April 9, 2016: Cheryl Mills is interviewed by the FBI; she isn’t concerned about classified information in emails she forwarded to Clinton.

Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff when Clinton was secretary of state and since then has been one of Clinton’s lawyers. The date and most details of the interview will remain secret until it’s mentioned in a September 2016 FBI report.

Mills refuses to answer some questions, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Cheryl Mills and Hillary Clinton at the House Benghazi Committee hearing on June 28, 2016. (Credit: Chip Somodaville / Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills and Clinton at the House Benghazi Committee hearing on October 23, 2015. (Credit: Chip Somodaville / Getty Images)

The FBI shows Mills seven emails that she forwarded to Clinton which contain information later determined to be classified. Acccording to the FBI, although “Mills did not specifically remember any of the emails, she stated that there was nothing in them that concerned her regarding their transmission on an unclassified email system. Mills also stated that she was not concerned about her decision to forward certain of these emails to Clinton.”

Apparently, some of the emails reviewed by Mills are classified at the “top secret/Special Access Program” (TP/SAP) level. Because the FBI will mention that while “reviewing emails related to the SAP referenced above, Mills explained that some of the emails were designed to inform State [Department] officials of media reports concerning the subject matter and that the information in the emails merely confirmed what the public already knew. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

April 9, 2016: Cheryl Mills tells the FBI she never knew Clinton’s emails got deleted.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

In late March 2015, Paul Combetta, an employee of Platte River Networks (PRN), deleted all of Clinton’s emails from her private server and then used a computer program to permanently wipe them. Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers and her former chief of staff, had communications with Combetta in that time period, including speaking in a conference call in which he also participated just after the deletions were done, on March 31, 2015.

However, Mills is interviewed by the FBI on this date, and the FBI will later report that “Mills stated she was unaware that [Combetta] had conducted these deletions and modifications in March 2015.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Mills’ claim is particularly surprising considering that Mills has continued to work as one of Clinton’s lawyers and in August 2015, it was reported that Clinton’s campaign had acknowledged “that there was an attempt to wipe [Clinton’s private] server before it was turned over last week to the FBI.” (NBC News, 8/19/2015)

April 15, 2016: Three Clinton aides will be publicly deposed about the email scandal.

State Department lawyers strike a deal with Judicial Watch over how depositions from three Clinton aides will work. Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Bryan Pagliano will be deposed, and their depositions can be videotaped and made public.

However, questions to them will be limited to how Clinton’s private server was created and operated, as well as how the State Department processed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that potentially involved emails from Clinton and/or Abedin. Furthermore, Judicial Watch agrees not to depose Diplomatic Security official Donald Reid. The deposition of three more State Department officials, Patrick Kennedy, Lewis Lukens, and Stephen Mull, remain unresolved. (Politico, 4/16/2016)

May 4, 2016: Six former State Department officials are to be deposed under oath in the next two months.

Lewis Lukens (Credit: public domain)

Lewis Lukens (Credit: public domain)

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan says the depositions are necessary in order to determine if the department conducted an adequate search regarding Judicial Watch’s 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the employment of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, since she had three outside jobs at one point.

Deposition questions are to be limited to the set-up and management of Clinton’s private server, since the department failed to reveal Clinton’s emails on the server in response to the FOIA request. The former aides due to be deposed in the next two months are:

  • Huma Abedin
  • Cheryl Mills
  • Bryan Pagliano
  • Patrick Kennedy
  • Stephen Mull
  • Lewis Lukens
  • plus, someone to be decided by the State Department.

Judicial Watch could make a video of their interviews public. (LawNewz, 5/4/2016) (The Associated Press, 5/4/2016)

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 17, 2016: Depositions in a civil lawsuit related to Clinton’s emails will begin within days and continue until the end of June.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan is allowing Judicial Watch to depose six US officials under oath, mostly Clinton’s former aides, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, on the following dates:

  • May 18: Former deputy assistant secretary of state Lewis Lukens will be interviewed on May 18.
  • May 27: Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills.
  • June 3: Stephen Mull, former State Department executive secretary.
  • June 6: Bryan Pagliano, Clinton’s former computer technician who managed her private server.
  • June 28: Huma Abedin, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff.
  • June 29: Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management since 2007 until current.

Judicial Watch can interview each witness for up to seven hours, and the video of the interviews can be made public several days later. The questioning will be limited, but includes the issue of how Clinton’s private server was set up and managed, and why the State Department didn’t properly fulfill FOIA requests for Clinton’s emails. (The Wall Street Journal, 5/17/2016) (Judicial Watch, 5/17/2015)

May 25, 2016: Clinton and her top aides refused to be interviewed for the State Department inspector general’s report criticizing her email practices.

The nine former Clinton aides who were not interviewed by the Office of Inspector General (in order as listed).

The nine former Clinton aides who were not interviewed by the Office of Inspector General (in order as listed).

The report released on this day notes that it interviewed “dozens” of present and former State Department officials, including current Secretary of State John Kerry and the three secretaries prior to Clinton: Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. However, Clinton refused to be interviewed. Furthermore, nine of Clinton’s former top aides were singled out in the report for not being interviewed:

  • Cheryl Mills, chief of staff;
  • Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff for operations;
  • Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff for policy, and then director of policy planning;
  • Philippe Reines, deputy assistant secretary for strategic communication;
  • John Bentel, director of the Information Resources Management (IRM) office;
  • Bryan Pagliano, special advisor to the deputy chief information officer (who also privately managed Clinton’s private server);
  • Heather Samuelson, senior advisor to the department (who determined which of Clinton’s emails to delete in late 2014);
  • Thomas Nides, deputy secretary of state for management and resources; and
  • Justin Cooper, whom the report calls “an individual based in New York who provided technical support for Secretary Clinton’s personal email system but who was never employed by the Department.”

The only other person singled out by the report for refusing to be interviewed is Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) 

The report was many months in the making. But on May 8, 2016, only two weeks before the report’s release, Clinton claimed in an interview that when it came to her emails, “I’m more than ready to talk to anybody, anytime. And I’ve encouraged all of… my assistants to be very forthcoming.” (CNN, 5/8/2016) 

Later in the day, Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon defends Clinton’s decision not to cooperate with the report by saying, “To our mind, it made sense to prioritize the [FBI investigation] and so, accordingly, Hillary Clinton has said since last August that she’ll be happy to sit with them at whatever point they approach her, which has not happened yet.” However, he didn’t clarify why Clinton couldn’t have cooperated with both investigations, especially since the FBI hasn’t even contacted her yet. (Politico, 5/25/2016)

May 25, 2016: Clinton didn’t consult with anybody about exclusively using a personal email address or private server for work matters.

Cheryl Mills speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Fox News)

Cheryl Mills speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Fox News)

When former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills testified to the House Benghazi Committee in a private session on September 3, 2015, her comments remained secret.

However, on this day, a State Department inspector general’s report makes one portion of her testimony public. Mills was asked by the committee, “Was anyone consulted about Secretary Clinton exclusively using a personal email address for her work?”

Mills replied, “I don’t recall that. If it did happen, I wasn’t part of that process. But I don’t believe there was a consultation around it, or at least there’s not one that I’m aware of…”

Mills then was asked if Clinton consulted with “private counsel,” or “the general counsel for the State Department,” or “anybody from the National Archives [and Records Administation (NARA)],” or “anyone from the White House.”

Mills replied she wasn’t aware of any consultation from any of those people either.

The inspector general’s report also included comments from many other senior department officials about this, and “These officials all stated that they were not asked to approve or otherwise review the use of Secretary Clinton’s server and that they had no knowledge of approval or review by other Department staff. These officials also stated that they were unaware of the scope or extent of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account, though many of them sent emails to [her] on this account.” (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

May 26, 2016: A judge blocks the release of audio and video of six Clinton aide depositions, but not the transcripts.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan grants a recent request from Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills to keep audio and video recordings of her upcoming deposition from being made public, at least for now. Mills, who is due to be deposed one day later, argued that such recordings could be used for political purposes against Clinton in the presidential election.

Sullivan writes, “The public has a right to know details related to the creation, purpose and use of the clintonemail.com system. Thus, the transcripts of all depositions taken in this case will be publicly available. It is therefore unnecessary to also make the audiovisual recording of Ms. Mills’ deposition public.” On his own initiative, Sullivan blocks the release of all audio and video recordings of the five other former Clinton aides due to be deposed in the suit he is presiding over.

Politico reports, “Sullivan did not signal what his concern was about improper use of the videos, nor did he explain whether he agreed with Mills’ attorneys that the videos were more susceptible to misuse or distortion than the written transcripts that will be released.” Sullivan orders that the audio and video should be filed with the court, raising the possibility they could be released later. (Politico, 5/26/2016)

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)

June 20, 2016: The RNC files a motion in a civil suit demanding that the State Department speed the release of emails from three former top Clinton aides.

Under Secretary of Management Patrick Kennedy testifies before the House Benghazi Committee on October 12, 2012. (Credit: Getty Images)

Under Secretary of Management Patrick Kennedy testifies before the House Benghazi Committee on October 12, 2012. (Credit: Getty Images)

Two weeks earlier, the department claimed it could take 75 years to process the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request by the RNC [Republican National Committee]. The RNC is asking for more emails from Under Secretary of Management Patrick Kennedy, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills, and Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano. They have dropped a request for emails from former Clinton aide Jake Sullivan, due to the department’s claim of being overwhelmed.

The RNC criticizes the department’s “tortoise-like” response, and claims it is using “stall tactics” and misleading legal tricks in order to delay the release until after the November 2016 presidential election. It lambasts the department’s claim that it can process only 500 pages of emails a month, noting that would set a historical record for the slowest department response time to FOIA requests.

It is probable that the emails would contain previously unknown emails to and from Clinton, since recently released emails from former Clinton aide Huma Abedin have done so. (The Hill, 6/21/2016)

June 29, 2016: The State Department wants to delay the release of emails between Clinton’s former aides and the Clinton Foundation until well after the 2016 presidential election.

Melanne Verveer (left) (Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs,Michael Fuchs (right) (Credit: Center for American Progress)

Former Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer (left) (Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Michael Fuchs (right) (Credit: Center for American Progress)

Conservative group Citizens United has a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking emails that former State Department officials Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs exchanged with employees of the Clinton Foundation or Teneo Consulting, a company closely tied to the Clintons. The court has ordered the emails to be released by July 21, 2016.

However, Justice Department lawyers acting on behalf of the State Department ask US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras for an extension until October 2018 – more than two years. The State Department says they thought in March 2016 that there were only 6,000 pages of emails to process. But an error was discovered and they now believe there are more than 14,000 pages. The department also complains they are falling behind responding to FOIA requests and lawsuits in general.

Citizens United president David Bossie says, “This is totally unacceptable; the State Department is using taxpayer dollars to protect their candidate Hillary Clinton. The American people have a right to see these emails before the [November 2016 presidential] election. […] The conflicts of interest that were made possible by the activities of Hillary Clinton’s State Department in tandem with the Clinton Foundation are of significant importance to the public and the law enforcement community.” (Politico, 6/29/2016)

 

July 2, 2016: Clinton’s FBI interview is attended by Cheryl Mills and others who have an obvious conflict of interest.

Cheryl Mills, Katherine Turner and David Kendall sit behind Clinton as she appears before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills, Katherine Turner and David Kendall sit behind Clinton as she testifies to the House Select Committee on Benghazi on October 22, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

When an FBI summary of Clinton’s FBI interview on this day will be released in September 2016, it will reveal that five of Clinton’s lawyers are present during her questioning: Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, Heather Samuelson, Katherine Turner, and one whose name is redacted. Three of these lawyers – Mills, Kendall, and Samuelson – also have a key role to play in the Clinton email controversy the FBI investigated, because they were the ones who sorted over 60,000 of Clinton’s emails, which led to the controversial deletion of over 31,000 of them. Both Mills and Samuelson at least were interviewed by the FBI earlier in the investigation.

Furthermore, Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff and close aide through Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, only becoming one of Clinton’s lawyers in 2013 after Clinton became a private citizen again.

Andrew McCarthy (Credit: Gatestone Institute)

Andrew McCarthy (Credit: Gatestone Institute)

Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York later turned journalist, will note this in a later National Review article with the title: “Hillary Clinton’s Mind-Boggling FBI Interview – What Was Cheryl Mills Doing There?”

McCarthy will comment: “Mills was an actor in the facts that were under criminal investigation by the FBI. … [I]t is simply unbelievable to find her turning up at Mrs. Clinton’s interview – participating in the capacity of a lawyer under circumstances where Clinton was being investigated over matters in which Mills participated as a non-lawyer government official.”

He will add, “[L]aw enforcement never [interview] witnesses together – the point is to learn the truth, not provide witnesses/suspects with an opportunity to keep their story straight, which undermines the search for truth.” (National Review, 9/2/2016)

July 2, 2016: The FBI finally interviews Clinton as part of its email investigation.

160702ClintonMeetsFBICliffOwenAP

The Secret Service stands on guard at the home of Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC, on July 2, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

After months of speculation and after interviews with Clinton’s top aides, the FBI finally directly interviews Hillary Clinton. The interview takes place on a Saturday morning over the Fourth of July weekend, and takes place at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Although some news reports one day earlier correctly predicted the day it would take place, no photographers are able to take any pictures of her arriving or leaving.

The New York Times reports, “The interview had been weeks in the making as law enforcement officials and Mrs. Clinton’s team coordinated schedules. Democrats also hoped that holding the interview on a holiday weekend might ease the anticipated storm.”

The interview takes place just three weeks before Clinton is expected to be nominated for president at the Democratic convention. It lasts three and a half hours, a time some consider short after a year-long investigation. It is said to be voluntary, meaning she wasn’t subpoenaed.

Clinton is accompanied into the meeting by her personal lawyer David Kendall, her longtime aides and lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, and Katherine Turner and Amy Saharia, who are lawyers from Kendall’s firm Williams & Connolly. Eight officials from the FBI and the Justice Department conduct the interview.

Little is publicly revealed about the content of the interview. However, one unnamed person who is “familiar with the substance of the session”  characterizes the meeting as “civil” and “businesslike.”

It is anticipated that the interview means the FBI’s interview is nearing a conclusion. However, the Times also reports, “Although the interview on Saturday was an important step toward closure on the email issue, technical analysis of the material remains to be done and could stretch on for an indeterminate period.” (The New York Times, 7/2/2016)

Several days later, it will be revealed that the interview was not recorded, due to FBI policy, and Clinton didn’t have to swear an oath to tell the truth. Also, FBI Director James Comey was not one of the five or six FBI officials to take part, although he had previously given indications that he would. (The Hill, 7/7/2016)

July 2, 2016: Clinton claims she had no role whatsoever in the sorting of her emails, but her account differs from the known facts in one important detail.

In Clinton’s FBI interview on this day, she is asked about her role in sorting her emails from her tenure as secretary of state into work-related and personal emails.

An FBI report published in September 2016 will summarize her response: “In the fall of 2014, Clinton recalled receiving a letter from [the] State [Department] which was also sent to former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Madeline Albright. From the letter, Clinton understood State was concerned there were gaps in their records and requested Clinton’s assistance in filling those gaps. Clinton wanted to assist State, so she directed her legal team to assist in any way they could. Clinton expected her team to provide any work-related or arguably work-related emails to State; however, she did not participate in the development of the specific process to be used or discussions of the locations where her emails might exist. Additionally, Clinton was not consulted on specific emails as to their content being work-related or not. Clinton did not have any conversations regarding procedures if any potentially classified information was discovered during the review of her emails because she had no reason to believe classified information would be found in her email account.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Clinton’s testimony differs from the known facts in one important detail. She claims that she didn’t direct her lawyers (David Kendall, Cheryl Mill, and Heather Samuelson) to begin the sorting process until she was formally asked about her email records at the same time other former secretaries of states were. That took place on October 28, 2014. The sorted work-related emails were given to the State Department on December 5, 2014, a little over one month later. However, Samuelson, the Clinton lawyer who did most of the sorting, said in her FBI interview that the sorting process took “several months.”

Furthermore, it is known that after the State Department informally asked for Clinton’s emails, Samuelson was first given some of Clinton’s emails to sort (all of those involving .gov email addresses) in late July 2014, and then was given all of Clinton’s emails to complete the sorting in late September 2014.

July 5, 2016: FBI Director Comey announces he will not recommend Clinton’s indictment on any charge, but he calls her “extremely careless” in handling highly classified information.

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation for Clinton and her aides on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation in a press conference on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey gives a public speech in front of a group of reporters. The timing is surprising, since this brings an end to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email practices, and just a Sunday and the Fourth of July holiday separate this from the FBI’s interview of Clinton on July 2, 2016. Comey spends most of his speech criticizing Clinton, but ends it by saying he will not recommend that the Justice Department pursue any indictment of Clinton or her aides.

Comey’s fifteen-minute speech includes the following information, in order, with key phrases bolded to assist in understanding.

Comey begins by describing the FBI investigation:

  • The investigation started with a referral from Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough, and “focused on whether classified information was transmitted” on Clinton’s personal email server during her time as secretary of state. It specifically “looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.” The FBI “also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal email server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.”
  • The FBI found that Clinton “used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send email on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways…”
  • The FBI analyzed the over 30,000 work emails that Clinton did turn over to the State Department in December 2014, working with other US government departments to determine which emails contained truly classified information at the time they were sent, and which ones were justifiably classified later.
  • James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    From the group of 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, “110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was ‘top secret’ at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained ‘secret’ information at the time; and eight contained ‘confidential’ information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them ‘confidential’; the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

  • It had previously been reported that the FBI had recovered most or all of the 31,830 emails that Clinton had deleted, allegedly because they contained personal information only. However, Comey reveals that was not the case, and thousands of emails were not recovered. He gives an example of how when one of Clinton’s servers was decommissioned in 2013, the email was removed and broken up into millions of fragments.
  • The FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails” that were not included in the 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, even though Clinton claimed under oath that she had returned all her work-related emails. The FBI found these after they “had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private email domain.” Others were found in the archived government email accounts of other government employees whom Clinton frequently communicated with. Still others were found “from the laborious review of the millions of email fragments” of the server decommissioned in 2013.
  • Out of these additional work emails, three were classified at the time they were sent or received – none at the ‘top secret’ level, one at the ‘secret’ level, and two at the ‘confidential’ level. None were found to have been deemed classified later.
  • Furthermore, Comey claims “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her emails, so it is not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 emails to the State Department.”
  • 160705DeletingAttorneys

    The three Clinton attorneys who deleted emails are David Kendall (left), Cheryl Mills (center), and Heather Samuelson (right). (Credit: public domain)

    However, he also admits that “It could also be that some of the additional work-related emails we recovered were among those deleted as ‘personal’ by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her emails for production in 2014.” He claims that the three lawyers who sorted the emails for Clinton in late 2014 (David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson) “did not individually read the content of all of her emails…” Instead, they used keyword searches to determine which emails were work related, and it is “highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails” that were later found by the FBI elsewhere.

  • Comey states it is “likely” that some emails may have disappeared forever. because Clinton’s three lawyers “deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” But he says that after interviews and technical examination, “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

Comey then begins stating his findings:

  • “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
  • As an example, he points out that “seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the ‘Top Secret/Special Access Program’ [TP/SAP] level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
  • He adds that it was a similar situation with emails classified at the “secret” level when they were sent, although he doesn’t specify how many.
  • He comments, “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at departments and agencies of the US government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”
  • He notes that “only a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”
  • He then criticizes the State Department as a whole. The FBI found evidence that “the security culture” of the State Department “was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.” This was especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.
  • Then he addresses whether “hostile actors” were able to gain access to Clinton’s emails. Although no direct evidence of any successful hacking was found, he points out that “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

After laying out the evidence of what the FBI found, Comey moves to the FBI’s recommendation to the Justice Department. He admits that it is highly unusual to publicly reveal the FBI’s recommendation, but “in this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

Then he comes to these conclusions:

  • “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
  • To justify this decision, he claims he examined other cases involving the mishandling or removal of classified information, and “we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”
  • He then says, “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now. As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.”
  • He concludes by saying the FBI’s investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently, and without any kind of outside influence.

He doesn’t address the possibility of recommending the indictment of any of Clinton’s aides or other figures like Sid Blumenthal or Justin Cooper. He also doesn’t make any mention of the Clinton Foundation, though there have been media reports the FBI has been investigating it as well. After finishing his speech, he leaves without taking any questions from the media. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

July 6, 2016: Although Clinton’s aides won’t be indicted, they may lose their security clearances.

Bill Savarino (Credit: public domain)

Bill Savarino (Credit: public domain)

The New York Times reports that although the FBI has decided not to recommend the indictment of Clinton or her former aides, the FBI’s Clinton investigation has “cast a cloud of doubt over the political futures of a number of her top advisers, including some expected to hold high-level jobs in her administration if she is elected president.”

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said that although there was no clear evidence that Clinton or her aides intended to violate national security laws, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” He also noted that people in similar situations “are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

The Times suggests this could affect the security clearances of “several dozen State Department advisers who, records show, facilitated Mrs. Clinton’s unorthodox email arrangement or used it to send her classified documents.” Those facing the most scrutiny are her former top advisers Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan, who continue to work closely with Clinton.

The State Department has restarted an internal investigation into Clinton’s email usage, and that could lead to some security clearances being revoked. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) has said that, based on the conclusions of the FBI’s investigation, Clinton should be denied the classified briefings normally given the major presidential nominees.

Bill Savarino, a lawyer specializing in security clearances, says, “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. You’ve got a situation here where the woman who would be in charge of setting national security policy as president has been deemed by the FBI unsuitable to safeguard and handle classified information.” He adds that if any of Clinton’s former top aides involved in the controversy were to ask him for help seeking a future security clearance, “I’d tell them that you’ve got a fight on your hands.'”

Sean M. Bigley, another lawyer specializing in security clearances, says his law firm has routinely defended clients who have lost their security clearances because of violations that were “much less egregious” than those described by Comey. “The folks who were involved with this, even on a peripheral basis, at least are going to be facing administrative action, or should be, based on the historical cases we’ve dealt with.” He says the threshold for administrative punishment is much lower than for criminal prosecution. (The New York Times, 7/6/2016)

July 7, 2016: FBI Director James Comey says Clinton gave access to between three and nine people without the proper security clearance, but doesn’t see that as a prosecutable offense.

In a Congressional hearing, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R) asks Comey, “So there are hundreds of classified documents on [Clinton’s private] servers, how many people without a security clearance had access to that server?”

Comey replies, “I don’t know the exact number as I sit here, it’s probably more than two, less than ten.” He also says, “Yes, there’s no doubt that uncleared people had access to the server because even after [Bryan] Pagliano there were others who maintained the server who were private sector folks.” [This is a likely reference to Justin Cooper and possibly others, such as Oscar Flores, Jon Davidson, and Doug Band.]

Additionally, he reveals that Clinton’s three lawyers who sorted her emails and deleted over 31,000 of them — David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson — did not have the “security clearances needed.”

He is asked by Chaffetz, “Does that concern you?”

Comey replies, “Oh yes, sure.”

Chaffetz asks, “Is there any consequence to an attorney rifling through Secretary Clinton’s, Hillary Clinton’s, e-mails without a security clearance?”

Comey responds, “Well, not necessarily criminal consequences, but there’s a great deal of concern about an uncleared person not subject to the requirements we talked [about] potentially having access [to classified information].”

Chaffetz then asks, “What’s the consequence? They don’t work for the government, we can’t fire them, so is there no criminal prosecution of those attorneys. Should they lose their bar license? What’s the consequence to this?”

Comey replies that he doesn’t have proof “they acted with criminal intent or active with some mal-intent…”

Chaffetz complains, “So there’s no intent? It doesn’t matter if these people have security clearances?” He suggests they and Clinton should be prosecuted for this violation.

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Eight people and two businesses were given unauthorized access to Clinton’s private server where top secret information was held. From top left to right they are David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, Platte River Networks, Heather Samuelson and Bryan Pagliano. From bottom left to right they are Douglas Band, Jon Davidson, Datto, Inc., Justin Cooper and Oscar Flores. (Credits have been given to each photo, in the timeline.)

Then he adds, “I asked you at the very beginning, does Hillary Clinton, is there a reasonable expectation that Hillary Clinton would send and receive if not day — hourly if not daily, classified information. That’s reasonable to think that the secretary of state would get classified information every moment. She’s not the head of Fish and Wildlife, so the idea that she would turn over her emails, her system, her server to, what it sounds like, up to ten people without security clearances and there’s no consequence. So why not do it again?”

After more back and forth, he asks, How can [it be] there’s no intent there? Does she not understand that these people don’t have security clearances?”

Comey replies, “Surely she understands at least some of them don’t have security clearances.”

Chaffetz then says, “So she understands they don’t have security clearances and it’s reasonable to think she’s going to be [emailing] classified information. Is that not intent to provide a non-cleared person access to classified information?”

Comey says, “I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume… that someone who is maintaining your server is reading your emails. In fact, I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s a separate thing, which is when she is engaging counsel to comply with the State Department’s request, are her lawyers then exposed [to] information that may be on there that’s classified, so…”

Comey goes on to suggest that there’s no proof that any of her three lawyers read any of Clinton’s classified emails while sorting them. “I don’t know whether they read them at the time.” Then, although he admits that Clinton gave non-cleared people access to classified information, he again argues that proving intent is necessary, and concludes, “I don’t see the evidence there to make a case that she was acting with criminal intent in her engagement with her lawyers.”

Chaffetz comments, “I read criminal intent as the idea that you allow somebody without a security clearance access to classified information. Everybody knows that, Director, everybody knows that.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

July 7, 2016: FBI Director Comey says Clinton’s lawyers didn’t read every email before deleting some of them.

At a Congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey is asked by Representative Trey Gowdy (R), “Secretary Clinton said her lawyers read every one of the emails and were overly inclusive. Did her lawyers read the email content individually?”

Comey simply replies, “No.”

(Clinton’s lawyers involved in sorting her emails are David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson.) In Congressional testimony under oath in October 2015, Clinton claimed that her lawyers did read every email.

Comey also says he doesn’t believe Clinton knew her legal team deleted thousands of work-related emails. And he says, “I don’t think there was any specific instruction or conversation between the secretary and her lawyers” in which Clinton approved that some work-related emails be deleted. He also believes that Clinton didn’t “know that her lawyers cleaned devices in such a way to preclude forensic recovery,” a matter about which the FBI asked Clinton  in her FBI interview. (Politico, 7/7/2016) (CNN, 7/7/2016)

July 7, 2016: The State Department resumes its Clinton email investigation.

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John Kirby (Credit: CCTV-America)

In January 2016, it was reported that the State Department had started its own investigation into Clinton’s email practices while Clinton was secretary of state. (This is separate from the State Department inspector general’s investigation, which concluded in late May 2016). However, this investigation was put on hold in March 2016 in deference to the FBI’s investigation. Now that the FBI finished its investigation on July 5, 2016, the State Department is resuming its own investigation.

Department spokesperson John Kirby announces the resumption, but he doesn’t reveal many details about it. He also sets no deadline for when it will be completed.

It is believed the investigation will consider administrative sanctions against Clinton and her aides. Although most of them are out of government, they could face some problematic penalties, such as the loss of security clearances, which could prevent future government employment. The investigation is likely looking into the past behavior of aides such as Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan, as well as Clinton herself. (The Associated Press, 7/7/2016)

The BBC comments that this means “Hillary Clinton – and some of her most trusted senior advisors – will twist in the wind a while longer. The State Department’s renewed inquiry into possible mishandling of classified information in emails is not nearly as serious as the recently closed FBI criminal investigation, but it keeps the email server story alive for an indeterminate period of time.”

Clinton cannot lose her security clearance if she’s elected president in November 2016, but she could be prevented from including some of her most trusted aides into positions in her administration if they lose their security clearances. The State Department’s investigation also is likely to help keep the controversy alive at least through Election Day. (BBC, 7/7/2016)

July 22, 2016: More details of Clinton’s twenty-two “top secret” emails are revealed; nine were written by Clinton and most of the rest were written by her aide Jake Sullivan.

As part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, the State Department reveals more information about seven chains of 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. (Curiously, FBI Director James Comey mentioned on July 5, 2016 that there actually were eight “top secret” email chains, but the eighth chain is not mentioned by the department.)

The contents of the emails remain totally classified, but previous media reports indicate that most of them discussed approval for covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, and some of them may have identified CIA operatives working undercover.

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A sample of the Vaughn Index form submitted by the State Department, in response to the Vice News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: public domain)

For the first time, the department reveals which years the emails were sent and who sent and received them. All the emails were from 2011 or 2012 – the State Department began to have a say in approving CIA drone strikes in 2011. Nine of the emails were written by Clinton, and the other thirteen were written by her aide Jake Sullivan. Two were also cc’d by Sullivan to her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and/or Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

The State Department disclosure comes in the form of a “Vaughn Index,” which is a document used by government departments in FOIA lawsuits to justify the withholding of information under various FOIA exemptions. Vaughn Indexes contain at least some information about the withheld text, to justify keeping it redacted, but this one does not. Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says that according to government regulations, “State’s document does not fulfill the requirements for a Vaughn index.” (Vice News, 7/22/2016) (The Hill, 7/22/2016)

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)

August 11, 2016: The State Department fails to answer questions about a possible conflict of interest involving the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills in June 2012.

In January 2016, Senator Charles Grassley (R), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking about Cheryl Mills’ role in picking the next head of the Clinton Foundation by interviewing two candidates for that position on June 20, 2012. At the time, Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff in the State Department, and Clinton had vowed not to allow any action that even created the appearance of a conflict of interest between Clinton’s management of the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.

However, on August 11, 2016, CNN reports that Grassley still has received no official reply from the State Department.

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Scott Amey (Credit: public domain)

Scott Amey, an attorney for the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), says, “Congress has a rightful right to ask for any information that it wants to from the executive branch of government to keep track of them. And the government should be turning that information over. When you have a breakdown in that system, we have a breakdown in our democracy.”

CNN also asks the State Department if Mills had or needed permission from the department for the trip, or if anyone from the department was even aware of what she was doing. A department spokesperson doesn’t directly answer the question, except to say that Mills had the right to do what she wanted on her own time if it was strictly voluntary in nature. (CNN, 8/11/2016)

August 16, 2016: The Boston Globe argues that the Clinton Foundation should be entirely shut down if Clinton is elected president.

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The Boston Globe Logo (Credit: public domain)

The Boston Globe‘s editorial board writes an editorial entitled: “Clinton Foundation should stop accepting funds.” The Globe opines: “Since its founding, the foundation has supported relief in Haiti, global health, and other good causes. It also provided posts or paychecks for some members of the Clinton political team, like Cheryl Mills, Douglas Band, and Huma Abedin, and afforded the former president a platform and travel budget. Many of the foundation’s donations come from overseas, including from foreign governments with troubling human rights records.”

The editorial concludes: “Winding down the foundation, and transferring its assets to some other established charity, doesn’t have to hurt charitable efforts. If the foundation’s donors are truly motivated by altruism, and not by the lure of access to the Clintons, then surely they can find other ways to support the foundation’s goals.  … The Clintons should move now to end donations to the foundation, and make plans to shut it down in November. Even if they’ve done nothing illegal, the foundation will always look too much like a conflict of interest for comfort.” (The Boston Globe, 8/16/2016)

Two days later, the foundation will announce some changes, including refusing all foreign donations if Clinton is elected, but it won’t go nearly as far as this editorial suggests.

August 25, 2016: It is alleged that Clinton’s lawyers used a computer program to make sure her deleted emails couldn’t be recovered.

Since late 2014, when Clinton and her lawyers deleted over 31,000 of Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state, it has been unclear if the emails were simply deleted or “wiped,” meaning deliberate steps were taken to make sure they couldn’t be recovered later.

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Trey Gowdy appears with Martha MacCallum on Fox News on August 25, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

In an interview, Representative Trey Gowdy (R) says that, “[Clinton] and her lawyers [Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, and Heather Samuelson] had those emails deleted. And they didn’t just push the delete button; they had them deleted where even God can’t read them. They were using something called BleachBit. You don’t use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridemaids emails. When you’re using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.”

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BleachBit Logo (Credit: public domain)

BleachBit is computer software whose website advertises that it can “prevent recovery” of files. Politico notes that if Gowdy is correct, this would be “further proof that Clinton had something to hide in deleting personal emails from the private email system she used during her tenure as secretary of state.” It is not explained how Gowdy might know this, but his comments come only a few days after the FBI gave raw materials about their Clinton email investigation to Congress. (Politico, 8/25/2016)

Gowdy’s claim contradicts what FBI Director James Comey said on July 5, 2016 when he announced that he would not recommend charging Clinton with any crime. At that time, Comey stated, “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

Within hours of Gowdy’s comments, BleachBit updates their website to say: “Last year when Clinton was asked about wiping her email server, she joked, ‘Like with a cloth or something?’ It turns out now that BleachBit was that cloth, according to remarks by Gowdy.” The website also notes, “As of the time of writing BleachBit has not been served a warrant or subpoena in relation to the investigation. … The cleaning process [of our program] is not reversible.” (BleachBit, 8/25/2016)

On September 2, 2016, the FBI’s final report on their Clinton email investigation will be released, and it will be revealed that BleachBit was used on Clinton’s server in late March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

September 2, 2016: Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin denied they knew about the existence of Clinton’s private server, despite evidence otherwise.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report, released on this day, mentions: “Clinton’s immediate aides, to include [Cheryl] Mills, [Huma] Abedin, [Jake] Sullivan, and [redacted] told the FBI they were unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at [the State Department] or when it became public knowledge. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

However, emails from when Clinton was secretary of state indicate otherwise, at least for Mills and Abedin:

  • Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s server that she often used. On February 27, 2010, she sent an email to Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide helping to manage the server, “HRC [Clinton] email coming back—is server okay?” Cooper replied, “UR [You are] funny. We are on the same server.” These emails were sent to Mills as well.
  • On January 9, 2011, Cooper sent Abedin an email mentioning that he “had to shut down the server” due to a hacking attack.. He sent her another email later in the day, saying he had to shut it down again.
  • On August 30, 2011, State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull emailed Mills, Abedin, and two others, informing them that he was trying to give Clinton a State Department-issued Blackberry “to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning… possibly because of [sic] her personal email server is down.” Abedin sent an email in reply, and a discussion in person apparently followed.
  • The FBI’s final report also indicates that Abedin was instrumental in the creation of the server. “At the recommendation of Huma Abedin… in or around fall 2008, [Cooper] contacted Bryan Pagliano… to build the new server system and to assist Cooper with the administration of the new server system.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

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)

September 20, 2016: Congressional Republicans press for more documents from the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a classified hearing with Peter Kadzik, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, to discuss document requests. Although the hearing is held behind closed doors, Politico will report on what takes place several days later.

Peter Kadzik (Credit: Molly Riley / The Associated Press)

Peter Kadzik (Credit: Molly Riley / The Associated Press)

Republicans believe the hearing is necessary because their request for a completely unredacted copy of the FBI’s Clinton investigation report has gone unanswered. They also have questions about the immunity deals the department handed out during the Clinton email investigation, and want to know who else besides Bryan Pagliano and Paul Combetta (both managers of Clinton’s private servers) received legal protection, who agreed to the immunity deals, and whether the deals require recipients to cooperate with other investigative bodies.

Politico writes, “Kadzik wouldn’t say. A Democratic source said he could not answer the questions because Republicans had only asked for the information a few hours earlier in a letter to the Justice Department, and the answers weren’t fully researched.”

Kadzik’s refusal to answer their questions doesn’t go over well with Republicans, and according to one Republican source, “the meeting deteriorate[s] from there.” Another Republican threatens a public hearing where Kadzik would have to testify if he fails to provide the information requested, and in effect dares him to say that “Congress [isn’t] entitled to it.”

The Justice Department will deliver the unredacted copies of the immunity agreements for Pagliano and Combetta on September 22, 2016, and the immunity agreements for former State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, and John Bentel will be provided the following day. (Politico, 09/23/2016)

September 23, 2016: Three more people were given immunity deals in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claims the Justice Department was “handing out immunity deals like candy” in the Clinton email investigation. Chaffetz claims the Justice Department “exempted key physical evidence from any potential criminal case against the aides.”

According to Chaffetz, three former Clinton aides – Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, and John Bentel – were granted immunity deals in exchange for their cooperation. Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff and then has been one of her lawyers  Samuelson was a State Department aide and then also has been a Clinton lawyer. Bentel was director of the department’s Office of Information Resources Management (IRM).

The Justice Department provided copies of the immunity agreements to the House Oversight Committee this week, under seal. The information was then leaked to the Associated Press.

Mills “gave federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that what they found couldn’t be used against her.” It is believed the same happened to Samuelson. Bentel apparently refused to be interviewed by the FBI until he got an immunity deal.

This brings the total number of people who were granted immunity as part of the FBI’s investigation to at least five. It has previously been reported that Bryan Pagliano and Paul Combetta were given immunity for their cooperation with the FBI. (The Associated Press, 09/23/16)

September 28, 2016: Comey suggests he didn’t try to get subpoena power for the Clinton email investigation in order to complete it faster.

Representative Tom Marino (Credit: Getty Images)

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Tom Marino (R) asks FBI Director James Comey why he made immunity deals with key figures in the Clinton email investigation instead of using subpoena power. In particular, he wants to know why deals were made to get access to the laptops of Clinton’s lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Comey replies, “Anytime you’re talking about the prospect of subpoenaing a computer from a lawyer, it involves the lawyer’s practice of law, you know you’re getting into a big Megillah.”

Marino, who was a district attorney and US attorney before being elected to Congress, then asks, “I understand that, clearly. Why did you not decide to go to an investigative grand jury? It would have been cleaner, it would have been much simpler, and you would have had more authority to make these witnesses testify. Not the target, but the witnesses testify. That seems the way to go, Director. We’ve done it thousands of times. This was just too convoluted.”

Comey replies, “Again, I need to steer clear of talking about grand jury use in a particular matter. In general, in my experience, you can often do things faster with informal agreements, especially when you’re interacting with lawyers. In this particular investigation, the investigative team really wanted to get access to the laptops that were used to sort these emails. Those are lawyers’ laptops. That is a very complicated thing. I think they were able to navigate it pretty well to get us access.”

Later in the hearing, Comey adds that the investigation “couldn’t be concluded professionally without doing our best to figure out what was on those laptops. So, getting the laptops was very important to me and to the investigative team.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (C-SPAN, 9/28/2016)

In contradiction to his answer on this day, in April 2016, he said of the investigation, “The urgency is to do it well and promptly. And ‘well’ comes first.” And in May 2016, he said “I don’t tether to any external deadline” to finish the investigation, such as the Democratic convention in July 2016.

October 5, 2016: The Justice Department allegedly made immunity side deals that ordered the destruction of key evidence and limited what the FBI could search.

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

The chairs of several House and Senate committees write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, with questions about the limitations the Justice Department placed on the investigation of Clinton’s private server. The signatories of this letter are: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R), House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes (R).

According to the letter, recently released documents suggest the department, “agreed to substantial and inappropriate limitations on the scope of [the FBI’s Clinton email] investigation.” The restrictions were discovered in the course of the committees’ review of the immunity agreements for former Clinton staffers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:

  • “We write to express our concerns about the process by which Congress was allowed to view the [Beth] Wilkinson letters, that the letters inappropriately restrict the scope of the FBI’s investigation, and that the FBI inexplicably agreed to destroy the laptops knowing that the contents were the subject of Congressional subpoenas and preservation letters.” (Wilkinson is the lawyer to both Mills and Samuelson.)
  • “These limitations would necessarily have excluded, for example, any emails from Cheryl Mills to [Platte River Networks employee] Paul Combetta in late 2014 or early 2015 directing the destruction or concealment of federal records. Similarly, these limitations would have excluded any email sent or received by Secretary Clinton if it was not sent or received by one of the four email addresses listed, or the email address was altered.”
  • “Further, the Wilkinson letters memorialized the FBI’s agreement to destroy the laptops. This is simply astonishing given the likelihood that evidence on the laptops would be of interest to congressional investigators.”
  • “The Wilkinson letters raise serious questions about why [the Justice Department] would consent to such substantial limitations on the scope of its investigation, and how Director Comey’s statements on the scope of the investigation comport with the reality of what the FBI was permitted to investigate.”

In closing, so that the committee chairs can better understand the DOJ’s basis for agreeing to these restrictions, the letter includes eleven questions for Loretta Lynch, and answers must be submitted no later than October 19, 2016. (US Congress, 10/05/2016)

October 6, 2016: FBI insiders are highly critical of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.

A New York Post article claims that “[v]eteran FBI agents say FBI Director James Comey has permanently damaged the bureau’s reputation for uncompromising investigations with his ‘cowardly’ whitewash of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information using an unauthorized private email server.”

Dennis Hughes, a retired head of the FBI’s computer investigations unit, is critical that the FBI agreed to certain ground rules in some key interviews. For instance, certain topics were deemed off limits when Cheryl Mills was interviewed. Hughes says, “In my 25 years with the bureau, I never had any ground rules in my interviews.” He also comments about the investigation in general, “The FBI has politicized itself, and its reputation will suffer for a long time. I hold Director Comey responsible.”

Retired FBI agent Michael Biasello says, “Comey has single-handedly ruined the reputation of the organization.” He also says the special treatment given Clinton and her aides was “unprecedented, which is another way of saying this outcome was by design.” He calls Comey’s decision not to recommend any indictment “cowardly.”

Biasello further comments, “Each month for 27 years, I received oral and computer admonishments concerning the proper protocol for handling top secret and other classified material, and was informed of the harsh penalties, to include prosecution and incarceration,” for mishandling such material. “Had myself or my colleagues engaged in behavior of the magnitude of Hillary Clinton, as described by Comey, we would be serving time in Leavenworth.”

I.C. Smith (Credit: public domain)

I.C. Smith (Credit: public domain)

I. C. Smith worked at FBI headquarters as a section head in the National Security Division, then was head of the FBI office in Little Rock, Arkansas. He says, “FBI agents upset with Comey’s decision have every reason to feel that way. Clearly, there was a different standard applied to Clinton.”

He adds, “I have no doubt resourceful prosecutors and FBI agents could have come up with some charge that she would have been subject to prosecution. What she did is absolutely abhorrent for anyone who has access to classified information.” He suggests that Congress should subpoena agents to testify about the directions given by Comey and their supervisors. “It would be interesting to see what the results would be if those involved with the investigation were questioned under oath.”

The 25 or so agents who worked on the case cannot make any public comments, even anonymously, because they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and take lie detector tests. But other active agents are critical. For instance, an unnamed FBI agent still working in the Washington field office says, “The director is giving the bureau a bad rap with all the gaps in the investigation. There’s a perception that the FBI has been politicized and let down the country.” (The New York Post, 10/6/2016)

October 12, 2016: An unnamed high-ranking FBI official claims that the “vast majority” of agents working on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation believe Clinton should have been indicted.

The “high-ranking FBI official” speaks to Fox News on the condition of anonymity, but the person’s “identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.” According to this source, “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute” anyone in the investigation at all, but “it was a top-down decision” by FBI Director James Comey.

The source says that when it came to Clinton specifically, “It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted. We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing [on July 5, 2016] because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.” And while it might not have been a totally unanimous decision to recommend Clinton’s indictment, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.” However, even that never happened, despite it being standard procedure in similar cases.

The source adds that FBI agents were particularly upset that Comey unilaterally made the decision not to indict when the FBI’s role is merely to present an investigative report to the Justice Department. “Basically, James Comey hijacked the [Justice Department]’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.’ The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor. … I know zero prosecutors in the [Justice Department]’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury. One was never even convened.” Without a grand jury, FBI agents were not allowed to issue subpoenas or search warrants and could only request evidence and interviews.

The source also complains that the FBI required its agents and analysts involved in the investigation to sign non-disclosure agreements. “This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process.”

Furthermore, immunity deals were made with five key figures in the investigation: Cheryl Mills, Bryan Pagliano, Paul Combetta, John Bentel, and Heather Samuelson. The source says none of them should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought. “[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess. That’s why you give immunity. … Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal. We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”

Additionally, “Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility.”

The source also comments, “Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. The bar for [the Justice Department] is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”

Finally, the source claims that many in the FBI and the Justice Department believe Comey and Lynch were motivated by ambition instead of justice. “Loretta Lynch simply wants to stay on as attorney general under Clinton, so there is no way she would indict. James Comey thought his position [heavily criticizing Clinton even as he decides against indicting her] gave himself cover to remain on as director regardless of who wins.”

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and judicial analyst for Fox News, also claims to know of many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation who have similar beliefs. He says, “It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward. They believe the decision not to prosecute came from the White House.” (Fox News, 10/12/2016)

The next day, Malia Zimmerman, a co-writer of the article, is questioned on Fox News television. She claims that she has been speaking to other disgruntled FBI agents as well. “They’re saying that the morale is very low and that a lot of them are looking for other jobs. They’re very disappointed. They feel like the agency has been polluted… and they’re embarrassed. They feel like they’ve been betrayed.”

She adds that some of her sources might be willing to speak on the record if they retire or change jobs, which some of them are in the process of doing. But they are currently worried about retaliation. “There are a lot of disgruntled agents, analysts, and [Justice Department] attorneys as well.” These people feel Clinton could have been charged for various reasons, but her 22 “top secret” emails made the most compelling case. (Fox News, 10/13/2016)

November 1, 2016: The FBI never asked Clinton’s aides for all their computers and mobile devices.

Politico reports that the FBI never asked Clinton’s top aides for their computers and mobile devices as part of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. An unnamed source familiar with the investigation says, “No one was asked for devices by the FBI.”

Because the investigation didn’t have subpoena power, it could only ask for people to cooperate, or make immunity deals with them. The FBI did make an effort to get Clinton’s computers and mobile devices, and made immunity deals with Clinton lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson to get their computer laptops, but FBI requests didn’t go much beyond that.

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O'Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O’Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (R), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, says, “The more we learn about the FBI’s initial investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server, the more questions we have about the thoroughness of the investigation and the administration’s conclusion to not prosecute her for mishandling classified information.”

Politico suggests that the FBI might not have asked for what Clinton’s aides possessed because of a focus on Clinton and her server and mobile devices. “It’s also possible the FBI or prosecutors elected not to demand all the Clinton aides’ computers and other electronics because doing so might have triggered a legal battle that could have slowed the probe.”

The issue about what Clinton’s aides may have possessed came to the fore after the FBI reopened the Clinton email investigation after emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin were discovered on a computer owned by her estranged husband Anthony Weiner. In an April 2016 FBI interview and then in a public deposition in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2016, Abedin said she gave her lawyers all devices she thought might contain State Department-related emails. However, it appears no government entity ever asked for any of her devices, so her lawyers never gave them up to anyone.

Abedin was asked for all her work-related emails from her time in the State Department in another FOIA lawsuit, but not the computers or devices the emails were stored on.

The same appears to be true for other top Clinton aides like Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Bryan Pagliano, and others, with the few exceptions noted above.(Politico, 11/1/2016)

November 2, 2016: The FBI allegedly has not destroyed the laptops of two Clinton aides, and their immunity deals may have been voided.

In October 2016, it was reported that Clinton’s aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson got immunity deals in return for their cooperation in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, and in return for turning over their computer laptops, the FBI promised to destroy those laptops after analyzing the data on them.

However, on this day, Fox News reporter Bret Baier claims, “As a result of the limited immunity deals to top aides, including Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the Justice Department had tentatively agreed that the FBI would destroy those laptops after a narrow review. We are told definitively that has not happened. Those devices are currently in the FBI field office here in Washington, DC, and are being exploited. The source points out that any immunity deal is null and void if any subject lied at any point in the investigation.” (Real Clear Politics, 11/2/2016)