February 13, 2009: It appears the NSA will be able to give Clinton a secure BlackBerry, but this doesn’t happen.

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Credit: public domain)

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills writes in an email to Clinton that a National Security Agency (NSA) official “indicated they could address our BB [BlackBerry] so that BB could work in” secure spaces, “based upon some modifications that could be done.”

Clinton writes back, “That’s good news.”

Eventually, the NSA will decide that creating special BlackBerry modification would be too problematic, so Clinton and her aides will continue to use their unsecure BlackBerrys.

In December 2014, Clinton will turn over more than 30,000 emails, claiming those were all her work-related emails and she deleted the rest. These work-related emails will not be included in those. Instead, the State Department will give them to Judicial Watch in 2016 in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Clinton will later inaccurately claim that she didn’t start using her private email account until March, 18, 2009. (The Hill, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/17/2016)

October 26, 2012—November 14, 2012: An email to Clinton from her computer technician raises the question of if he sent her other emails.

On October 26, 2012, Bryan Pagliano sends Clinton an email with the subject line: “Happy Birthday!” His message is, “Happy Birthday Madam Secretary. To many more! Bryan.”

However, rather than directly replying, on November 14, 2012, Clinton forwards the email to her aide Robert Russo with the comment, “Pls [please] respond.”

She forwards dozens of other birthday emails to Russo on the same day, as she apparently has been too busy to reply to each one herself. Curiously, Clinton’s forward of Pagliano’s email (and not his original email) appears to be the only email to or from Pagliano or mentioning his name in the over 30,000 Clinton emails that will later be publicly released, even though he’s a State Department employee and is managing Clinton’s private server during her four years as secretary of state. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015) 

In December 2015, it will be reported that a State Department file containing Pagliano’s emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state is missing. (Politico, 12/11/2015) 

Also in December 2015, Senator Chuck Grassley (R), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will say that his request to the State Department for emails between Pagliano and Clinton is his “highest-priority request.” (Business Insider, 3/3/2016)

Around October 28, 2012: Clinton’s computer technician is still managing her private server, but there is no known email trail.

Clinton’s private email server in Chappaqua, New York, stops working for days after New York is hit by Hurricane Sandy. Bryan Pagliano is still the lead specialist for the server and is tasked to fix it. The email system is not always reliable, and Pagliano is always the one on call to fix problems as they come up. (The Washington Post, 8/4/2015) However, no emails between Pagliano and Clinton will be included in Clinton’s over 30,000 publicly released work emails, except for one where he wishes her a happy birthday. (US Department of State, 11/30/2015)

Around February 1, 2013: Clinton fails to turn over her work emails as she leaves office, despite a legal requirement to do so.

When Clinton ends her tenure as secretary of state, she is required by law to turn over all of her work-related documents to the State Department, including emails, but she fails to do so.

Clinton says farewell as secretary of state on February 1, 2013. (Credit: Polaris)

Clinton says farewell as secretary of state on February 1, 2013. (Credit: Polaris)

A May 2016 State Department inspector general’s report will conclude, “Secretary Clinton should have preserved any federal records she created and received on her personal account… At a minimum, [she] should have surrendered all emails dealing with department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”

The report will note that at least she turned over 30,000 emails in December 2014, 21 months later. However, the report will also conclude that the emails she gave then are “incomplete,” because many of her work-related emails have since been discovered through other means, such as being found in other email inboxes. For instance, although her tenure began on January 21, 2009, and she started using her email account by January 28, no emails received prior to March 17, 2009, were turned over, nor were any emails sent prior to April 12, 2009. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

March 2013 or After: Cheryl Mills is re-hired to be one of Clinton’s personal lawyers.

Before Clinton was secretary of state, Mills was one of Clinton’s lawyers for several years. For the four years Clinton was secretary of state, from January 2009 to February 2013, Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff as well as her counselor. However, in a May 2016 court deposition, she will clarify that “the counselor role at the State Department is not a lawyer role. The counselor role at the State Department is actually a policy role.” During the deposition, Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson also clarifies that Mills “wasn’t acting as a lawyer at the State Department.”

However, after Clinton’s tenure ends in February 2013, Mills is hired again as one of Clinton’s personal lawyers. (Clinton’s main personal lawyer for decades has been David Kendall.) In her deposition, Mills will fail to remember when she is hired again, except to say it was “post February of 2013.”

She will be working as one of Clinton’s lawyers in late 2014 when she, Kendall, and another lawyer will sort through Clinton’s emails and delete 31,830 of them. (Judicial Watch, 5/31/2016)

June 24, 2013—August 2015: Another company stores the contents of Clinton’s email server on a cloud storage system; this could help the FBI recover deleted emails.

The Datto, Inc. office in Rochester, New York. (Credit: The New York Times)

The Datto, Inc. office in Rochester, New York. (Credit: The New York Times)

Shortly after taking over management of Clinton’s private email server, Platte River Networks (PRN) buys a device called the Datto SIRIS S2000 from another company called Datto, Inc. that frequently makes copies of all the server’s contents. They use this device on a copy of Clinton’s server, which has been moved to a data storage facility in New Jersey. Then, apparently without PRN asking or paying for it, or even being aware of it, Datto stores those copies of the server’s contents on a “cloud” storage system elsewhere. (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

A September 2016 FBI report will explain, “At the Clintons’ request, PRN only intended that the backup device store local copies of the backups. However, in August 2015, Datto informed PRN that, due to a technical oversight, [Clinton’s] server was also backing up the server to Datto’s secure cloud storage. After this notification, PRN instructed Datto to discontinue the secure cloud backups.”

The FBI report will also reveal that the first Datto back-up takes place on June 24, 2013. But a new server is still being set-up and data being transferred from the old server, so the June 29, 2013 back-up will later prove most useful to FBI investigators. the FBI will say the back-ups will stop on December 23, 2013, but it isn’t explained why. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

In 2015, an unnamed source familiar with Datto’s account will say that PRN was billed for “private cloud” storage, and since PRN didn’t have a cloud storage node of its own, the data bounced to Datto’s cloud. This source says that even though nobody seemed to realize it, Datto was “managing the off-site storage throughout.”

When asked if the FBI might recover Clinton’s deleted emails from Datto’s storage, the source will say, “People don’t use Datto’s service for getting rid of data.” Apparently, the FBI will ask for and get the contents of Datto’s storage in September 2015. (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

Senator Ron Johnson (R), who will write a letter to Datto in late 2015 seeking more information, will say that “questions still remain as to whether Datto actually transferred the data from its off-site data center to the on-site server, what data was backed up, and whether Datto wiped the data after it was transferred.” It is also unknown if Datto employees have security clearances allowing them to view classified information. (CNN, 10/8/2015) 

A Datto official will later say that investigators may be able to recover Clinton’s deleted emails if the data was on the server at the time Datto’s service was first used in 2013. (The Washington Post, 10/7/2015)

The FBI will later confirm that Datto back-ups to the cloud will occur, but it isn’t clear if the FBI recovered any emails from this that they didn’t find through other means. It also isn’t clear if the June 29, 2013 back-up that the FBI finds useful is from the Datto SIRIS S2000, the cloud, or both. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Also, despite internal PRN emails from August 2015 indicating many PRN employees didn’t know about the Datto cloud back-up until that time, by November 2015, the FBI will find evidence that an unknown PRN employee deleted data from the cloud back-up in March 2015.

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

130629DattoSIRISS2000Datto

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)

October 2013—February 2014: Clinton’s private email server is the subject of repeated attempted cyber attacks, originating from China, South Korea, and Germany.

The attempts are foiled due to threat monitoring software installed in October 2013. However, from June to October 2013, her server is not protected by this software, and there is no way of knowing if there are successful attacks during that time.

A 2014 email from an employee of SECNAP, the company that makes the threat monitoring software, describes four attacks. But investigators will later find evidence of a fifth attack from around this time. Three are linked to China, one to South Korea, and one to Germany. It is not known if foreign governments are involved or how sophisticated the attacks are.

Clinton had ended her term as secretary of state in February 2013, but more than 60,000 of her emails remained on her server. (The Associated Press, 10/7/2015) 

In March 2013, a Romanian hacker nicknamed Guccifer discovered Clinton’s private email address and the exact address was published in the media.

November 2013 and December 2014: Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall and his law partner get security clearances, but they probably aren’t valid for the Clinton emails he possesses.

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Kendall gets a “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) security clearance from the Justice Department in November 2013. He and his Williams & Connolly law partner Katherine Turner also get a “top secret” clearance from the State Department in December 2014. This is so Kendall can review information related to the House Benghazi Committee’s on-going investigation.

At some point in late 2014, Kendall, Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s chief of staff), and Heather Samuelson (another lawyer) read and sort through all of Clinton’s over 60,000 emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. At least 22 of these will later be determined to have contained “top secret” information. Kendall then keeps a copy of over 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, including the 22 top secret ones, in a safe in the office he shares with Turner.

Only in July 2015 will government security officials give him first one safe and then a second more secure safe to hold the thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails, before Kendall gives up the thumb drive in August 2015.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R) will later suggest, “Neither Mr. Kendall nor Ms. Turner have a security clearance at a sufficient level to be a custodian of TS/SCI material. Thus, it appears Secretary Clinton sent TS/SCI material to unauthorized persons.” Politico will later point out, “Clearances, especially Top Secret ones, are normally granted in connection with specific matters and do not entitle recipients to all information classified at that level…” (Politico, 8/25/2015) 

Furthermore, Clinton’s emails are handed over to the State Department on December 5, 2014, making it likely that at least some of the time-consuming reading and sorting of 60,000 emails took place prior to the security clearances that were given in November 2014. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) 

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence official, will later comment, “TS/SCI information must always be placed in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a special, purpose-built room designed to protect against physical and electronic intrusion. A full-blown SCIF surely Kendall did not possess. […] Anything less is a clear violation of Federal law. Hillary has placed herself and her attorney in a precarious position here.” (John Schindler, 8/26/2015)

Additionally, it is unknown if Mills and Samuelson, who read and sorted all of Clinton’s emails with Kendall, had the security clearances to do so.

2014: The data on Clinton’s first private server is transferred to another computer, causing some of Clinton’s emails to be lost.

When Clinton became secretary of state in January 2009, her emails were hosted on her first private email server, which was an Apple computer (either an Apple Power Macintosh G4 or G5 tower). In March 2009, the server was replaced by a new one built by Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano. The old server was repurposed to serve as a personal computer and/or workstation for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York, house.

At some unknown point in 2014, the data on this Apple computer is transferred to an Apple iMac computer. The hard drive of the old Apple computer is then discarded. Clinton’s emails from January 2009 until around March 18, 2009, are apparently lost as a result.

On October 14, 2015, Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, tells the Justice Department that a review of the iMac was conducted, as requested by the Justice Department, and no emails were found belonging to Clinton from when she was secretary of state. The FBI will not directly examine the iMac. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

July 23, 2014: Clinton’s lawyers are sent some of Clinton’s emails so they can begin sorting them.

Unnamed employees at Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, discuss in an email sending copies of Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state overnight to Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff. A company spokesperson will later confirm that the company did begin sending the emails to Mills around this time. (The Washington Post, 9/22/2015) 

A September 2016 FBI report will confirm that PRN sent some of Clinton’s emails in response to a request from Mills, but only those which were sent to or received from a .gov email address while Clinton was secretary of state. An unnamed PRN employee remotely transferred a .pst file containing the emails onto the laptops of Mills and Heather Samuelson (another Clinton lawyer) via ScreenConnect. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Two weeks after the FBI report is released, an email reported in the media will reveal that on this day, PRN employee Paul Combetta overrnighted DVDs of data from Clinton’s server to Clinton Executive Services Corp. (CESC), a Clinton family company.  The exact shipping charge of $46.38 is mentioned in the email. (The New York Post, 9/18/2016)

It is unclear if this is in addition to the files being transferred over the Internet as described by the FBI, or instead of it. Combetta will claim in a September 2015 FBI interview that he ultimately never sent the DVD and only sent the data over the Internet. However, this may not settle the question, because Combetta will be interviewed three times and his answers will often be inacurate and/or contradictory. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

July 2014 is the same month the State Department first informally requests Clinton’s emails. Mills and Samuelson will be two of three Clinton associates who sort through which emails to turn over and which to delete, along with Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall.

In late September 2014, PRN will send the rest of Clinton’s known emails to Mills and Samuelson.

Late July 2014—December 5, 2014: Heather Samuelson, one of Clinton’s lawyers, allegedly leads the sorting of over 60,000 of Clinton’s emails.

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Samuelson’s task is to sort all the emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state into those deemed work-related and those deemed personal. She appears to have no security clearance and no special skills or experience for such a task.

In late July 2014, Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, emails some of Clinton’s emails to the laptops of Samuelson and Cheryl Mills, another Clinton lawyer (and her former chief of staff). PRN sends Samuelson and Mills the rest of Clinton’s emails in late September 2014. In 2016, Samuelson will tell the FBI that the sorting review takes several months and is completed just prior to December 5, 2014, when copies of the work-related emails are given to the State Department.

According to Samuelson’s 2016 FBI interview, she does the sorting on her laptop. She puts the work-related emails she finds into a computer folder. She first adds all emails sent to or from Clinton’s email account with .gov and .mil email addresses. Then she searches the remaining emails for the names of senior leaders in the State Department, as well as members of Congress, foreign leaders, or other official contacts.

Finally, she conducts a keyword search of terms such as “Afghanistan,” “Libya,” and “Benghazi.” Samuelson will claim that she reviews the “to,” “from,” and “subject” fields of every email; but she doesn’t read the content of every individual email. In some instances, she decides a if an email is work or personal by only reviewing the “to,” “from,” and “subject’ fields.

After Samuelson finishes her sorting, she prints all of the emails to be given to the State Department using a printer in Mills’ office. Then Mills and Kendall subsequently reviews emails that Samuelson printed. Any hard copy of an email Mills and Kendall deem not to be work-related is shredded, and the digital copy of the email is removed from the computer folder Samuelson created of all of the work-related emails.

Mills will later tell the FBI that, she only reviewed emails where Samuelson requested her guidance. There is no sign in the FBI’s final report that Kendall was interviewed about this matter.

With the sorting process completed, Samuelson creates a .pst file containing all of the work-related emails, and also makes sure that all work-related emails are printed to give to the State Department. The .pst file is given to Kendall on a USB thumb drive. On August 6, 2015, Kendall will give this thumb drive to the FBI, with consent from Clinton.

This account appears to be based mostly or entirely on the accounts of Samuelson and Mills. An FBI report will note: “The FBI was unable to obtain a complete list of keywords or named officials searched from Samuelson, Mills, or Clinton’s other attorneys due to an assertion of [attorney-client] privilege. ”

The 30,068 emails deemed work-related are given to the State Department, while the 31,830 deemed personal will later be deleted. The FBI will eventually find over 17,000 of the deleted emails, and thousands of them will be determined work-related after all. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

In Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, she will claim that she had no role whatsoever in the sorting process, other than telling her lawyers to do it.

Late July 2014—December 5, 2014: The Clinton lawyer who sorts Clinton’s emails appears to have no security clearance and no special skills to do so.

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Between late July 2014 and December 5, 2014, Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson spends “several months” sorting Clinton’s emails into work-related and personal, according to an account she will later give to the FBI.

Samuelon allegedly does the vast majority of the sorting by herself. Clinton will later claim that she had no direct involvement in determining which emails to keep or delete and left that process to her lawyers. Her personal lawyer David Kendall, her lawyer and former chief of staff Cheryl Mills allegedly only assist Samuelson when there is an email she is uncertain about.

Samuelson is said to be a Clinton loyalist, and she worked under Clinton in the State Department in the White House Liaison Office. But she has no background in federal record keeping, and it is unclear if she has any security clearance. (Politico, 9/4/2015)

In the FBI’s final report on their Clinton email investigation, released on September 2016, there will be no mention of Samuelson having any kind of security clearance when she sorts the emails. However, the report will mention when other people who handled Clinton’s emails did have security clearances, such as Bill Clinton aide Oscar Flores.

It will later emerge that thousaands of emails Samuelson sorted as personal were recovered after being deleted and found to be work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Late September 2014: Clinton’s lawyers are sent the rest of Clinton’s emails so they can finish sorting them.

In late July 2014, the State Department informally requested Clinton to provide all her work-related emails from when she was secretary of state. Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers (as well as her former chief of staff), then had Platte River Networks (PRN), the company managing Clinton’s private server, send her and Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson copies of all of Clinton’s emails that were sent to or received from anyone with a .gov email address.

According to a later FBI report, in late September 2014, Mills and Samuelson then ask an unnamed PRN employee to send them all of Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary of state, including emails sent to or received from non-.gov email addresses. Mills and Samuelson will later tell the FBI that “this follow-up request was made to ensure their review captured all of the relevant.” The PRN employee does so. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Although the name of the PRN employee is unknown, the only two employees actively managing Clinton’s server at the time are Paul Combetta and Bill Thornton. Combetta sent the earrlier batch of emails in late July 2014.

Shortly After October 28, 2014: A computer file from Platte River has a key role in how Clinton’s emails are sorted, according to testimony by Cheryl Mills.

Cheryl Mills after testifying privately to the House Benghazi Committee while Representatives Elijah Cummings and Trey Gowdy stand behind her, on September 3, 2015. (Credit Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

On September 3, 2015, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will testify under oath in front of the House Benghazi Committee. After being asked about her role in sorting and deleting Clinton’s emails, Mills says that “after the letter came” from the State Department on October 28, 2014 asking for Clinton’s work-related emails, “Secretary Clinton asked [Clinton’s personal lawyer] David Kendall and myself to oversee a process to ensure that any records that could be potentially work-related were provided to the department.”

Mills is asked if she or Kendall were in physical possession of the server at the time.

She replies, “No. … [T]hat server, as I understand it, doesn’t contain any of her records. So we asked Platte River to give us a .pst [computer file] of all of her emails during the tenure where she was there, which they did. And we used that .pst to first search for and set aside all of the state.gov records, then to actually do a name search of all of the officials in the department so that we could ensure that all the senior officials that she would likely be corresponding with got looked at and searched for by name, and then a review of every sender and recipient so that you knew, if there was a misspelling or something that was inaccurate, that you would also have that review done, as well. And then that created the body of, I think, about 30,000 emails that ended up being ones that were potentially work-related, and not, obviously, completely, but it was the best that we could do, meaning obviously there were some personal records that are turned over, and the department has advised the Secretary of that.”

Mills further explains that she and Kendall “oversaw the process. The person who actually undertook it is a woman who worked for me.” This woman is another lawyer, Heather Samuelson, who Mills admits doesn’t have any specialized training or skills with the Federal Records Act or identifying official records.

Then Mills is asked what happened to the “universe of the .pst file” after the work-emails had been sorted out.

She replies: “So the potential set of federal records, we created a thumb drive that David Kendall kept at his office. And then the records themselves, that would have been the universe that they sent, Platte River took back. […] So they just removed it. So it ended up being on system, and they just removed it. And I don’t know what is the technological way they do it, because it’s a way you have to access it, and then they make it so you can’t access it anymore.” (House Benghazi Committee, 10/21/2015)

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.”

141201ScreenConnectLogo

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)

Shortly After January 5, 2015: It can be deduced that the 31,830 emails that Clinton chose to delete may actually be deleted around this time.

David Kendall (Credit: The National Law Journal)

David Kendall (Credit: The National Law Journal)

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall later claims that after Clinton turned over the 30,490 emails she deemed work-related, which took place on December 5, 2014, the settings on her private server were changed so that any email not sent within 60 days would be automatically deleted. But some news reports say the setting was for 30 days instead. If this is true, the deletions must take place after January 5, 2015, or February 5, 2015, depending on which setting is actually in place.

On March 4, 2015, the House Benghazi Committee issues a subpoena ordering Clinton to turn over any material related to Libya and/or Benghazi, which followed a more limited request in November 2014.

Trey Gowdy (R), head of the committee, will complain later in March 2015, “Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest. […] The fact that she apparently deleted some emails after Congress initially requested documents raises serious concerns.”

Clinton’s staff has argued that all the emails relating to Libya and/or Benghazi have been turned over already. (The New York Times, 3/27/2015) (House Benghazi Committee, 3/19/2015) (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015)

A September 2016 FBI will reveal that the deletion of Clinton’s emails from her private server won’t actually take place until late March 2015. And while the employee is supposed to change the email retention policy so some of her emails will be deleted 60 days later, he actually will delete all of her emails and then use a computer program to wipe them so they won’t be recovered later. Why this happens is still unclear. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 20, 2015: The House Benghazi Committee formally requests that Clinton turn over her private email server.

In a letter to Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall, the committee says Clinton should give her server to the State Department’s inspector general or to a neutral party in order to determine which of her emails were work-related and which ones were personal. (The New York Times, 3/20/2015) Several day later, Kendall replies that turning over the server would be pointless since no emails remain on it. (The New York Times, 3/31/2015)

Clinton will keep her server until a copy is given to the FBI in August 2015. It will later be reported that the FBI recovers most if not all of the deleted emails on the server.

Between March 25 and 31, 2015: A Platte River Networks employee allegedly deletes all of Clinton’s emails and then wipes them to prevent their recovery, despite apparently having no clear order to do so.

Platte River Networks (PRN) is managing Clinton’s private server, and two PRN employees are occasionally working on it. Around December 2014, PRN employee Paul Combetta was told by one of Clinton’s lawyers (and her former chief of staff) Cheryl Mills to delete all copies of Clinton’s emails off Mills’ computer and the computer of another lawyer working for Clinton, Heather Samuelson. He did so. But he says he was also told by Mills to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account so that Clinton’s unwanted “personal” emails would be deleted after 60 days, and he forgot to do that.

Combetta will be interviewed by the FBI on February 18, 2016. At that time, he will say that after a conference call between PRN and the staff of former President Bill Clinton on March 25, 2015, roughly between March 25 and 31, 2015, he will realize he forgot to make the change, but then will tell the FBI that he didn’t do anything about it.

However, Combetta will be interviewed by the FBI again on May 3, 2016, and his answers will change. This time, he will say he had what told the FBI was “an ‘oh shit’ moment.” Then, sometime between March 25 and 31, 2015, he deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from Clinton’s server. Furthermore, he used BleachBit to delete the exported .pst files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.

150326PlatteMontage

There are six employees leading PRN in 2015. From left to right they are Brent Allshouse, David DeCamillis, Treve Suavo, Sam Hickler, Craig Papke, and Dave Robinson (not pictured). (Credit: Linked In and Platte River Networks)

An FBI report will explain, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files,” as well as other functions. “BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.”

Additionally, the FBI investigation will later find “evidence of these deletions and determined the Datto backups of the [Clinton’s] server were also manually deleted during this timeframe.” However, the FBI will not mention if they figured out who deleted the Datto back-ups, whether it is Combetta or someone else.

150326BleachBitSystemCleaner1.8

BleachBit System Cleaner 1.8 (Credit: BleachBit)

Note that Combetta was only asked by Mills to change the deletion policy on Clinton’s account, which would have deleted only her “personal” emails 60 days later. He actually immediately deleted all of her emails, including her work-related ones, and then used a program to make their later recovery impossible. It is not clear if anyone told him to do this, and if so who, or if he did it on his own.

Furthermore, Combetta took these actions even though Mills sent him (and others at PRN) an email on March 9, 2015, which mentioned how the House Benghazi Committee had requested to Clinton’s lawyers that all of Clinton’s emails should be preserved. In his first FBI interview, he will deny being aware of this. But in his second FBI interview, according to the FBI, at the time he made the deletions, “he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on [Clinton’s] server.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 27, 2015: Clinton is not willing to hand over her private server to see if emails were improperly deleted.

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall reveals this in a letter to the House Benghazi Committee. On March 20, 2015, the committee had suggested that an independent party could review it to see if any work-related emails remained. Kendall states, “There is no basis to support the proposed third-party review of the server… To avoid prolonging a discussion that would be academic, I have confirmed with the secretary’s IT [information technology] support that no emails… for the time period January 21, 2009 through February 1, 2013 reside on the server or on any back-up systems associated with the server.” (Politico, 3/27/2015) 

Clinton will give the server to the FBI in August 2015. (The Washington Post, 8/12/2015) One month later, it will be reported that deleted emails have been recovered from the server, and some of them are work-related. (Bloomberg News, 9/2/2015)

March 27, 2015: It is unclear if Clinton still has copies of her deleted emails.

Clinton speaks during a news conference in New York, March 10, 2015. (Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)

Clinton speaks during a news conference in New York, March 10, 2015. (Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)

The New York Times reports that while it is known Clinton deleted over 31,000 emails from her server due to alleged personal content, it is unknown if she still retains copies of them elsewhere. “At a news conference this month, Mrs. Clinton appeared to provide two answers about whether she still had copies of her emails. First, she said that she ‘chose not to keep’ her private personal emails after her lawyers had examined the account and determined on their own which ones were personal and which were State Department records. But later, she said that the [contents of the] server… ‘will remain private.’” (The New York Times, 3/27/2015)

June 25, 2015: The State Department is no longer sure Clinton turned over all her work-related emails.

Three days after the House Benghazi Committee released 60 newly uncovered emails between Clinton and Sid Blumenthal related to Libyan policy given to the committee by Blumenthal, the State Department announces Clinton didn’t provide them with the Blumenthal emails either. Clinton has claimed she gave all her work-related emails to the State Department. However, department officials say they are no longer certain she complied with their order to turn over all work emails.

The department confirms that ten emails and parts of five others from Blumenthal regarding Benghazi could not be located in their records, but that the 45 other, previously unreleased Libya-related Blumenthal emails published by the committee were in their records. When asked about the discrepancy, Clinton campaign spokesperson Nick Merrill seems to dispute it, saying, “She has turned over 55,000 pages of materials to the State Department, including all emails in her possession from Mr. Blumenthal.” (The Associated Press, 6/25/2015)

In August 2015, The New York Times will comment, “The Clinton campaign has not explained the discrepancy.” (The New York Times, 8/8/2015) More of Clinton’s work emails will be discovered later, including some found by the State Department. (The Hill, 3/24/2016)

August 12, 2015: The FBI picks up one of Clinton’s private email servers, as well as thumb drives containing copies of her emails.

An inside look at one Equinix’s many data centers across the United States. (Credit: Equinix)

The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s old server, which was in a New Jersey data center, had all its data deleted some time earlier.

A lawyer for Platte River Networks, the company that managed the server, says, “To my knowledge, the data on the old server is not available now on any servers or devices in Platte River Network’s control.”

Investigators also take thumb drives from Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall containing copies of Clinton’s emails. (The Washington Post, 8/12/2015) 

There are two Clinton servers in existence at the time, and both the old and new ones are located at the Equinix data center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

However, a September 2016 FBI report will explain that Clinton’s lawyers never revealed that Clinton’s emails had once been transferred from the old server to the new server, so the FBI only picks up the old server. The FBI will later learn on its own about the transfer and then pick up the new server as well, on October 3, 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

After August 12, 2015: The FBI recovers some of Clinton’s deleted emails.

In March 2016, the Los Angeles Times will report that some time after the FBI took possession of Clinton’s private server on August 12, 2015, the FBI “has since recovered most, if not all, of the deleted correspondence, said a person familiar with the investigation.” Clinton deleted 31,830 emails, claiming they were not work-related. (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016)

In a September 2016 FBI report, it will turn out that the FBI was able to recover about 17,500 of the deleted emails.

August 14, 2015: Clinton jokes about her emails at a campaign event.

Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding on Friday, August 14, 2015 (Credit: ABC News)

Clinton speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding on Friday, August 14, 2015 (Credit: ABC News)

At a fund-raising dinner in Clear Lake, Iowa, Clinton jokes, “You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.” (The New York Times, 8/14/2015) 

Later in the month, a New York Times article on Democratic politicians who worry about the email scandal notes, “many say, her repeated jokes and dismissive remarks on the email controversy suggest that she is not treating it seriously enough.” (The New York Times, 8/27/2015)

August 17, 2015: A State Department official tells the FBI about 1,000 previously unknown emails between Clinton and David Petraeus.

Obama announces that he will nominate current CIA Director Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, Gen. David Petraeus as the next director of the CIA on April 11, 2011. (Credit: CNN)

Obama announces that he will nominate current CIA Director Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, and General David Petraeus as the next director of the CIA on April 11, 2011. (Credit: CNN)

An unnamed State Department official who works in the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) is interviewed by the FBI on this day. According to a later FBI summary of the interview, she claims that around August 10, 2015, just a week before the interview, “[redacted] from Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) called [her] and told her Centcom records showed approximately 1,000 work-related emails between Clinton’s personal email and General David Petraeus, former commander of Centcom and former director of the CIA. Most of those 1,000 emails were not believed to be included in the 30,000 emails that IPS was reviewing. Out of the 30,000 emails, IPS only had a few emails from or related to Petraeus…” She “recommended the FBI should talk with [redacted] regarding the alleged 1,000 emails between Clinton and Petraeus.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

On September 25, 2015, the New York Times will report on the existence of 19 work-related emails between Clinton and Petraeus sent in January 2009 that were not turned over when Clinton gave what she said was all her 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department in December 2014. Since that time, neither these 19 emails nor any other of the alleged 1,000 emails between them have been made public.

August 18, 2015: Clinton claims not to know what wiping computer data is.

Clinton making a joking wipe gesture while speaking at a town hall on August 18, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: John Locher / The Associated Press)

Clinton making a joking wipe gesture while speaking at a town hall on August 18, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: John Locher / The Associated Press)

When asked by a reporter if her private email had been wiped, Clinton replies with a joke, “What—like with a cloth, or something?” Then she says she doesn’t “know how it works digitally at all.” (Business Insiders, 8/18/2015) 

“Wiping” means repeatedly overwriting data with other data to make sure it can never be recovered.

The next month, Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon will also claim ignorance: “I don’t know what ‘wiped’ means. Literally the emails were deleted off of the server, that’s true.” (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

August 19, 2015: Someone tried to wipe Clinton’s email server, but the FBI might recover the data anyway.

Clinton’s campaign has acknowledged “that there was an attempt to wipe [Clinton’s private] server before it was turned over last week to the FBI. But two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told NBC News… that the [FBI] may be able to recover at least some data.” (NBC News, 8/19/2015) 

“Wiping” refers to repeatedly overwriting data with new data to make sure it can never be recovered. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

In 2016, it be revealed that Paul Combetta, an employee of Platte River Networks, the company managing Clinton’s private server, deleted and then wiped Clinton’s emails in March 2015.

Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s lawyer and former chief of staff, will be interviewed by the FBI in April 2016 and will claim that she never knew Clinton’s emails were deleted or wiped, even though she was in communcation with Combetta shortly before and after when he did the deleting and wiping. Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, and will similarly claim that she never knew her emails were deleted orr wiped.

August 19, 2015: Clinton’s lawyer claims that all data, including Clinton’s emails, was erased from her server before it was turned over to the FBI.

150819ClintonTurnerKendallGetty

David Kendall (right) and Katherine Turner (left) sit behind Clinton during her testimony to the Benghazi committee on October 23, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

Lawyer David Kendall tells this to the Senate Homeland Security committee. He adds that both he and his office partner lawyer Katherine Turner had been given security clearances to handle a thumb drive containing some of Clinton’s emails, but he doesn’t say when. His comments don’t clarify if Clinton’s server was wiped or merely erased.

“Wiping” means that new data is written over the old data several times to make sure it can never be recovered. (The Guardian, 8/19/2015)

September 4, 2015: Justice Department lawyers oppose a search for Clinton’s deleted emails.

Judicial Watch asks a federal judge to order the State Department to take steps to determine whether any of the 31,830 emails deleted by Clinton still exist. They argue that Clinton’s emails are essentially government property that she should not have been allowed to take when she left the State Department.

However, Justice Department lawyers acting on behalf of the State Department oppose the request. They argue that personal emails are not federal records and don’t need to be preserved. One such government lawyer asserts, “There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision—she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server.”

Others have noted that at least some of the deleted emails have been found and were work-related. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

September 12, 2015: The company that recently managed Clinton’s email server say they have “no knowledge of the server being wiped.”

Platte River Networks (PRN) managed her server from mid-2013 to early August 2015. PRN spokesperson Andy Boian says, “Platte River has no knowledge of the server being wiped.” He adds, “All the information we have is that the server wasn’t wiped.” The Washington Post says this is “the strongest indication to date that tens of thousands of emails that Clinton has said were deleted could be recovered.”

If a server is not wiped, which is a process that include overwriting data several times, deleted content can often be recovered. Clinton and her staff have avoided answering if the server was wiped or not. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

However, a 2016 FBI report will conclude that in late March 2015, a PRN employee named Paul Combetta used a computer program named BleachBit that effectively deleted Clinton’s emails so they couldn’t be later recovered by the FBI. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 22, 2015: Reports suggest the FBI has recovered Clinton’s deleted emails.

According to Bloomberg News, the FBI has been able to recover at least some of the 31,830 emails deleted by Clinton. The exact number of recovered emails is still unknown. Clinton claimed she deleted those emails, which make up slightly more than half of all her emails from her time as secretary of state, because they were personal in nature.

Bloomberg News reports that, “Once the emails have been extracted, a group of agents has been separating personal correspondence and passing along work-related messages to agents leading the investigation, the person said.” This clearly indicates that not all of the deleted emails were personal in nature, as Clinton has claimed. Clinton’s spokesperson does not address the discrepancy, except to say that Clinton continues to cooperate with investigators. (Bloomberg News, 9/2/2015) 

The same day, the New York Times also reports that deleted emails have been recovered. According to two unnamed government officials, “It was not clear whether the entire trove of roughly 60,000 emails had been found on the server, but one official said it had not been very hard for the FBI to recover the messages.” (The New York Times, 9/23/2015) 

Chris Soghoian, the lead technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), comments, “Clinton’s private email server was secure. Clinton’s people didn’t know how to delete her old emails. These two things can’t both be true.” (Business Insider, 9/23/2015)

A September 2016 FBI report will reveal that the FBI was able to recover about 17,500 of Clinton’s deleted emails. However, a computer program was used to wipe parts of Clinton’s server, preventing the recovery of the rest. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 27, 2015: Clinton denies she was trying to hide her email from investigators and the public.

Carrie Johnson (Credit: Doby Photography / NPR)

Carrie Johnson (Credit: Doby Photography / NPR)

Journalist Chuck Todd asks Clinton, “Republicans have been coming after you for years. You might have been running for president in the future. And you wanted to make it a little more difficult for congressional investigators to subpoena your government emails and a little more difficult for Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requests. Is that it, fair theory or no?”

Clinton replies, “It’s totally ridiculous. That never crossed my mind.”

NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson later comments, “[T]here’s a reason she might have decided to answer that way. […] Clinton is talking to two audiences here —voters and investigators. And when it comes to avoiding subpoenas and taking steps to avoid subpoenas, lawyers will tell you there’s an important law Congress passed in 2002 after the Enron scandal. That law makes it a crime to get rid of documents in anticipation of an investigation by the Justice Department or by Congress—a crime called obstruction of justice.” (National Public Radio, 9/30/2015)