January 20, 2009: Obama wins a battle to use a BlackBerry during his presidency.

On the day of President Obama’s inauguration, he wins a battle for the right to use a BlackBerry during his presidency. He fought other officials for two months to use the device.  However, the New York Times reports, “the privilege of becoming the nation’s first emailing president comes with a specific set of rules.”

Obama, on his way to a campaign rally in New Hampshire last January, 2008. (Credit: Ozier Muhammad /The New York Times)

Obama using a BlackBerry in New Hampshire, January, 2008. (Credit: Ozier Muhammad /The New York Times)

His spokesperson Robert Gibbs says, “The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends, in a way that use will be limited and that the security is enhanced to ensure his ability to communicate.”

According to the Times, the rules Obama has to abide by are as follows:

  • “First, only a select circle of people will have his address, creating a true hierarchy for who makes the cut and who does not.
  • Second, anyone placed on the A-list to receive his email address must first receive a briefing from the White House counsel’s office.
  • Third, messages from the president will be designed so they cannot be forwarded.
  • Additionally, he has to use a specially made device, which must be approved by national security officials.”

Aides tell the Times, “All of Mr. Obama’s email messages remain subject to the Presidential Records Act, which could ultimately put his words into the public domain, as well as under the threat of subpoenas. That was a caveat that did not dissuade the president.” (New York Times, 01/22/09)

December 10, 2014: The manager of Clinton’s private server asks for Internet advice on how to keep copies of some of Clinton’s personal emails after changing a setting to delete them all.

On December 10, 2014, “stonetear” asks for advice from Reddit users on how to implement a 60-day email “purge” policy. This will later be revealed to be an alias for Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks (PRN) employee actively managing Clinton’s private server at the time.

He writes: “Hello. I have a client who wants to push out a 60 day email retention policy for certain users. However, they also want these users to have a ‘Save Folder’ in their Exchange folder list where the users can drop items that they want to hang onto longer than the 60 day window.
All email in any other folder in the mailbox should purge anything older than 60 days (should not apply to calendar or contact items of course). How would I go about this? Some combination of retention and managed folder policy?”


Combetta as ‘stonetear’ asking Reddit users for help. (Credit: Reddit)

Cheryl Mills (Credit: Andrew Harrer / Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills (Credit: Andrew Harrer / Getty Images)

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 personal emails, and they could be deleted after 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014.

According to a later FBI report based on a February 2016 interview with Combetta, Combetta communicates with Mills and/or Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson by email on December 10 and 12, 2014, as well as by phone on December 9 and 10,  2014. In these communications, they tell Combetta they want the last 60 days of the emails of Clinton and Clinton aide Huma Abedin moved to new accounts. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

However, as can be seen from Combetta’s Reddit post, it appears Mills wanted Combetta to figure out how to keep some of the emails “longer than the 60 day window,” in contradiction to the later claim in Combetta’s interview, as well as Clinton’s later claim that all of her over 31,000 personal emails were unwanted and should be permanently deleted.