January 15, 2008—September 30, 2013: The State Department has no permanent inspector general for the entire time Clinton is secretary of state.

080115HaroldGeiselpublicdomain

Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel (Credit: public domain)

Instead, an acting inspector with close ties to State Department leadership fills the role. An “inspector general” is an internal watchdog tasked with discovering mismanagement and corruption. The position goes vacant in January 2008. President Obama doesn’t nominate anyone to fill the position for more than four years, making it the longest time any department ever went without a permanent one.

Five months after Clinton leaves office, Obama nominates Steve Linick, who is confirmed as the new permanent inspector general three months later, on September 30, 2013.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will write, “The lack of a confirmed inspector general raises questions about oversight of the department under Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. The department has been criticized for its failure to gather and archive the email records of Mrs. Clinton and other officials and for responses to public-record requests that lawmakers and advocacy groups say were insufficient… It isn’t clear whether Mrs. Clinton had any role in the lack of a nomination.”

The acting inspector general during Clinton’s term, Harold Geisel, is banned from taking the job permanently due to conflict of interest rules. Matthew Harris, a professor who researches inspectors general, will later comment, “It’s a convenient way to prevent oversight.” Acting inspectors general “don’t feel empowered; they don’t have the backing of their people. They’re in a position where they could be removed at any moment.”

Representative Ed Royce (R), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will later suggest, “A permanent IG [inspector general] would have objected to [Clinton’s] efforts to circumvent congressional oversight by keeping her emails off the books.”

The White House has yet to explain why it waited so long to nominate a replacement. (The Wall Street Journal, 3/24/2015)

Mid-August 2008: The Chinese government apparently hacks into the 2008 presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain.

Admiral Dennis Blair (Credit: Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA)

Admiral Dennis Blair (Credit: Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA)

Hacking teams traced back to China are caught breaking into the computers of the Obama and McCain campaigns, resulting in high-level warnings to Chinese officials to stop. The computers, laptops, and mobile devices of top campaign aides and advisers who receive high-level briefings are particularly targeted. “Spear phishing” is used to get targets to open an attachment containing a virus that would allow data to be stolen from their computer.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe will later say he got a call in the middle of August 2008 alerting him to the attack and that the FBI was investigating. However, the virus is extremely sophisticated, and it takes months for it to be completely removed from the networks of the two campaigns.

In a May 2009 speech, President Obama will make a general mention of the attacks: “Hackers gained access to emails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans.” However, the involvement of China’s government won’t be publicly revealed until June 2013.

Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence from 2009 to 2010, will comment that year, “Based on everything I know, this was a case of political cyberespionage by the Chinese government against the two American political parties. They were looking for positions on China, surprises that might be rolled out by campaigns against China.” (NBC News, 6/6/2013)

December 12, 2008: The Clinton Foundation makes an agreement with the White House over conflict of interest issues.

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

Bruce Lindsey (Credit: Win McNamee / Reuters)

In late 2008, when it becomes clear that newly elected President Obama will nominate Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation presents a very large conflict of interest problem. There is a particular concern that foreign governments could use donations to the foundation to influence the Clinton-led State Department.

As a result, on December 12, 2008, the foundation’s CEO Bruce Lindsey signs a memorandum of understanding with Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team. It allows governments which had previously donated to the foundation to continue to do so, but only at existing yearly levels. It details an ethics review process for new donating countries or countries that want to “materially increase” their support. However, it does not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the US government from continuing to give money to the foundation.

The Washington Post will later report, “Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military, and financial relationships with the US government, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Other nations that donated included Australia, Norway, and the Dominican Republic.” The Post will also note, “Foreign governments and individuals are prohibited from giving money to US political candidates, to prevent outside influence over national leaders. But the foundation has given donors a way to potentially gain favor with the Clintons outside the traditional political limits.”

The agreement will expire when Clinton ends her tenure as secretary of state in February 2013. (The Washington Post, 2/25/2015(US Senate, 12/18/2008) The agreement covers the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), a Canadian offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that some will later call a “slush fund” for the Clintons. The agreement will be broken in the case of the CGEP, as the Clinton Foundation will not reveal the names of those who donated through the CGEP. (Bloomberg News, 4/19/2015(Harper’s Magazine, 11/17/2015) 

The agreement will also be broken in other aspects. For instance, in 2015 it will be reported that the foundation didn’t disclose any foreign donors to the public, despite that being stipulated in the agreement. It will also emerge that no punishment was spelled out if the agreement was violated. (The Boston Globe, 4/30/2015)

Early 2009: President Obama bans Blumenthal from a job at the State Department.

The Blumenthals attend a Christmas party at the White House during the early years of Bill Clinton's presidency. (Credit: public domain)

The Blumenthals attend a Christmas party at the White House during the early years of Bill Clinton’s presidency. (Credit: public domain)

Clinton wants to hire Sid Blumenthal as an official national security adviser in the State Department. Blumenthal had worked in President Bill Clinton’s White House in the 1990s, then had been a journalist, then joined Clinton’s presidential campaign as a senior adviser in 2007. However, Obama bans him from any government job.

According to a 2015 Politico article, “Obama aides were convinced that Blumenthal spread false personal and policy rumors about Obama during the battle between Clinton and Obama for the Democratic nomination.” When Clinton is asked in 2015 if the White House banned her from hiring Blumenthal, she won’t dispute it. (Politico, 10/22/2015) (Politico, 1/8/2016)

Blumenthal will soon get a full-time job at the Clinton Foundation with a $120,000 a year salary. For the duration of Clinton’s time as secretary of state, he will frequently email her intelligence information that he will later claim came from Tyler Drumheller, a CIA agent until 2005. (Politico, 5/28/2015)

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)

January 21, 2009: President Obama pledges to increase government transparency.

President Obama delivers a speech after being sworn in on January 21, 2009. (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

President Obama delivers a speech after being sworn in on January 21, 2009. (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

During his swearing-in ceremony, Obama says, “Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

He adds, “Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known. […] The Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.” (The White House, 1/21/2009)

In November 2016, Slate will comment, “Needless to say, the agencies have not taken this order seriously, nor has Obama pressured or prodded them to do so. Many crises crowded his agenda soon after his inauguration, leaving the cause of government openness on the back burner, if not in the freezer.” (Slate, 11/2/2016)

January 21, 2009—February 1, 2013: Hundreds of classified emails are sent or received by Clinton while she is outside the US, including some to or from President Obama.

Clinton boards the State Department jet with her BlackBerry, destination unknown. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

Clinton boards the State Department jet while using her BlackBerry, date and location are unknown. (Credit: Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

This is according to a September 2016 FBI report. The report indicates that Clinton and her immediate staff were repeatedly “notified of foreign travel risks and were warned that digital threats began immediately upon landing in a foreign country, since connection of a mobile device to a local network provides opportunities for foreign adversaries to intercept voice and email transmissions.”

Additionally, the State Department has a Mobile Communications Team responsible for establishing secure mobile voice and data communications for Clinton and her team wherever they travel. But even so, Clinton and her staff frequently use their private and unsecure mobile devices and private email accounts while overseas.

The number of Clinton emails sent or received outside the US will be redacted in the FBI report. Although it will mention that “hundreds” were classified at the “confidential” level, additional details are redacted. Nearly all mentions of “top secret” emails are redacted in the report, so it’s impossible to know if any of those are sent while Clinton is overseas.

The report will mention that some emails between Clinton and President Obama are sent while Clinton is overseas. However, the exact number will be redacted. None of these overseas emails between them will be deemed to contain classified information. According to the report, “Clinton told the FBI that she received no particular guidance as to how she should use President Obama’s email address…”

The details of the FBI’s report on Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview will indicate that Clinton emailed Obama on July 1, 2012 from Russia. However, it is not clear if she sent the email from on the ground or on a plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

January 24, 2009: Clinton passes on using a secure computer to check her private email account at her office desk.

President Obama uses a BlackBerry while traveling in Indonesia in 2010. (Credit: Pete Souza / The White House)

President Obama uses a BlackBerry while traveling in Indonesia in 2010. (Credit: Pete Souza / The White House)

By this time, the National Security Agency (NSA) arranges for President Obama to use a secure, encrypted BlackBerry, allowing him to use it anywhere. Clinton and her top aides want Clinton to have one too.

On this day, Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, asks in a group email, “[H]ow can we get her one?”

Lewis Lukens, Clinton’s logistics chief, responds the same day that he could help set up “a stand-alone PC [personal computer] in the Secretary’s office, connected to the Internet (but not through our system) to enable her to check her emails from her desk.”

Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy replies that that is “a great idea.”

But apparently, Clinton insists on using her BlackBerry at all times and never a desktop computer, so no such computer is ever set up. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

February 13, 2009: The NSA refuses to set up a secure BlackBerry for Clinton.

Donald Reid (Credit: The Department of State Archives)

Donald Reid (Credit: The Department of State Archives)

Although the National Security Agency (NSA) has set up a secure, encrypted BlackBerry for President Obama, they are not interested in making one for Clinton.

On this day, Donald Reid, the State Department’s senior coordinator for security infrastructure, writes in an email, “The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive.” He adds that “each time we asked the question ‘What was the solution for [President Obama]?’ we were politely told to shut up and color.”

On February 18, 2009, Reid had said in an email, “The issue here is one of personal comfort,” because Clinton and her top aides are “dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016)

December 29, 2009: New rules clarify what the US government considers classified information

President Obama issues “Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information,” which updates a previous 1995 directive. The order clearly defines what the different levels of government classification are: “top secret,” “secret,” and “confidential.” It also states that: “The unauthorized disclosure of foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security.” It further lists what information should be considered classified, and that list includes “foreign government information” and ‘foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” (White House, 12/29/2009)

March 2010: Clinton judges a possible department watchdog, raising independence concerns.

The permanent position of State Department inspector general has been vacant since 2008, before Obama became president. An inspector general serves as a department’s internal watchdog. Some time in March 2010, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills emails Clinton about a possible nominee for the position. Mills writes, “Let me know if you DON’T want to proceed.”

Clinton writes back, “Are you ok [with] him?”

Then Mills writes, “Yes – he’ll be good.”

It is not known who they are talking about since the name will later be redacted, but Obama will not nominate anyone for the position until mid-2013, after Clinton’s term as secretary of state is over.

The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “The exchange raises questions about the independence of the inspector general’s office. Government inspectors general have broad latitude within government agencies to investigate cases of waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse.” (The Wall Street Journal, 2/20/2016)

June 2010—October 2010: Secret donations to a Clinton Foundation offshoot are given around the same time Clinton’s State Department allows Russia to buy a company that controls much of the uranium production in the US.

Ian Telfer (Credit: Galit Rodan / Bloomberg News)

Ian Telfer (Credit: Galit Rodan / Bloomberg News)

In 2009, a branch of Rosatom, a Russian company linked to the Russian government, buys a 17 percent stake in Uranium One, a Canadian mining company. In 2010, it wants to increase that to a controlling 51 percent stake. Some US politicians are concerned, because Uranium One owns uranium mines around the world, and uranium is a strategic asset due to its use in nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. For instance, Senator John Barrasso (R) writes to President Obama, saying the deal “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity. Equally alarming, this sale gives [them] a significant stake in uranium mines in Kazakhstan.”

According to the Clinton Foundation’s disclosure records, Ian Telfer, the Canadian head of Uranium One, donates less than $250,000 to the foundation, in 2007. However, Canadian tax records show that Telfer gives $2.4 million more from 2009 to 2012. Additional millions in donations are given around this time by other people with ties to Uranium One.

In June 2010, former President Bill Clinton is paid $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow, one of his highest speaking fees. He is paid by a Russian investment bank with ties to the Russian government. That same month, Rosatom makes its deal to get a majority stake in Uranium One. However, the deal can’t go forward without approval from a group of US cabinet officials called the Committee on Foreign Investment, including Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. In October 2010, the committee gives its approval. The committee’s decision-making process is shrouded in secrecy, but it is said the approval goes relatively smoothly.

By 2013, the Russian company will own 100% of Uranium One, and they will have control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the US. The New York Times will later comment, “Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.”

Furthermore, Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra built a company that later merged with Uranium One, and he gives at least $31 million to the Clinton Foundation. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015) In 2007, Giustra cofounded a Canadian offshoot of the Clinton Foundation called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which has been accused of being a “slush fund” that allows politically toxic foreign contributors to anonymously donate money to the Clinton Foundation in the hopes of gaining political influence with Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Harper’s Magazine, 11/17/2015) The secret donations from Telfer and others connected to Uranium One all appear to have gone through the CGEP. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015)

May 4, 2011: An email forwarded to Clinton mentions the name and email address of a secret CIA official.

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Ben Rhodes (Credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes sends an email to about a dozen other US officials. Many of the names are later redacted, including that of at least one secret CIA official. The email forwards comments from a recent President Obama interview, indicating Obama will not allow any photographs to be released of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. Clinton aide Jake Sullivan forwards the email to Clinton. (US Department of State, 1/7/2016)

August 2, 2011: Charles McCullough is nominated by President Obama to be the first “Intelligence Community” inspector general.

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

Inspector General Charles McCullough (Credit: Politico)

This makes him the internal watchdog for the 16 US intelligence agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He will be unanimously confirmed by the Senate on November 7, 2011. (McClatchy, 1/20/2016) (The White House, 8/2/2011) (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 9/15/2012)

June 6, 2013: Chinese government hacker attacks on US government targets have steadily increased since 2008.

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

Shawn Henry (Credit: public domain)

In the summer of 2008, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain had their computers successfully breached by hackers apparently working for the Chinese government. According to NBC News, “US officials say that Chinese intrusions have escalated in the years since, involving repeated attacks on US government agencies, political campaigns, corporations, law firms, and defense contractors—including the theft of national security secrets and hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property.”

Shawn Henry headed up the FBI’s investigation of the 2008 attacks and now is president of the computer security company CrowdStrike. He says there’s “little doubt” the Chinese government has an aggressive electronic espionage program targeting the US government and the commercial sector. “There’s been successful exfiltration of data from government agencies (by the Chinese) up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.” (NBC News, 6/6/2013)

June 21, 2013: President Obama nominates James Comey to be the next director of the FBI; Comey starts a ten-year term.

James Comey is sworn in as FBI director by Attorney General Eric Holder on September 4, 2013. (Credit: FBI Archives)

James Comey is sworn in as FBI director by Attorney General Eric Holder on September 4, 2013. (Credit: FBI Archives)

While announcing the nomination, Obama comments, “To know Jim Comey is also to know his fierce independence and his deep integrity. […] [H]e doesn’t care about politics, he only cares about getting the job done. At key moments, when it’s mattered most, he [stood] up for what he believed was right. He was prepared to give up a job he loved rather than be part of something he felt was fundamentally wrong.”

Comey had been the deputy attorney general during the Bush administration. Obama’s comment about giving up a job is reference to a 2004 incident where Comey (and others) threatened to resign unless President Bush canceled a surveillance program before its legal authorization expired. Bush gave in and canceled the program. (The White House, 6/21/2013) 

Comey is approved by the Senate later in June and starts his ten-year term as FBI director on September 4, 2013. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/4/2013) Comey will later be in charge of the FBI when it investigates Clinton’s email scandal.

November 24, 2014: President Obama signs into law an updated Federal Records Act requiring public officials to forward all work-related emails to their government address so they will be incorporated into official records systems.

President Obama signs the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments on November 26th, 2014. (Credit: National Archives Press Release)

President Obama signs the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments on November 26th, 2014. (Credit: National Archives Press Release)

This does not apply to Clinton’s time as secretary of state. (Politico, 11/26/2014)

March 7, 2015: President Obama says that he only learned Clinton used a private email server for all her official State Department business after reading it in the news.

President Barack Obama (Credit: ABC News)

President Barack Obama (Credit: ABC News)

Obama says he found about it at “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.” This is a reference to the New York Times story that first broke the scandal on March 2, 2015. (CBS News, 3/7/2015) Obama presumably already knew she used a private email address due to the emails between him and Clinton. (The New York Times, 2/29/2016)

March 23, 2015: Clinton meets Obama at the White House, their first meeting since Clinton’s email controversy began.

Clinton tweets a photo of her meeting with President Obama in the White House Situation Room, with Josh Earnest in the background, and unknown (right), on March 23, 2015. (Credit: Hillary Clinton / Twitter)

Clinton meets with President Obama at the White House. This is noteworthy since it appears to be the first time they met since Clinton’s email controversy started on March 2, 2015, and Clinton is only a private citizen at the time. There is no public notice of the meeting beforehand. Afterwards, White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirms that it happened, but provides few details: “President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit. This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.” (Politico, 3/23/2015)

In November 2016, an email released by WikiLeaks will reveal some more about the meeting. One day before the meeting, Clinton aide Huma Abedin emailed Clinton, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan. Those three are scheduled to meet with Obama, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. (WikiLeaks, 11/3/2016)

President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in the Oval Office. (Credit: Pete Souza / White House)

President Obama and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in the Oval Office. (Credit: Pete Souza / White House)

According to another email released by WikiLeaks, Obama’s chief of staff Denis McDonough sent Podesta an email on March 17, 2015, asking to meet Podesta in person. Podesta offered to drop by the White House or meet him ‘offsite’ if necessary. The next morning, they ended up meeting at a Starbucks a short walk from the White House. (WikiLeaks, 10/25/2016)

It isn’t known what Clinton and Obama discuss, but it seems probable that Clinton’s email controversy would come up. Three days earlier, on March 20, 2015, the House Benghazi Committee formally requested that Clinton turn over her private email server. Sometime between March 25 and 31, 2015, an employee of the company managing Clinton’s private server will delete and wipe all of Clinton’s emails from her private server. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign will begin one month later.

October 8, 2015: President Obama calls Clinton’s use of a private email server a “mistake,” but also says, “I don’t think it posed a national security problem.”

President Obama in a 60 Minutes interview that aired October 11, 2015. (Credit: CBS News)

President Obama in a 60 Minutes interview that aired October 11, 2015. (Credit: CBS News)

In a 60 Minutes interview, he goes on to say, “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.” He adds that, “We don’t get an impression that there was purposely efforts […] to hide something or to squirrel away information,”

However, several days later a White House spokesperson says Obama will wait for the Justice Department investigation’s determination about that. Politico will later comment, “Agents and retired FBI personnel told journalists the comments were inappropriate given the fact that the FBI inquiry was ongoing.” (The Associated Press, 10/13/2015(CNN, 10/13/2015) (Politico, 3/9/2016)

October 13, 2015: The White House backtracks on President Obama’s comments about Clinton’s email scandal.

Josh Earnest (Credit: Politico)

Josh Earnest (Credit: Politico)

Obama asserted that while Clinton’s use of a private email server was a “mistake,” he doesn’t “think it posed a national security problem.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest says that Obama’s comments were made “based on what we publicly know now.” Earnest adds that those comments “certainly [were] not an attempt, in any way, to undermine the importance or independence of the ongoing FBI investigation.” (CNN, 10/13/2015

Despite the backtracking, Obama will make very similar comments in April 2016. (MSNBC, 4/10/2016)

October 16, 2015: A former FBI official claims that many FBI agents are upset about Obama’s comments.

A graphic that appears during Megyn Kelly’s interview with James Kallstrom. (Credit: Fox News)

Former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom is interviewed by Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly about President Obama’s comments on October 8, 2015 regarding the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. He says, “I know some of the agents, Megyn.  I know some of the supervisors and I know the senior staff.  And they’re P.O.ed [pissed off], I mean, no question. This is like someone driving a nail, another nail into the coffin of the criminal justice system and what the public thinks about it.”

He adds that he doesn’t think the FBI investigators will allow Obama’s comments to affect them. And he concludes, “[I]f it’s a big case and it’s pushed under the rug, they won’t take that sitting down.” (Fox News, 10/16/2015)

 

October 16, 2015: FBI agents are upset at President Obama’s comment that he thinks Clinton made a mistake but didn’t endanger national security

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, headquarters of the FBI in Washington, DC. (Credit: Aude / Wikimedia Commons)

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, headquarters of the FBI in Washington, DC. (Credit: Aude / Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Times reports that although the White House backtracked later, “Those statements angered FBI agents who have been working for months to determine whether Mrs. Clinton’s email setup did in fact put any of the nation’s secrets at risk, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Investigators have not reached any conclusions about whether the information on the server was compromised or whether to recommend charges, according to the law enforcement officials. But to investigators, it sounded as if Mr. Obama had already decided the answers to their questions and cleared anyone involved of wrongdoing.”

Ron Hosko, who was a senior FBI official until he retired in 2014, says, “Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the FBI’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015

An unnamed upset FBI agent at the Washington Field Office, where the investigation is based, says, “We got the message. […] Obama’s not subtle sometimes.” (The New York Observer, 10/19/2015)

December 9, 2015: President Obama is not being briefed about the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Senator Jeff Cornyn (Credit: US Congress)

Senator Jeff Cornyn (Credit: US Congress)

Speaking to FBI Director James Comey in a Congressional meeting, Senator Jeff Cornyn (R) expresses his concern about political pressure that could be put on the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails and server. Cornyn then asks, “Does the President get briefings on ongoing investigations by the FBI like this?”

Comey replies, “No.”

Then Cornyn asks, “So he would have no way of knowing what the status of the FBI investigation is?”

Comey replies, “Certainly not from briefings from the FBI.” (The Daily Caller, 12/9/2015)

February 29, 2016: Final totals show over 2,000 of Clinton’s emails contained classified information.

The last batch of Clinton’s private emails are publicly released. Out of the 30,490 emails, 22 are deemed “top secret,” which is the highest level of classification. 65 are deemed “secret,” the middle level. 2,028 are “confidential,” the lowest level. That means that 2,115 emails, or seven percent of the total, have some classified ranking. 104 of the classified emails were sent by Clinton herself.

It has been reported that Clinton gave the State Department 30,490 emails, and 30,068 of these were ultimately released. Of the remaining 422 emails, 19 are emails between Clinton and President Obama that have not been released, and one more email withheld because it is part of a continuing investigation. It is not known why the remaining 402 have not been released. (The New York Times, 2/29/2016

However, it has been reported that some emails were returned to Clinton after a determination they were not work-related, so that could explain the discrepancy. (Politico, 9/4/2015)

March 4, 2016: Clinton’s campaign accuses Inspector General Linick of bias without solid evidence; his staffers feel harassed.

Bloomberg News reports that “The Hillary Clinton campaign has gone on the attack against the government official who conducts oversight of the State Department she used to run [Inspector General Steve Linick], accusing him of partisanship and misconduct without any direct evidence.”

However, Linick is a difficult target because he “has never been regarded as a partisan official” and President Obama appointed him. So the attackers are focusing on Emilia DiSanto, who works in his office, and claim that she is influencing him too much. Clinton supporters argue DiSanto is biased against Clinton because she had previously worked as an investigator for Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

Bloomberg News reports that for Linick’s staff, “the accusations are impossible to confront head on because they are not authorized to speak on the record about ongoing investigations.” Furthermore, his office has been “receiving dozens of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests aimed at gathering information on office staffers themselves. Sources in the inspector general office tell me they see the requests and accusations as an attempt to intimidate them and deter them from continuing Clinton-related work.” Bloomberg News concludes, “Accusing Linick’s staffers of misconduct due to their past work affiliations is a slippery slope; tons of government employees have connections on Capitol Hill.” (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2016)

April 10, 2016: President Obama downplays the seriousness of Clinton’s email scandal.

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama comments about Clinton’s email scandal. He says, “I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that, and she’s acknowledged, that there’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.” (MSNBC, 4/10/2016)

When asked about some of Clinton’s emails that were deemed to have a “top secret” classification, he says, “What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are—there’s classified, and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret, top secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source.”

When asked about the independence of the FBI investigation, he says, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.” (CBS News, 4/10/2016)

April 12, 2016: President Obama is criticized for his recent comments about Clinton’s email scandal.

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

Peter Henning (Credit: public domain)

According to the Associated Press, “The White House [is] under pressure to reconcile… asserting Obama’s public defense of Clinton was not an attempt to meddle in an ongoing probe and [his claim] that federal investigators will not be swayed by the boss’ views.” There is “growing criticism that Obama had put his finger on the scale with recent comments describing Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state as mere ‘carelessness.’ […] The White House routinely dodges questions about ongoing Justice Department investigations, saying it does not want to appear to be trying to influence the outcome. Obama’s [comment] seems to cast aside some of that caution in favor of defending a political ally and former administration official.”

Peter Henning, a law professor and a former federal prosecutor, says, “It does raise concerns for prosecutors. If it’s a close case, how am I to judge whether to pursue charges when the president has said he doesn’t think there’s anything there? I don’t think it will prejudice any decision but it certainly gives the appearance of that.” (The Associated Press, 4/12/2016)

April 14, 2016: A Republican Senator criticizes President Obama’s comments about Clinton’s email scandal.

Senator John Cornyn (R) claims that Obama is “trying to influence the outcome” of the FBI’s Clinton investigation by his recent public comments. “Time and time again, the White House has projected its desired outcome of this investigation to the public, and worse, to those people conducting it.”

On April 10, 2016, Obama said, “I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that […] there’s classified and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret, top secret and then there is stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state that you may not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you can get in open source.”

Cornyn disputes this, saying, “We know that some of Secretary Clinton’s emails were classified even [to the] top-secret/special access program levels, some of the highest levels of classification.” (The Washington Examiner, 4/14/2016)

May 26, 2016: President Obama avoids commenting about Clinton’s email scandal.

President Obama speaks during a news conference in Shima, Japan, on May 26, 2016. (Credit: Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press)

President Obama speaks during a news conference in Shima, Japan, on May 26, 2016. (Credit: Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press)

One day after a State Department inspector general’s report was released criticizing Clinton’s email practices, President Obama is asked what he thinks of the report and if it “undermines her trustworthiness with the people.”

Obama replies, “Look, I’ve already said a lot about these issues. I think those are better directed to the campaign.” Obama has publicly commented on Clinton’s email scandal twice before, in October 2015 and April 2016. (The Hill, 5/26/2016)

June 10, 2016: President Obama officially endorses Clinton in her presidential race.

President Obama endorses Clinton for president on June 10, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

President Obama endorses Clinton for president on June 10, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

The endorsement comes two days after the last major Democratic primaries and after Clinton won a majority of the pledged delegates for the Democratic nomination.

Republicans criticize the move, due to the FBI’s ongoing Clinton investigation. For instance, Senator John Cornyn (R) claims that Obama’s endorsement is a conflict of interest and a special counsel is needed to avoid political pressure on the investigation. (Politico, 6/9/2016)

June 10, 2016: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest calls the FBI’s Clinton investigation a “criminal investigation” despite Clinton’s claims that it is a mere “security inquiry.”

Josh Earnest (Credit: MSNBC)

Josh Earnest (Credit: MSNBC)

When asked if the FBI could be facing political pressure from Clinton, Earnest says that President Obama “has reiterated his commitment to this principle that any criminal investigation should be conducted independent of any sort of political interference.”

Republican National Committee spokesperson Michael Short soon comments, “The White House’s admission that the FBI is investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server as a ‘criminal’ matter shreds her dishonest claim that it is a routine ‘security inquiry.’” Earnest later comments that he has no inside knowledge of the exact nature of the investigation. (Politico, 6/9/2016)

June 12, 2016: WikiLeaks says it will be making public more of Clinton’s previously unpublished emails.

Juilan Assange appears on ITV on June 12, 2016. (Credit: ITV)

Juilan Assange appears on ITV on June 12, 2016. (Credit: ITV)

In an interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is asked if his organization has any of Clinton’s “undisclosed emails.” He replies, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton,” and “We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton pending publication, that is correct.” He also says, “There is very strong material both in the emails and in relation to the Clinton Foundation.”

He believes this contains enough evidence for the FBI to recommend Clinton’s indictment: “We’ve accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton. We could proceed to an indictment.”

He doesn’t specify when or how many emails might be published. Asked about the FBI’s Clinton investigation, he believes the Justice Department will do the bidding of President Obama and so they will not indict Clinton. (The Guardian, 6/12/2016(ITV, 6/12/2016)

Several days later, a hacked using the nickname Guccifer 2.0 shares files from a recent hack of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and claims to have given “thousands of files and mails” to WikiLeaks. (Wired, 6/15/2016) (Vice News, 6/15/2016) 

June 19, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch say she’s never spoken with President Obama about the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

“We’ve never discussed the Clinton case. I’ve never spoken about it with the president or really anyone at the White House. That’s not the kind of relationship that I have with the people there, and it would be inappropriate to do so.”

She also says Obama’s recent endorsement of Clinton doesn’t create a conflict of interest, even though she’s an Obama appointee. “I don’t get involved on whom the president endorses.” (The Hill, 6/19/2016)

July 5, 2016: The White House says it had no advance notice of the FBI’s decision about Clinton.

President Barack Obama talks with FBI Director James Comey during Comey's installation as FBI director, Monday, Oct. 28,2013, at FBI Headquarters in Washington. (Credit: Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press)

President Barack Obama talks with FBI Director James Comey during his installation as FBI director, Oct. 28,2013. (Credit: Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says, “I can first confirm what [FBI] Director [James] Comey said with regard to the White House, which is that no one from the White House received advance notice of his comments. In fact, no one from the White House received advance notice that he was planning to make comments today.”

Earnest refuses to comment on Comey’s assessment that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in their handling of sensitive classified material, or Comey’s recommendation that he nonetheless would not recommend she be indicted. (Politico, 7/5/2016)

July 26, 2016: President Obama suggests Russians could be behind the hack that led to the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails.

President Obama is asked if Russia could be behind hacks that led to 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails getting released by WikiLeaks. He says the FBI is still investigating but also “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”

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Obama (left) is interviewed by Today’s Savannah Guthrie on July 26, 2016. (Credit: NBC)

He adds, “What we do know is is that the Russians hack our systems. Not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that — I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

Asked if he’s suggesting that Russian leader Vladimir Putin could be motivated to help Trump win the November 2016 election, Obama replies, “I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said. And I think that — Trump’s gotten pretty favorable coverage­­­ — back in Russia.” (Politico, 7/26/2016)

He stops stopped short of accusing Russia of trying to manipulate the election, but says “anything’s possible.” He also claims that “on a regular basis, [the Russians] try to influence elections in Europe.” (The New York Times, 7/26/2016)

September 5, 2016: Obama claims the US has “had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia.”

US President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the G-20 summit in China.

Obama and Putin have a pull-aside meeting at the G20 Summit in China on September 5, 2016. (Credit: Hamari Web)

Obama and Putin have a pull-aside meeting at the G20 Summit in China on September 5, 2016. (Credit: Hamari Web)

When Obama is questioned by reporters about accusations that Russia has been behind the hacking of US political entities, he answers: “I will tell you’ve had problems with cyber intrusions from Russia in the past and from other countries in the past.”

He adds, “the goal is not to duplicate in the cyber area the cycle of escalation,” and his intent is “instituting some norms so that everybody’s acting responsibly.” (The Hill, 9/5/2016)

September 15, 2016: More information about the emails between Clinton and Obama is made public.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

While Clinton was secretary of state, she exchanged 18 emails with President Obama from her private email account. All information about these emails has remained classified. But some details are finally released due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News.

All of the emails were exchanged between May 18, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Obama sent eight emails to Clinton, and the other ten were from Clinton to Obama. None of the emails appear to contain highly sensitive or classified information, but instead are thank you notes, holiday greetings, and the like.

All of the emails were withheld under presidential privilege and privacy act and deliberative process exemptions to the FOIA. The new details are formally submitted in  what is called a Vaughn Index, a document prepared for FOIA lawsuits in which government departments justify the withholding of information. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)

In February 2016, it was reported there were 19 emails between Clinton and Obama, not 18. It is unclear if the Vaughn Index is missing one or if the report of 19 emails was off by one.

 

October 7, 2016: The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

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Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)

October 30, 2016: Former Attorney General Mukasey claims Comey is in a no-win situation due to his earlier failure to pursue a vigorous Clinton email investigation.

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey, the US attorney general from 2007 to 2009, writes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal with the title: “The FBI Director’s Dishonorable Choice.”

He suggests that FBI Director James Comey’s recent highly controversial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 US presidential election is due to earlier mistakes Comey made in the investigation.

“Recall that Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers for their confidential determination of whether those facts justify a federal prosecution. Nonetheless, in July [2016] he announced that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would seek to charge her with a crime, although Mrs. Clinton had classified information on a private non-secure server—at least a misdemeanor under one statute; and although she was ‘extremely careless’ in her handling of classified information such that it was exposed to hacking by hostile foreign nations—a felony under another statute; and apparently had caused the destruction of emails—a felony under two other statutes.”

He continues, “Those decisions were not his to make, nor were the reasons he offered for making them at all tenable: that prosecutions for anything but mishandling large amounts of classified information, accompanied by false statements to investigators, were unprecedented; and that criminal prosecutions for gross negligence were constitutionally suspect.”

He also points to immunity deals made with key suspects that even included destroying their computers after limited searches, and a failure to get to the bottom of computer technician Paul Combetta’s destruction of Clinton’s emails in March 2015, supposedly done entirely on his own for no clear motive. “Why would an FBI director, who at one time was an able and aggressive prosecutor, agree to such terms or accept such a fantastic story?”

He also claims that emails between President Obama and Clinton on her private server suggested that “if Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her non-secure system, so was [Obama].” The FBI needs the cooperation of a grand jury, and only the legal authority of a grand jury would give the FBI subpoena power to conduct a real investigation. If Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to allow a grand jury, Comey “could have gone public with his request, and threatened to resign if it was not followed. … Instead, Mr. Comey acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought.”

That lack of courage put Comey in his no-win situation when more evidence happened to come to light shortly before Election Day. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)