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.

May 10, 2016: A recent interview shows differences between FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors in the Clinton email investigation.

Cheryl Mills (right) and her attorney Beth Wilkinson (left) (Credit: Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills (right) and her attorney Beth Wilkinson (left) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s former aide Cheryl Mills was recently interviewed by the FBI as part of their Clinton investigation. (It will later be revealed the interview took place on April 9, 2016.) Not long after it started, an FBI investigator asked Mills about how Mills chose which of Clinton’s emails to turn over to the State Department and which ones to delete.

It has been reported that process was done by Mills along with Clinton associates David Kendall and Heather Samuelson. However, Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson and the Justice Department had agreed the topic would be off-limits. Mills and Wilkinson left the room, but they returned a short time later. Ultimately, Mills was not asked about that topic.

The Washington Post reports that Justice Department “prosecutors were somewhat taken aback that their FBI colleague had ventured beyond what was anticipated…” The topic was considered off-limits because “it was considered confidential as an example of attorney-client privilege.” Mills is a lawyer, but she served as Clinton’s chief of staff and it has never been reported that she has legally represented Clinton.

The Post also reports, “It is not completely unknown for FBI agents and prosecutors to diverge on interview tactics and approach, and the people familiar with the matter said Mills answered investigators’ questions.” (The Washington Post, 5/10/2016)

May 27, 2016: Cheryl Mills is deposed under oath, but frequently fails to answer questions.

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills is deposed by Judicial Watch as part of civil lawsuit presided over by US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. She is questioned for seven hours, with eleven other lawyers present, including four Justice Department lawyers assisting Mills.

The deposition is contentious, with Judicial Watch lawyers frequently arguing with Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson and State Department lawyers. Mills has also worked as one of Clinton’s lawyers at times (though not while Clinton was secretary of state), and Wilkinson often objects to questions on the grounds of attorney-client privilege between Mills and Clinton. For instance, Mills fails to answer any questions about the sorting and deleting of Clinton’s emails in late 2014, when Mills was one of Clinton’s lawyers who performed that task. Mills also doesn’t answer many questions about Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano. (LawNewz, 5/31/2016) (Politico, 5/31/2016) (Judicial Watch, 5/31/2016)

Mills is frequently forgetful or uncertain with her answers. The New York Post calculates she says “I can’t recall” 40 times and “I don’t know” 182 times. (The New York Post, 6/11/2016)

August 10, 2016: Cheryl Mills answers additional questions she failed to answer in her deposition.

Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, was deposed in May 2016 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. At that time, she refused to answer some questions, citing attorney-client privilege. Judge Emmet Sullivan worked out a compromise to have Mills answer some questions in writing to prevent further litigation, and Mills’ written answers are made public by Judicial Watch on this day.

This written testimony shows that shortly after the hacker known as Guccifer broke into the email account of Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal and publicy revealed Clinton’s private email address in March 2013, Mills was worried about the potential impact this coud have on Clinton’s private email server. Mills discussed this with Clinton’s computer techician Bryan Pagliano. Clinton’s email address was changed, but it is still unknown if any other security measures were taken. (Politico, 8/10/2016)

September 6, 2016: Representative Chaffetz warns the person who managed Clinton’s server could face charges, and he also is puzzled by an assertion of attorney-client privilege.

Paul Combetta (Credit: CSpan)

Paul Combetta (Credit: CSpan)

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, writes a letter to Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company that managed Clinton’s private server since June 2013. Chaffetz warns that one PRN employee, Paul Combetta, could face federal charges for deleting and wiping Clinton’s emails from her server in March 2015. That’s because the House Benghazi Committee had issued a formal order to preserve such records earlier in the month, and Combetta confessed in a later FBI interview that he knew about the order before he made the deletions.

In the letter, Chaffetz says a recent FBI report about the deletions “raises questions to whether [Combetta] violated federal statutes that prohibit destruction of evidence and obstruction of a Congressional investigation.”

Additionally, Combetta took part in conference calls with Clinton’s lawyers just days before and after the deletions, but the FBI was unable to determine what was said in those communications, possibly due to an assertion of attorney-client privilege. In the letter, Chaffetz wants an explanation from PRN how Combetta could refuse to talk to the FBI about the conference calls if the only lawyers involved were Clinton’s. (Salon, 9/6/2016)

September 8, 2016: The Denver Post editorial board suggests the deletion of Clinton emails is a “fishy story.”

The Denver Post Logo (Credit: The Denver Post)

The Denver Post Logo (Credit: The Denver Post)

The Denver Post’s editorial board publishes an editorial on September 8, 2016, entitled “A fishy story in Platte River Networks’ purge of Clinton e-mails.” It focuses on Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta’s FBI interview and his deletion and wiping of Clinton’s emails with a program “wonderfully named BleachBit.”

The editorial mentions Combetta’s “sudden remembrance” to delete the emails, and a subsequent conference call between PRN officials and a “longtime Clinton aide and personal lawyer.” When the FBI eventually attempted to investigate the conference call, they were met with Combetta’s claim of attorney-client privilege. The editorial states, “That just looks awful. So [it’s] little wonder the Republican chairman of the House committee investigating Clinton’s e-mail arrangement — Utah’s Jason Chaffetz — has asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether she or others were involved in the decision to destroy those emails following the preservation order.”

The Post argues “the information from the [FBI’s] summary of its investigation doesn’t sit well. It’s reasonable to ask why the FBI didn’t look deeper. It’s reasonable to ask why [Combetta] would act if, as the logic of the cover story must argue, the emails were simply personal notes about yoga appointments and being a grandmother.”

The editorial agrees with Chaffetz’s call for the Justice Department “to investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries and concealment of cover-up of evidence material to a congressional committee.” It closes by saying, “something about this story feels whitewashed — or maybe bleached out is the better term for it now.” (The Denver Post, 9/8/2016)

September 9, 2016: A former Justice Department official criticizes how the FBI permitted legally questionable behavior by Cheryl Mills during its Clinton email investigation.

Cheryl Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state, then she was hired to be one of Clinton’s lawyers in 2013, setting up a potential conflict of interest between her different roles. In April 2016, she was interviewed by the FBI, but refused to answer certain questions, claiming attorney-client privilege.

RonaldSievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert, a former assistant director at the Justice Department and member of the department’s National Security Working Group, said the FBI easily could have gone to court to challenge Mills’ privilege claim. But that didn’t happen.

Mills also was allowed to attend Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview as one of Clinton’s lawyers, even though she directly participated in many of the matters being discussed by Clinton when Mills was in her chief of staff role.

Sievert comments, “There seems universal agreement among those of us who know the law that no regular US government employee could get away with this.” (The New York Post, 9/9/2016)