FOIA requests relating to Clinton’s emails at the time the department found her email address, but none of the requesters are told about the emails.

Sheryl Walter (Credit: Facebook)

Sheryl Walter (Credit: Facebook)

In December 2012, the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, asking for records that show the number of Clinton’s email accounts. (US Department of State, 7/29/2016) But in May 2013, State Department official Sheryl Walter sent a response letter to CREW that stated “no records responsive to your request were located.” US Department of State, 8/29/2016)

In early June 2013, some State Department officials looking over material to possibly give to a Congressional investigation discovered Clinton’s private email address. Then, in the ensuing weeks, senior department officials debated if they were required to turn over such information. In fact, regulations state they are required to do so, but they ultimately fail to share the address with anyone anyway. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

During this apparent debate period, on August 7, 2013, employees of the department’s FOIA response team search for FOIA requests related to Clinton’s emails.

Geoff Hermesman (Credit: LinkedIn)

Geoff Hermesman (Credit: LinkedIn)

Margaret Grafeld mentions in an email to John Hackett, Sheryl Walter, Karen Finnegan, Geoff Hermesman, and two other department officials, “John, you mentioned yesterday requests for Secretary Clinton’s emails; may I get copies, pls [please] and thx [thanks].”

Sheryl Walter replies to the group, “Goeff, can you get a copy of all requests related to this request? Karen, I don’t think we have any litigation on this topic, do we? Did we respond to the CREW request yet?” (Walter actually was the one who wrote CREW in May 2013 that no emails had been found.)

Geoff Hermesman then replies to Sheryl Walter and the group, “Sheryl, A search of the F2 database identified 17 FOIA cases that contain Clinton in the subject line and can be further construed as requests for correspondence between the Secretary and other individuals and/or organizations. Of these, four specifically mention emails or email accounts.” He also mentions that two of those four cases are open and the other two are closed.

Gene Smilansky (Credit: New York Times)

Gene Smilansky (Credit: New York Times)

Walter then emails just Karen Finnegan and Gene Smilansky, “What about the CREW request? Is that still outstanding?”

Finnegan explains in subsequent emails to Walter and Smilansky that CREW was sent a response, and then provides the exact quote of the CREW request.

Smilansky, who is a department lawyer and legal counsel, then asks Walter and Finnegan to discuss it with him over the phone, so that is the end of the email trail. (US Department of State, 8/29/2016)

There is no evidence any of the 17 FOIA requesters are told about Clinton emails that are responsive to their cases, presumably due to the above-mentioned higher-level department debate. Only in the later half of 2014 will the department change this policy, after a new Congressional committee search for documents.

August 1, 2015—August 7, 2015: The company managing Clinton’s private server learns that another company has been making back-up copies of all the server data in the Internet “cloud” since 2013.

Clinton’s server has been managed by Platte River Networks (PRN) since June 2013. And since that time, PRN has subcontracted Datto, Inc. to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the server. PRN has thought that the back-ups have been only made through a device attached to the server called the Datto SIRIS S2000.

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

However, on August 1, 2015, an unnamed PRN employee notices that data from the server was possibly being sent to an off-site Datto location. On August 6, 2015,  Sam Hickler, PRN’s vice president of operations, contacts Datto employee Leif McKinley about this, CCing PRN employees Paul Combetta and Treve Suazo.

McKinley confirms that, due to a misunderstanding, Datto has been making periodic back-ups of the server data through the Internet “cloud” as well as locally through the device. Furthermore, periodic back-ups have been made this way since June 2013.

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Suazo, the CEO of PRN, tells Datto on August 6, 2015, that “This is a problem.” This is because the Clinton Executive Services Corp. (CESC), the Clinton family company that hired PRN to manage the server, explicitly stated from the beginning that they didn’t want any remote back-ups to be made. Thus, PRN employees tell Datto not to delete whatever data was stored in the cloud, and instead work to get it back to the control of PRN.

On August 7, 2015, Datto and PRN employees discuss saving the data on a thumb drive and sending it to PRN. Then, according to an email from one unnamed PRN employee to another, they would have Datto “wipe [the data] from the cloud.”

This is according to a letter that will be sent in October 5, 2015 to Datto CEO Austin McChord by Senator Ron Johnson (R). Johnson is chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and is conducting oversight of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. However, Johnson will be unable to determine what happened next, such as if the thumb drive was sent and the data was wiped. Furthermore, McChord will not be able to reveal that information to Johnson because Datto needs PRN’s permission to share that information and PRN won’t give it. (US Congress, 9/12/2016) (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

October 2, 2015: The company that makes a back-up of Clinton’s server data is given permission to share the data with the FBI.

Platte River Networks (PRN) has been managing Clinton’s private server since June 2013, and since that time they used the service of another company, Datto, Inc., to make back-ups of the data on the server. As a result, they need PRN’s permission to share data.

Austin McChord, founder and CEO of Datto, Inc. (Credit: Erik Traufmann / HearstCTMedia

Austin McChord, founder and CEO of Datto, Inc. (Credit: Erik Traufmann / Hearst Connecticut Media)

On this day, David Kendall, Clinton’s personal lawyer, and PRN agree to allow Datto to turn over the data from the backup server to the FBI. This is according to an unname person familiar with Datto’s storage, quoted in McClatchy Newspapers four days later.

Datto says in a statement that “with the consent of our client and their end user, and consistent with our policies regarding data privacy, Datto is working with the FBI to provide data in conjunction with its investigation.”

However, according to McClatchy Newspapers, the unnamed source says “that Platte River had set up a 60-day retention policy for the backup server, meaning that any emails to which incremental changes were made at least 60 days prior would be deleted and ‘gone forever.’ While the server wouldn’t have been ‘wiped clean,’ the source said, any underlying data likely would have been written over and would be difficult to recover.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

It appears that the FBI does get data from Datto over the next couple of weeks, because an October 23, 2015 letter from Datto to the FBI will refer to some Datto back-up data that is now in the FBI’s possession. (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

A Datto back-up device was attached to the server, and the data was backed up to the “cloud” as well. It is unknown if the FBI ever gets useful data from the cloud copy.

October 5, 2015—October 19, 2015: The company managing Clinton’s private server gives permission for another company to cooperate with Congressional investigators, and then takes it away.

On October 5, 2015, Steven Cash, a lawyer for Datto, Inc., receives a letter from Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Johnson’s is conducting oversight of the FBI’s Clinton investigation and he wants Datto to answer questions and turn over copies of documents by October 19, 2015. Platte River Networks (PRN) is managing Clinton’s private server, and they have subcontarcted with Datto to provide back-up services. As part of Datto’s contact with PRN, Datto needs PRN’s permission before they can share any information relating to the case.

Ken Eichner (Credit: public domain)

Ken Eichner (Credit: public domain)

So the next day, Cash emails Ken Eichner, lawyer for PRN, and asks permission.

Eichner emails him back later that same day, “Steven, no objection.” (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

However, on October 19, 2015, the date of the deadline set by the committee, Datto sends the committee saying the company can’t answer most questions because although PRN originally gave Datto permission, “counsel to Platte River withdrew their previous non-objection, and objected to any further disclosure of confidential information to the committee. Consequently, Datto is not authorized to disclose such information absent consent from its client, Platte River, or unless required by law or by order of court or governmental agency.”

Andy Boian (Credit: public domain)

Andy Boian (Credit: public domain)

On November 13, 2015, PRN spokesperson Andy Boian will be quoted in a Politico article, saying, “There was a suggestion by our legal counsel and the legal counsel of Datto that everything has been turned over regarding the Clinton matter by Datto, so there wasn’t an extraordinary need for Datto to do anything else. There wasn’t anymore information that Datto could provide that Platte River couldn’t, so there was a suggestion that any inquiry that goes to Datto … comes through us. And that’s just out of pure convenience.” (Politico, 11/13/2015)

The next day, Cash will email Eichner again and complain that the “description of communications between Platte River and Datto counsel attributed to Mr. Boian is not accurate, and leaves the reader with a distinctly false impression.” Cash points out that he is the only Datto lawyer who has talked to any PRN lawyers, so he knows this quote is untrue. He sends a copy of this complaint to Senator Johnson. (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

The idea that Datto has no other information to provide is clearly untrue. It will turn over documents containing previously released information after they are served subpoena to do so in September 2016.

October 23, 2015: A computer company tells the FBI that its back-up copy of Clinton’s private server data was deleted in late March 2015.

Steven Cash (Credit: LinkedIn)

Steven Cash (Credit: LinkedIn)

Steven Cash is a lawyer for Datto, Inc., the company that has been backing up the data on Clinton’s private server. They have been subcontracted to do this by Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing the server. Cash emails an unnamed FBI agent, informing him of several issues to be aware of prior to a conference call planned for later that day.

A Datto hard drive, the Datto SIRIS S2000, has been attached to Clinton’s server since June 2013. Cash says that Datto technical experts have reviewed administrative files and discovered through the device’s Internet interface that a series of deletions took place on the device on March 31, 2015, between 11:27 a.m. and 12:41 a.m. The data had a date range from January 28, 2015 to March 24, 2015.

Furthermore, a much greater amount of data had been “deleted automatically based on the local device’s then-configured pruning parameters.” Cash writes that “These manual requests were requested from the Local Device’s web interface for the [redacted] agent…” (US Congress, 9/12/2016) While it is possible a person’s is in the redacted space, it could also be something such as “PRN employee.”

In a May 2016 FBI interview, PRN employee Paul Combetta will confess to deleting all of Clinton’s emails on her server as well as the Datto back-up device in precisely this time period, between March 25, 2015 and March 31, 2015. It is not known if the FBI knew of the deletions prior to this letter from Datto. However, the letter certainly makes it clear, but this will not become public knowledge until an FBI report released in September 2016, almost one year later.

July 2, 2016: Clinton’s FBI interview is attended by Cheryl Mills and others who have an obvious conflict of interest.

Cheryl Mills, Katherine Turner and David Kendall sit behind Clinton as she appears before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills, Katherine Turner and David Kendall sit behind Clinton as she testifies to the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

When an FBI summary of Clinton’s FBI interview on this day will be released in September 2016, it will reveal that five of Clinton’s lawyers are present during her questioning: Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, Heather Samuelson, Katherine Turner, and one whose name is redacted. Three of these lawyers – Mills, Kendall, and Samuelson – also have a key role to play in the Clinton email controversy the FBI investigated, because they were the ones who sorted over 60,000 of Clinton’s emails, which led to the controversial deletion of over 31,000 of them. Both Mills and Samuelson at least were interviewed by the FBI earlier in the investigation.

Furthermore, Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff and close aide through Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, only becoming one of Clinton’s lawyers in 2013 after Clinton became a private citizen again.

Andrew McCarthy (Credit: Gatestone Institute)

Andrew McCarthy (Credit: Gatestone Institute)

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York later turned journalist, will note this in a later National Review article with the title: “Hillary Clinton’s Mind-Boggling FBI Interview – What Was Cheryl Mills Doing There?”

McCarthy will comment: “Mills was an actor in the facts that were under criminal investigation by the FBI. … [I]t is simply unbelievable to find her turning up at Mrs. Clinton’s interview – participating in the capacity of a lawyer under circumstances where Clinton was being investigated over matters in which Mills participated as a non-lawyer government official.”

He will add, “[L]aw enforcement never [interview] witnesses together – the point is to learn the truth, not provide witnesses/suspects with an opportunity to keep their story straight, which undermines the search for truth.” (National Review, 9/2/2016)

July 2, 2016: Clinton tells the FBI she can’t recall key details 40 times in her FBI interview.

When Clinton is interviewed by the FBI for three and a half hours, she often fails to give clear answers. According to CNN, “Clinton repeatedly told the FBI she couldn’t recall key details and events related to classified information procedures…” The FBI’s summary of the interview, released in September 2016, will indicate “Clinton told investigators she either does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ at least 39 times — often in response to questions about process, potential training, or the content of specific emails.” (CNN, 9/2/2016)

Mediaite will list 40 times when she says she couldn’t remember or recall something. (Mediaite, 9/2/2016)

A few examples from Mediate's list of 40. (Credit: Mediate)

A few examples from Mediaite’s list of 40 times Clinton couldn’t remember or recall something. (Credit: Mediaite)

The Washington Post will similarly note, “she repeatedly told agents she could not recall important details or specific emails she was questioned about.” Some of her forgetfulness is hard to believe, such as an observation by the Post that she 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.'” Additionally, when she was shown with the (C) marking, which is commonly used by the department to indicate classified information, she didn’t recognize it. (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)

The FBI summary will mention that “in December of 2012, Clinton suffered a concussion and then around the New Year had a blood clot. Based on her doctor’s advice, she could only work at State for a few hours a day and could not recall every briefing she received.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

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.

160902secretservicecliffowenap

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: 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: 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 12, 2016: Senator Grassley accuses the FBI of manipulating which information about the Clinton email investigation becomes public in order to hide certain events.

Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks in the Senate about difficulties he is having with the FBI’s selective release of information regarding the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

Senator Charles Grassley speaks on the Senate floor on September 12, 2016. (Credit: YouTube)

Senator Charles Grassley takes to the Senate floor on September 12, 2016. (Credit: Public domain)

He points out that the FBI has taken the unusual step of releasing the FBI’s final report and Clinton interview summary. “However, its summary is misleading or inaccurate in some key details and leaves out other important facts altogether.”

He says there are dozens of completely unclassified witness reports, but even some Congressional staffers can’t see them “because the FBI improperly bundled [them] with a small amount of classified information, and told the Senate to treat it all as if it were classified.”

He says the normal procedure is for documents to have the classified portions marked. Then the unclassified portions can be released. But in defiance of regulations and a clear executive order on how such material should be handled, “the FBI has ‘instructed’ the Senate office that handles classified information not to separate the unclassified information.”

He points in particular to recently revealed news that Paul Combetta, an employee of the company (Platte River Networks) that managed Clinton’s private server from June 2013 onwards, deleted and wiped all of Clinton’s emails from the server in March 2015. Grassley claims “there is key information related to that issue that is still being kept secret, even though it is unclassified. If I honor the FBI’s ‘instruction’ not to disclose the unclassified information it provided to Congress, I cannot explain why.”

He also says, “Inaccuracies are spreading because of the FBI’s selective release. For example, the FBI’s recently released summary memo may be contradicted by other unclassified interview summaries that are being kept locked away from the public.”

He says he has been fighting the FBI on this, but without success so far, as the FBI isn’t even replying to his letters. (US Senate, 9/13/2016) (YouTube, 9/13/2016)