March 9, 2012: A Justice Department memo clarifies a policy of avoiding interference in elections.

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder, the US attorney general from 2009 until 2015, writes a memo during the 2012 US presidential race outlining Justice Department policy on how to avoid interfering in elections. It states that department employees (which includes the FBI) “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” If an employee is “faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election,” that person should contact the department’s public integrity section “for further guidance.”

The department has had such policies for decades, and they usually are restated every presidential election, but the memo adds clarity to them. (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016) (US Department of Justice, 3/9/2012)

This department policy will be tested in 2016, when the FBI reopens an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before Clinton is on the ballot for the US presidential election.

March 2, 2015: Clinton’s campaign chair privately says “we are going to have to dump all” of Clinton’s emails.

Lanny Davis and Hillary Clinton (Credit: public domain)

Lanny Davis and Hillary Clinton (Credit: public domain)

Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta emails Cheryl Mills, who is one of Clinton’s lawyers at the time, as well as being her former chief of staff. He writes, “On another matter….and not to sound like Lanny, but we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later.”

Mills replies with a joke, “Think you just got your new nick name :).” (WikiLeaks, 11/1/2016)

This is in reference to the New York Times front-page story from earlier in the day, publicly revealing that Clinton exclusively used a private email account while secretary of state.

“Lanny” is a likely reference to Lanny Davis, who was a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and is a longtime media surrogate for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Less than a week later, Davis will publicly advocate that Clinton should be transparent with her emails.

By saying “dump,” Podesta could mean dump them to the public, or he could mean get rid of them. Unfortunately, there are no more comments from him or Mills to help clarify his meaning.

These emails will be released by WikiLeaks in November 2016.

March 8, 2015: A Clinton surrogate suggests a neutral party could review Clinton’s private server; this secretly upsets Clinton’s campaign manager.

Lanny Davis (Credit: Leigh Vogel / The Associated Press)

Lanny Davis (Credit: Leigh Vogel / The Associated Press)

Lanny Davis was a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, and is a longtime media surrogate for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Speaking to journalist Chris Wallace on Fox News, he says regarding Clinton’s emails on her private server, “There can be a neutral party to review all these records. Nothing unlawful-”

Wallace asks, “You’d like to have a neutral party? … [D]o you think that’s a reasonable idea?”

Davis replies, “I think it is a reasonable idea if anybody has any doubts that there’s a delete on a hard drive-”

Wallace interrupts, “To have an independent party go inspect her private email?”

Davis responds, “I think there is a reasonable idea. If the State Department asks, she will say yes.” (Fox News, 3/8/2015)

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook writes in an email to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, “We gotta zap Lanny out of our universe.  Can’t believe he committed her to a private review of her hard drive on TV.” (WikiLeaks, 11/1/2016)

Podesta’s reply, if any, is unknown. The Mook email will be released by WikiLeaks in November 2016.

Clinton will never agree to a neutral review of her server. Later in the month, an employee of the company managing her server will delete and wipe all the emails from her server.

September 28, 2016: When asked if he would reopen the Clinton email investigation, Comey says he “would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

During an appearance before a Congressional committee, FBI Director James Comey is questioned by Representative Lamar Smith (R): “[W]ould you reopen the Clinton [email] investigation if you discovered new information that was both relevant and substantial?”

Comey replies, “It is hard for me to answer in the abstract. We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Smith then asks, “In general – and let’s personalize it – in general, if you discover new information that was substantial and relevant, you would reopen an investigation, would you not?”

Comey replies, “Again, even in general I don’t think we can answer that in the abstract. What we can say is that any investigation if people have new and substantial information we would like to see it so we can make an evaluation.” (US Congress, 9/28/2016)

Exactly one month later, on October 28, 2016, Comey will announce that he is at least partially reopening the investigation, due to newly discovered emails.

Mid-October 2016: Comey is first told that FBI investigators have discovered previously unknown emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

One of many text messages Weiner sent to an under-aged girl. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

One of many text messages Weiner sent to an under-aged girl. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

On October 3, 2016, FBI agents seized the computer and mobile devices of former Congressperson Anthony Weiner (D) as part of an investigation into him allegedly sending sexual text messages to an underaged girl. FBI agents soon came to believe that thousands of emails on his computer were actually sent or received by his wife and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and thus might be relevant to the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation.

According to CNN on October 31, 2016, “By mid-October, [FBI Director James] Comey learned investigators in the Weiner case might have found something that could have an impact on the now-closed probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, according to one law enforcement official. Comey was told investigators were still trying to figure out how many emails existed and their pertinence to the Clinton probe.”

Comey will then be given a full briefing with updated information on October 27, 2016. Based on that briefing, he will send a letter to Congress the next day announcing that he is reopening the investigation due to the new evidence. (CNN, 10/31/2016)

October 29, 2016: Clinton’s campaign intensifies its criticism of Comey’s decision to announce the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress revealing that the Clinton email investigation was being at least partially reopened, due to newly discovered emails. This was immediately leaked to the general public.

One day later, Clinton comments, “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange. It’s unprecedented. And it is deeply troubling.”

Robby Mook (left) and John Podesta at Clinton campaign Brooklyn, NY office. (Credit: Brooks Kraft / Politico.)

Robby Mook (left) and John Podesta at Clinton campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. (Credit: Brooks Kraft / Politico.)

Her campaign chair John Podesta says, “Twenty-four hours after that letter was sent, we have no explanation why. No-one can separate what is true or is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts.” He suggests that “by providing selective information, [Comey] has allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate to inflict maximum political damage.” He declines to say whether Comey should be retained as FBI director if Clinton wins.

Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook says that Comey “owes the public the full story or else he shouldn’t have cracked open this door in the first place.”

By contrast, Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesperson Michael Short says, “The Clinton campaign was happy to praise Director Comey when it was politically convenient, but now that the FBI has found thousands of new emails pertinent to their investigation, they’re attacking him and mischaracterizing his letter to Congress.” (Bloomberg News, 10/29/2016)

October 29, 2016: Both Republican and Democratic senators want more information from the FBI about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional committees, revealing that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened due to the discovery of potentially relevant new evidence. But his letter is only three paragraphs long and is very vague. Subsequent media reports say the evidence is newly discovered emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Senators who sign the letter are from left to right

Democratic Senators who wrote to Lynch and Comey are from left to right, Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin. (Credit: public domain)

The next day, four Democratic senators – Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin – write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Comey, asking for more information. They want to know, by October 31, 2016, more details of the investigative steps being taken, the number of emails involved, how many of the emails are duplicates of those already known.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a similar letter to Comey. “In line with your commitment to be transparent with Congress and the public, I respectfully request that the FBI provide as much information as possible about these new developments without harming the integrity of its ongoing investigation.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

October 29, 2016: A former Justice Department official claims that Comey’s “self-righteousness” has caused him to ignore the wishes of his superiors.

Matt Miller (Credit: Twitter)

Matt Miller served as Justice Department spokesperson when Eric Holder was attorney general. He says it is “stunning” that FBI Director James Comey decided to inform Congress about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days before the US presidential election despite the opposition of Justice Department leadership.

Miller adds, “[James] Comey forgets that he works for the attorney general. … I think he has a lot of regard for his own integrity. And he lets that regard cross lines into self-righteousness. He has come to believe that his own ethics are so superior to anyone else’s that his judgment can replace existing rules and regulations. That is a dangerous belief for an FBI director to have.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

Miller also comments on Twitter that Comey’s July 5, 2016press conference was the original sin, and it begat the rest.”  (Politico, 10/28/2016)

October 30, 2016: The FBI obtains a warrant for Huma Abedin’s recently discovered emails and immediately begins analyzing them.

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

When FBI Director James Comey informed Congress on October 28, 2016 that the Clinton email investigation was at least partially reopening due to newly discovered evidence, the agents who had been working on the investigation didn’t have the legal clearance to see the evidence. Possibly previously unknown emails sent to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were found on a computer belonging to her husband Anthony Weiner, due to an FBI investigation into his alleged sexual texting to an underaged girl.
Immediately after Comey sends the letter to Congress, the FBI and the Justice Department begin working on getting a search warrant from a judge so the FBI agents from the Clinton email investigation can read the emails. Two days later, on October 30, 2016, the warrant is obtained.

The FBI immediately begins working to analyze the emails and learn as much as possible about them before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, little more than a week away. One unnamed federal law enforcement official says, “The process has begun.”

The New York Times reports that although “agents had discovered hundreds of thousands of Ms. Abedin’s emails on her husband’s computer [out of an estimated 650,000 emails], but investigators expected to seize only a portion of the total. Agents will have probable cause to search only the messages related to the Clinton investigation. Some of Ms. Abedin’s emails passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private server, officials said, which means there is a high likelihood that the FBI has already read them.”

It is not clear what the scope of the search warrant is, for instance, if it only covers emails from the time Clinton was secretary of state, or if it includes emails from the years afterwards, which might show evidence of a cover-up.

The Times also reports that “senior Justice Department officials said they would make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, saying Mr. Comey’s letter — just days before the election — gave the matter an unprecedented urgency.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

October 31, 2016: Huma Abedin has no idea how her emails got on her husband’s computer, according to her lawyer.

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced in a letter that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened. Media reports quickly indicate this is due to 650,000 emails found on a computer, with some of them belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

A blurry photo taken of Huma Abedin inside her New York City home on October 29, 2016. (Credit: Jae Donnelly / The Daily Caller)

Since Comey’s letter was made public, Abedin has kept out of sight and hasn’t made any public comments. But on this day, Karen Dunn, a lawyer for Abedin, releases a statement. She claims that while some media reports claim the  computer was shared by Abedin and her husband Anthony Weiner (who has recently separated from her), it belonged solely to Weiner.

Additionally, Dunn says that Abedin “only learned for the first time on [October 28, 2016], from press reports, of the possibility that a laptop belonging to Mr. Weiner could contain emails of hers. While the FBI has not contacted us about this, Ms. Abedin will continue to be, as she always has been, forthcoming and cooperative.” She adds that Abedin has always been fully cooperative about any government inquiry into her emails.

Politico reports that Abedin has privately told colleagues she was taken aback to hear that the FBI found the emails. Furthermore, an unnamed “source close to the investigation” asserts that “no one asked” Abedin for consent to look at the emails, and the FBI has gotten a warrant from a judge instead. (Politico, 10/31/2016)

Clinton campaign manager John Podesta says of Abedin, “of course [the Clinton campaign] stands behind her.” He also says that “As far as we know everything that we had” belonging to Clinton and her top aides was turned over and reviewed by the time Comey announced he would not recommend any indictments in July 2016.
(Bloomberg News, 10/29/2016)

October 31, 2016: FBI investigators believe some newly discovered Huma Abedin emails were deleted from Clinton’s private server before the FBI took possession of it.

Three days after FBI Director James Comey made his surprise announcement that the FBI is at least partially reopening the FBI’s Clinton email investigation due to the discovery of emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, CNN reports that FBI agents still don’t know what is in the emails. However, it has been reported that at least some of the email metadata has been examined, and “Investigators believe it’s likely the newly recovered trove will include emails that were deleted from the Clinton server before the FBI took possession of it as part of that earlier investigation.”

The FBI took possession of one version of the server in August 2015 and a newer version of the server in October 2015.

Also, “investigators saw enough of the emails to determine that they appeared pertinent to the previously completed [Clinton email] investigation and that they may be emails not previously reviewed. [But] because they didn’t have a warrant specific to Abedin’s emails, [they] weren’t able to further examine them.”

However, “FBI officials don’t yet know how many of the emails are duplicates of emails they already have reviewed as part of the Clinton email server investigation and whether any of them may contain classified information.” (CNN, 10/31/2016)

October 31, 2016: The FBI begins analyzing Huma Abedin’s newly discovered emails.

Abedin crying after learning the FBI has re-opened the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: public domain)

Abedin’s reaction is captured after learning the FBI has re-opened the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: public domain)

On October 30, 2016, the FBI obtained a search warrant, allowing its agents who had taken part in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation to have access to hundreds of thousands of emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. According to the New York Times, by the next day, the FBI begins using a special computer program that can help FBI analysts determine whether the emails contain classified information.

Clinton turned over about 30,000 of her emails to the State Department in December 2014, and deleted about another 31,000. The FBI recovered about 17,000 of those deleted emails during its investigation, which concluded in July 2016. The program should allow analysts to learn relatively quickly how many emails are previously known copies. Abedin also had an email account on Clinton’s server, and there are thousands of her emails not sent to or from Clinton, but their exact number is unknown.

Abedin is seen arriving at Clinton's campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, two days after the FBI reopened the Clinton email case. (Credit: Jae Donnelly / The Daily Mail)

Abedin is seen arriving at Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, two days after the FBI reopened the Clinton email case. (Credit: Jae Donnelly / The Daily Mail)

One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” says, “This is not a manpower issue. It’s an issue of getting the emails into a program that can allow agents to look at them.”

The FBI is under intense pressure to complete its review before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, just over one week away. However, if previously unknown emails are discovered, it could take weeks or months for various government departments to confer and agree upon their classification status.

If more classified emails are found, that likely will not cause new legal difficulties for Clinton or Abedin, because many such emails already were found, but FBI Director James Comey said that he wouldn’t recommend any indictments without evidence of criminal intent.

The Times comments that “What could cause problems for Ms. Abedin — and by extension Mrs. Clinton — is if the FBI finds evidence that anyone tried to conceal these new emails from investigators. Ms. Abedin has said she turned over all her emails to the FBI months ago and does not know how emails ended up” on the computer owned by her estranged husband Anthony Weiner.
(The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

October 31, 2016: The White House stays out of the controversy about Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation.

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest says the Obama Administration “will neither defend nor criticize what [FBI] Director [James] Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation.” He is referring to Comey’s October 28, 2016 letter informing Congress that the FBI is at least partially reopening its Clinton email investigation, just 11 days before the 2016 US presidential election. Earnest says the White House has no recommendations for Comey over what information to give to the public.

Additionally, President Obama “doesn’t believe that Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election. The president doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party. He’s in a tough spot.” (CBS News, 11/1/2016)

Earnest says the White House has no independent knowledge as to why Comey made the decision to inform Congress as he did. He adds that Obama believes Comey is a “man of integrity.”

Yet Earnest also says that government officials have powers which “are tempered by longstanding practice and norms that limit public discussion of facts that are collected in the context of those investigations. … The president believes that it’s important for those guidelines and norms to be followed.” (Reuters, 10/31/2016) (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)