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

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The Datto SIRIS S2000 (Credit: Datto, Inc.)

In June 2013, Platte River Networks (PRN) takes over management of Clinton’s server. Late in the month, they replace the server with a new one and then transfer the data to it. They subcontract with the company Datto, Inc. and purchase a device called the Datto SIRIS S2000 to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the new server. The first such back-up takes place on June 24, 2013.

But data is still being transferred from the old server to the new one. The June 29, 2013 back-up will later prove to be the most important one for FBI investigators, as it apparently is the first one after the data transfer is completed. From that point onwards, emails from Clinton’s four years as secretary of state are likely to only get lost from the server, not added.

The FBI will later report that all of Clinton’s emails at the start of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, from January 23, 2009 to March 17, 2009 were missing from the over 30,000 emails Clinton handed over. But the FBI’s Clinton investigation recovered some these emails because they were “captured through a Datto backup on June 29, 2013. However, the emails obtained are likely only a subset of the emails sent or received by Clinton during this time period.”

Clinton’s first server was replaced around March 18, 2009 by the same server that PRN then decided to replace in June 2013. But presumably some of the emails on the first server were transferred to the second server, from instance by being in email inboxes, and then were transferred again by PRN to the newest (and third) server.

One thing that isn’t clear is how many of the emails from after March 18, 2009 were recovered by the FBI. It also isn’t clear if the FBI recovered emails from a Datto device attached to the new server, or if it was from a copy of the data that Datto kept in the “cloud,” over the Internet. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

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

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

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

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

February 2014: A laptop containing all of Clinton’s emails from one year earlier is permanently lost in the mail.

In the spring of 2013, Clinton aide Monica Hanley made a copy of all of Clinton’s emails on a MacBook laptop to make a safe back-up copy of them. Then she apparently forgot to do anything with it for nearly a full year.

The 2013 Apple Mac Book Air Laptop (Credit: public domain)

The 2013 Apple MacBook Air Laptop (Credit: public domain)

In early 2014, Hanley finds the laptop where it has been stored at her personal residence. She attempts to transfer the archive of Clinton’s emails to Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company which is managing Clinton’s private server by this time. She works with PRN employee Paul Combetta. After trying unsuccessfully to remotely transfer the emails to him, Hanley ships the laptop to his residence in February 2014. Combetta then transfers Clinton’s emails from the laptop onto Clinton’s private server.

This server already should contain all of Clinton’s old emails. But the server that existed when Hanley made the back-up in the spring of 2013 was replaced in June 2013 by a new server, so it is possible that some emails get transferred at the time didn’t get successfully transferred before.

Combetta transfers all of the Clinton email content to a personal Gmail email address he created. Then he downloads all the emails from the Gmail account to a mailbox on the new Clinton server. He will later tell the FBI that he used the Gmail as a middle step because he had format compatibility issues.

Hanley will later tell the FBI that she recommended that PRN wipe the laptop after the emails were transferred to the server. (“Wiping” means repeatedly overwriting the data so it can never be recovered.) However, Combetta will tell the FBI that once the transfer was done, he deleted the emails from the laptop but didn’t do any wiping. He also deleted the emails uploaded to the Gmail account.

According to the FBI’s final report, Combetta then ships the laptop to a person whose name will later be redacted, but works on Clinton’s staff in some capacity. He ships it through the mail, using United States Postal Service (USPS) or United Parcel Service (UPS). The unnamed Clinton staffer will later tell the FBI that she never received the laptop. She will say that Clinton’s staff was moving offices at the time, and it would have been easy for the package to get lost during the transition period.

According to Combetta’s September 2015 FBI interview, he “shipped the foregoing MacBook back to [redacted], but recalled nothing about the return shipment.” That would presumably mean he shipped it back to Hanley, since she shipped it to him. But in Hanley’s January 2016 interview, she will claim to have asked another woman (whose name is redacted) if they ever received laptop and were told they did not. Thus it would appear Combetta and Hanley will have different accounts of who is sent the laptop.

The laptop is apparently permanently lost. However, some of Clinton’s emails will somehow be recovered from the Gmail account in 2016, even though they were all deleted. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

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

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: public domain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Around December 2014 or January 2015: Copies of Clinton’s emails are deleted from the computers of two of Clinton’s lawyers.

On October 28, 2014, the State Department formally asked Clinton for copies of all her work-related emails, after asking informally for several months. Three lawyers working for Clinton, Cheryl Mills, David Kendall, and Heather Samuelson, then sorted Clinton’s emails into those they deemed work-related or personal.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

According to a later FBI report, “on or around December 2014 or January 2015, Mills and Samuelson requested that [Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta] remove from their laptops all of the emails from the July and September 2014 exports. [Combetta] used a program called BleachBit to delete the email-related files so they could not be recovered.” PRN is the computer company managing Clinton’s emails at the time.

The FBI report will explain, “BleachBit is open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files, clear Internet history, delete system and temporary files and wipe free space on a hard drive. Free space is the area of the hard drive that can contain data that has been deleted. BleachBit’s ‘shred files’ function claims to securely erase files by overwriting data to make the data unrecoverable.”

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ScreenConnect Logo (Credit: public domain)

Combetta then remotely connects to the laptops of Mills and Samuelson using the computer program ScreenConnect to complete the deletions. Clinton’s emails are being stored in a .pst file. Combetta will later tell the FBI “that an unknown Clinton staff member told him s/he did not want the .pst file after the export and wanted it removed from the [Clinton server]” as well.

The Clinton emails are deleted from the laptops of Mills and Samuelson around this time. But another copy of all the emails exist on the server. Combetta will delete those emails as well, in late March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Between December 5, 2014 and December 11, 2014: Clinton tells Mills she doesn’t need her “personal” emails, resulting in Mills telling those managing Clinton’s server to delete them.

In 2016, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will be interviewed by the FBI. Mills will claim that in December 2014, Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. This comes shortly after the State Department formally asked Clinton for all of her work-related emails, on October 28, 2014. This decision has to take place before an email discussing it on December 11, 2014, written Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee managing Clinton’s private server.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Even so, Mills will claim she instructed Combetta to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email account to reflect this change. (PRN is managing Clinton’s private server at the time.) This means that the 31,830 Clinton emails that Mills and Clinton’s other lawyers David Kendall and Heather Samuelson recently decided were not work-related will be deleted after 60 days.

However, Combetta will later say in an FBI interview that he forgot to make the changes to Clinton’s clintonemail.com account and didn’t make them until late March 2015.

Clinton will also later be interviewed by the FBI. She will claim that after her staff sent her work-related emails to the State Department on December 5, 2014, “she was asked what she wanted to do with her remaining personal emails. Clinton instructed her staff she no longer needed the emails. Clinton stated she never deleted, nor did she instruct anyone to delete, her emails to avoid complying with FOIA [Freedom of Information Act], State [Department], or FBI requests for information.”

However, Clinton saying her personal emails were no longer needed, then having Mills tell PRN to have them delete them after 60 days, will result in all of Clinton’s emails that her lawyers deemed personal getting permanently deleted. The FBI will later recover some of the emails through other means and discover that thousands actually were work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

150326BleachBitSystemCleaner1.8

BleachBit System Cleaner 1.8 (Credit: BleachBit)

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

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

June 22, 2015: The House Benghazi Committee releases nearly 60 emails between Clinton and Sid Blumenthal related to Libyan policy.

The committee says the emails should have been provided to them by Clinton but weren’t. (The Hill, 6/22/2015) (House Benghazi Committee, 6/22/2015) Ten emails and parts of five others from Blumenthal are work-related but weren’t included when Clinton claims she handed over all of her work-related emails in December 2014. (The Associated Press, 6/25/2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 27, 2015: Clinton cannot explain the discovery of some emails she didn’t turn over.

Clinton claimed that the first time she used her email address from her private server was on March 18, 2009, so all the emails she has handed over come from after that date. But in the wake of reports that some emails were found from her address two months earlier, Clinton is asked to explain the discrepancy.

She says, “There was a transition period. You know, I wasn’t that focused on my email.”

She adds that the server existed in her house for years before she added her account, and “it apparently took a little time to do that. And so there was about a month where I didn’t have everything already on the server, and we [later] went back, tried to, you know, recover whatever we could recover. And I think it’s also fair to say that, you know, there are some things about this that I just can’t control. I am by no means a technical expert. I relied on people who were.”

The New York Times later comments about her remarks, “The issue of whether Mrs. Clinton has been forthcoming about when she began using the personal account…is only the latest email-related question to distract from her policy positions and message during her presidential campaign.” (The New York Times, 9/27/2009)

December 11, 2015: Emails from Clinton’s computer technician are missing.

The State Department has told Senate investigators that it cannot find the emails of Bryan Pagliano, the Clinton aide who managed her private server. Department officials found a “.pst file” which contains back-up copies of Pagliano’s emails from the time period after Clinton was secretary of state, but his .pst file for Clinton’s time as secretary of state is missing. But it is also revealed that the FBI has taken possession of Pagliano’s government computer, and it is hoped that some of all of the emails will be found there. Senate investigators want the email to help determine if Pagliano should be offered immunity in return for testimony. (Politico, 12/11/2015) 

However, it will later emerge that Pagliano was given immunity by the FBI some months earlier. (The New York Times, 3/3/2016)

December 31, 2015: The State Department hasn’t asked other departments to help find any missing Clinton emails.

In September 2015, the Defense Department gave the State Department some emails between Clinton and former Army General David Petraeus that Clinton had previously not turned over. However, in the months since, the State Department does not appear to have reached out to other departments to determine if they also have copies of emails Clinton failed to turn over. McClatchy Newspapers questioned over a dozen other departments. All of them either said they hadn’t been contacted by the State Department about this or failed to give an answer.

The State Department has not explained why it has failed to ask for help from other departments. It’s unclear how the Defense Department determined it had the emails between Clinton and Petraeus or why it turned them over. (McClatchy Newspapers, 12/31/2015)

March 24, 2016: More of Clinton’s work-related emails that Clinton did not turn over are found.

Tom Fitton (Credit: WorldNetDaily)

Tom Fitton (Credit: WorldNetDaily)

Clinton has claimed that she turned over all her work emails and deleted only the ones that were personal. She also has claimed that she only began using her private email account on March 18, 2009.

However, Judicial Watch forced the State Department to release two previously unknown Clinton emails due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of her records relating to her iPhone or BlackBerry use. It’s not clear why the emails did not appear before.

Judicial Watch makes public an email to Clinton from her chief of staff Cheryl Mills on February 13, 2009 about her BlackBerry, and Clinton’s short email response.

Tom Fitton, the head of Judicial Watch, says, “So now we know that, contrary to her statement under oath suggesting otherwise, Hillary Clinton did not turn over all her government emails. We also know why Hillary Clinton falsely suggests she didn’t use clintonemail.com account prior to March, 18, 2009—because she didn’t want Americans to know… that she knew her BlackBerry and email use was not secure.” (The Hill, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/24/2016) (Judicial Watch, 3/17/2016)

May 5, 2016: 36 more Clinton emails are publicly released, suggesting many more still to come.

In January 2016, a federal judge ordered the State Department to release all the known emails of Huma Abedin from her time as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. This is in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch.

Over 29,000 pages of emails are due to be released in batches, and this is the first batch of 241 pages. Some of the emails are between Abedin and Clinton, and most if not all of them appear to be work-related, showing yet again that Clinton did not turn over all her work-related emails when she gave the State Department over 30,000 emails in December 2014.

21 of the emails between Abedin and Clinton date from January 28, 2009 to March 17, 2009; Clinton had said she didn’t use her new email account until March 18, 2009.

Another 15 emails between them date between March 18, 2009 to October 20, 2012, and do not match any of emails in the State Department’s database of the 30,000 publicly released Clinton emails. Whereas 16 emails dating from March 20, 2009 to May 28, 2009 do appear in that database. (Judicial Watch, 5/5/2016) (US Department of State, 5/1/2016) (US Department of State, 5/1/2016) 

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton comments, “These emails further undermine Hillary Clinton’s statement, under penalty of perjury, suggesting she turned over all of her government emails to the State Department. How many more Hillary Clinton emails is the Obama State Department hiding?” (Judicial Watch, 5/5/2016) Since these emails appear to be:

  • a more or less random selection from all four years of Clinton’s time as secretary of state
  • about half of the emails from March 18, 2009 and afterwards are not included in the 30,000 previously released emails
  • this batch makes up less than one percent of all the Huma Abedin emails due to be released
  • Abedin’s emails make up only about 15 percent of the 30,000 emails

One can reasonably estimate that thousands of the over 31,000 emails Clinton deleted actually are work-related and are likely to be publicly released in later batch releases of Abedin’s emails as well as FOIA lawsuits forcing the release of emails from other top Clinton aides. In fact, if this sample is a truly random sample representative of the rest of the emails from Abedin and other top Clinton aides, well over 10,000 of Clinton’s deleted emails could be work-related.

May 9, 2016: Clinton’s text messages can’t be found.

In March 2016, the Republican National Committee (RNC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more of Clinton’s communications. For the first time, that included a request for all of her text and Blackberry Messenger communications.

However, on this day, the RNC states in a court filing that the State Department has recently informed them that it has not found any documents responsive to that request. (ABC News, 5/9/2016) It is possible some texts could still be on Clinton’s BlackBerry, but it is unclear what happened to it, as there have been no media reports that it was given to the FBI.

May 10, 2016: A key record keeping official says the disappearance of Pagliano’s emails “stink to high heavens.”

Daniel Metcalfe (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / Legal Times)

Daniel Metcalfe (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / Legal Times)

Dan Metcalfe, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy for 25 years, comments on news that the State Department can’t find the emails of Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano: “If it is true that federal records directly documenting his work no longer exist, then that is awfully coincidental, to put it most charitably—especially given the nature of his work and the role he has played in the Clinton email controversy.”

He adds, “And it certainly now raises reasonable suspicion, as it did with the Senate a few months ago, that something was very much amiss here—either with record creation or record preservation, or both. For someone who has taken the Fifth regarding his government activity, it is more than suspicious that his agency suddenly determine that the records that you would ordinarily expect it to have maintained about his work are just not there. […] In short, the whole thing stinks to high heavens.” (LawNewz, 5/10/2016)

May 12, 2016: Over 120 additional Clinton emails are publicly released.

More of Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of state are released by the State Department, due to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits by Judicial Watch. In 2015, Clinton claimed that she didn’t start using her new private email address until March 18, 2009. But all these emails date from before then.

There are 15 emails using her old email address from January 22, 2009 (one day after she became secretary of state) to February 26, 2009. There are another 108 emails using her new email address (hosted on her private server) from January 30, 2009 to March 8, 2009. (Judicial Watch, 5/12/2016) (US Department of State, 4/29/2016) (US Department of State, 4/29/2016) (US Department of State, 4/29/2016) 

LawNewz notes that this email release “contradicts claims made by Clinton and her campaign that she did not begin using the private e-mail server until March 2009. […] The dates of the newly released e-mails also appear to contradict a declaration signed by Clinton, under penalty of perjury, saying she surrendered all her work-related e-mails to the State Department on December 5, 2014.” (LawNewz, 5/13/2016)

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 17, 2016: A “deadman’s switch” file increases speculation that WikiLeaks could soon release more Clinton documents.

(A June 17, 2016 WikiLeaks post, including mention of the "deadman's switch" and a "risk insurance" picture. Credit: public domain)

(A June 17, 2016 WikiLeaks post, including mention of the “deadman’s switch” and a “risk insurance” picture. Credit: public domain)

WikiLeaks posts on the Internet an 88-gigabyte encrypted file labeled “WIKILEAKS INSURANCE,” along with the comment, “Protect our coming publications.” This is believed to be a “deadman’s switch,” meaning that unless WikiLeaks personnel are not there to periodically confirm their status, the file will be automatically decrypted, revealing its contents to those who have downloaded it. WikiLeaks have posted several similar files in previous years.

Heavy.com notes that because of recent comments by WikiLeaks head Julian Assange that the organization will soon be publishing more of Clinton’s emails, “many people are wondering if this insurance file is meant to ensure that WikiLeaks can release potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton.” The file is large enough to contain millions of files if they are all text-based files, but it could include video or other files that take up much more space.

Heavy.com also notes that the reason WikiLeaks doesn’t simply post the files right away is, “The organization often combs through files to redact any sensitive information that might put lives in danger. The INSURANCE file is typically the unredacted version.” (Heavy.com, 6/17/2016)

June 21, 2016: The FBI recovers 302 previously lost Clinton emails from a Gmail account; two of them were deemed classified when they were sent.

In February 2014, an unnamed Platte River Networks (PRN) employee created a Gmail email account and briefly transferred all of Clinton’s emails into it from a back-up of Clinton’s server made in the spring of 2013. He transferred the Clinton emails to a new version of this server, but most of the emails on this server will later be destroyed. He also will tell the FBI that he deleted all of the emails from his Gmail account after completing the transfer.

However, the FBI will later report that on June 21, 2016, FBI investigators discovered 940 Clinton emails that were still on the Gmail account somehow. It has not been explained if the PRN employee simply failed to delete them all or if deleted emails were recovered.

All of the 940 emails date from October 25, 2010 to December 31, 2010. 56 of them were later deemed to be classified at the “confidential” level. 302 of them were not in the over 30,000 emails that Clinton gave to the State Department in December 2014. It has not been specified how many of these were deemed work-related. But of the 302 emails, the FBI gave 18 of them to other departments to for classification review. The State Department decided one email was classified “secret” when it was sent, but then later was downgraded to “confidential.” Another email was “confidential” when it was sent and later downgraded to be unclassified. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

June 29, 2016: At least 160 of Clinton’s work emails have turned up since Clinton said she turned them all over.

The Washington Post reports that “disclosures over the past several weeks have revealed dozens of emails related to Clinton’s official duties that crossed her private server and were not included in the 55,000 pages of correspondence she turned over to the State Department when the agency sought her emails in 2014.”

At least 127 of the new emails have come to light through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests initiated by Judicial Watch, especially the first two batch releases of Huma Abedin’s emails. Since Abedin was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, many of the emails were to or from Clinton about obvious work matters, yet weren’t included in the over 30,000 emails turned over by Clinton. Additionally, more of Clinton’s emails came to light through the May 2016 State Department inspector general’s report, as well as previous leaks to the media, for a total of at least 160 emails.

The Post comments, “The newly disclosed gaps in Clinton’s correspondence raise questions about the process used by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and her lawyers to determine which emails she turned over to the department.”

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon says that both Clinton and Abedin provided “all potentially work-related emails in their possession” to the State Department. “We understand Secretary Clinton had some emails with Huma that Huma did not have, and Huma had some emails with Secretary Clinton that Secretary Clinton did not have.” However, the Post notes that Fallon “has not provided a full explanation for all of the gaps” with her emails. The State Department also has not fully addressed the gaps.

The campaign for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump releases a statement saying, “We now know that Clinton’s repeated assertion that she turned over everything work-related from her time at the State Department is not true.”

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton says, “The most charitable interpretation is that the process she and her attorneys used to cull government emails from the emails she took with her didn’t work. The less charitable interpretation is that these emails were not helpful to Mrs. Clinton, so they were not turned over.” (The Washington Post, 6/29/2016)

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.”
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    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 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: FBI Director Comey says it is unclear if any of Clinton’s emails were deleted by Clinton or anyone else.

At a Congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey is asked by Representative Trey Gowdy (R), “Secretary Clinton said neither she nor anyone else deleted work-related emails from her personal account. Was that true?”

Comey answers, “That’s a harder one to answer. We found traces of work-related emails in — on devices or in slack space. Whether they were deleted or whether when the server was changed out, something happened to them. There’s no doubt that the work-related emails were removed electronically from the email system.” (Politico, 7/7/2016) (CNN, 7/7/2016)

However, in September 2016, the FBI Clinton investigation’s final report will be released, based entirely on information learned by the FBI prior to Comey’s testimony. That makes clear that in late March 2015, someone used a computer program called BleachBit to delete all of Clinton’s emails off her server and then wipe them to prevent their later recovery. It is unknown why Comey fails to mention this.

July 13, 2016: The State Department will eventually release the thousands of deleted work-related Clinton emails discovered by the FBI.

160713MarkTonerpublic

Mark Toner (Credit: public domain)

Department spokesperson Mark Toner says, “We will appropriately and with due diligence process any additional material that we receive from the FBI to identify work-related records and make them available to the public. That’s consistent with our legal obligations.” He says he doen’t know how many emails will be released, or when, but he vows to be “as transparent as we possibly can and try to give a timeframe. But at this point, we just don’t know.”

A day earlier, the FBI said it would return all the deleted emails to the State Department to determine whether they were subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said that investigators “discovered several thousand work-related” messages that were not included in the over 30,000 emails Clinton gave to the government in December 2014.  (The Hill, 7/13/2016)

July 21, 2016: The FBI begins sending thousands of recovered Clinton emails to the State Department.

According to Justice Department lawyers in a new court filing, on July 21, 2016, “the FBI began transferring the retrieved materials to the State Department, and will continue to transfer the retrieved materials to the State Department on a rolling basis.”

In late 2014, Clinton and her lawyers kept about 30,000 emails they deemed work related and deleted another 32,000 they deemed personal. The exact number of deleted emails that the FBI managed to recover or find from other sources has not been specified.

Some emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were also found, since one of her email accounts was stored on the same clintonemail.com private server as Clinton’s emails, but the number of recovered Abedin emails is unknown.

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Photo captured from video of Jason Leopold’s immediate response to the results of his Clinton Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: Vice News)

The lawyers say they can’t estimate how long the transfer process will take. Once the State Department has the emails, those judged by the department to be work related will be made responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Those deemed genuinely personal may never be made public. (Politico, 7/22/2016)

Vice News reporter Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA lawsuit demanding the release of all of Clinton’s work-related emails. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/6/2016) (Jason Leopold, Video 7/23/16)

August 12, 2016: The State Department will release all of Clinton’s work-related emails recovered by the FBI.

In late 2014, Clinton sorted her emails into what she and her lawyers deemed work-related and personal, and then deleted over 31,000 of the “personal” emails. In the FBI investigation into her emails that concluded in July 2016, it was reported that “several thousand” of the personal emails were recovered or found through other people having copies, and many of these actually were work-related.

In a court filing, the State Department reveals that it is planning to release all of the emails it decides are work-related. The emails will be given to Judicial Watch, who have a number of on-going Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits related to Clinton’s emails. However, it is unknown just how many emails were recovered and how many of those are work-related. It also is unknown how soon they will be released. Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus urges the department to release the emails before the November 2016 presidential election. (The Hill, 8/16/2016)

August 22, 2016: The State Department is ordered to review nearly 15,000 Clinton emails for public release, but it is unclear how many of these are previously unreleased work-related emails.

During the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, the FBI found some of Clinton’s over 31,000 deleted emails from when she was secretary of state. At the conclusion of the investigation in July 2016, FBI Director James Comey said the FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails,” but is it uncertain exactly how many of these emails were found, either work-related or personal. The FBI has given the State Department a CD containing the found emails, and the department has said it will publicly release all the work-related ones.

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US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Review)

In a court hearing presided by US District Judge James Boasberg on this day, it is revealed that the CD contains around 14,900 emails. Boasberg orders the State Department to review the emails for public release in response to various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits by Judicial Watch. However, it is still unclear if any of these are duplicates of the 30,000 Clinton emails already publicly released. Furthermore, it is unknown how many of the found deleted emails are personal and how many are work-related (aside from Comey’s vague “several thousand” emails comment).

In addtion, the FBI has given the State Department seven other CDs: one contains classified documents related to Clinton, another contains emails returned by Clinton, and the other five contain materials from other people that was retrieved by the FBI.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner says, “We can confirm that the FBI material includes tens of thousands of non-record (meaning personal) and record materials that will have to be carefully appraised at State. State has not yet had the opportunity to complete a review of the documents to determine whether they are agency records or if they are duplicative of documents State has already produced through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Regarding the CD of Clinton emails, Toner says, “We still don’t have a full sense of how many of the 14,900 are new. Granted, that’s a healthy number there, so there’s likely to be quite a few.”

Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus comments, “The process for reviewing these emails needs to be expedited, public disclosure should begin before early voting starts, and the emails in question should be released in full before Election Day.” (Politico, 8/22/2016) (The Washington Post, 8/22/2016)

On September 23, 2016, it will be revealed that 5,600 of the 14,900 recovered emails are deemed work-related.

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.”

160825BleachBitLogo

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)

August 30, 2016: The State Department says that around 30 Clinton emails discovered by the FBI could relate to Benghazi.

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US District Judge Amit Mehta (Credit: public domain)

US District Court Judge Amit Mehta is presiding over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch regarding the public release of information relating to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The FBI recently gave the State Department almost 15,000 previously unknown Clinton emails, so Mehta wants to know if any of them relate to Benghazi.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby says, “Using broad search terms, we have identified approximately 30 documents potentially responsive to a Benghazi-related request. At this time, we have not confirmed that the documents are, in fact, responsive, or whether they are duplicates of materials already provided to the department by former Secretary Clinton in December 2014.” The department says it will need until the end of September 2016 to review the 30 or so emails and redact any classified information in them.

However, Mehta doesn’t understand why it would take the department so long to process so few emails. He orders the department to return in a week to try to justify the processing time.

Starting in mid-2014, Clinton was specifically asked for all her emails related to Benghazi, months before she was asked for all her work-related emails in general. The Benghazi-related emails were the first of her emails to be released, in early 2015.

Jason Miller, senior communications adviser for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, says, “Clinton swore before a federal court and told the American people she handed over all of her work-related emails. If Clinton did not consider emails about something as important as Benghazi to be work-related, one has to wonder what is contained in the other emails she attempted to wipe from her server.” (The Hill, 8/30/2016)

September 2, 2016: The FBI says they recovered over 17,000 of Clinton’s missing emails, but it’s unclear how many of these are work-related.

In the FBI’s report on the Clinton email investigation, which is released on this day, it is revealed: “To date, the FBI has recovered from additional data sources and reviewed approximately 17,448 unique work-related and personal emails from Clinton’s tenure [as secretary of state] containing Clinton’s hdr22@clintonemail.com email address that were not provided by [Clinton’s law firm] Williams & Connolly as part of Clinton’s production to the FBI, including emails from January 23, 2009 through March 18, 2009.”

The report also mentions that at least some of the emails going back to the time from before March 2009, when Clinton’s first server was replaced by another one, were recovered from the first back-up of all the data on Clinton’s third server, made on June 29, 2013. That was shortly after this new server was turned on and all the data from the previous server was transferred to it.

Clinton has claimed that she kept 30,068 emails from when she was secretary of state, and deleted the other 31,830 as personal. The FBI claims they had trouble recovering all the deleted ones, because an employee of Platte River Networks, the company that managed Clinton’s servers from June 2013 onwards, used a computer program to wipe the server clean in March 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

It isn’t clear how many of the 17,448 recovered emails come from the June 29, 2013 back-up and how many come from other sources, such as the inboxes of people who sent and received emails from Clinton, or FBI efforts to recover the wiped emails. The FBI also doesn’t mention how many of the recovered emails are work-related. It was reported on July 21, 2016 that the FBI gave about 14,900 of Clinton’s recovered emails to the State Department, and the department has promised to make all the work-related ones public. But it isn’t clear why the 17,448 and 14,900 numbers differ by about 2,500 emails.

September 23, 2016: The FBI has recovered 5,600 of Clinton’s deleted emails, but only about 10 percent of those will be released before the presidential election.

US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge James Boasberg orders the State Department to finish publicly releasing about 1,000 pages of  Clinton’s emails recovered by the FBI by November 4, 2016, just four days before the US presidential election. When Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails in December 2014, that totaled 30,000 emails, so if the same ratio holds, that would mean between 500 and 600 emails. Due to an on-going Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch, the State Department will release 350 pages of emails by October 7, 350 pages by October 21, and another 350 by November 4. After that, it will produce 500 pages a month.

In late July 2016, the FBI gave the State Department 15,000 emails that had been recovered by the FBI out of Clinton’s 31,000 deleted. For the first time, it  is revealed that about 9,400 of these have been deemed purely personal by the department, which means they will not ever be publicly released. That means there are about 5,600 work-related emails to be reviewed and released. But roughly half of those may be largely duplicates of emails that have already been released. For instance, Clinton was often send emails to aides she wanted printed out for later reading, and would merely comment “Please print,” or she would forward an email to an aide without comment.

It is estimated only about 10 percent of the Clinton work-related emails recovered by the FBI will be made public before the election. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, complains, “The public deserves to know what is in those emails, well before November 8, and the State Department should not continue dragging its feet on producing them.” (The New York Times, 9/23/2016)

October 3, 2016: The FBI seizes the electronic devices of Huma Abedin’s husband in a sex scandal case, which will lead to the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton and her former deputy chief of staff, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Congressperson who has been beset by two “sexting” scandals, in which it was publicly revealed he sent sexual text messages to other women. On August 28, 2016, the New York Post reported that Weiner had been caught in his third sexting scandal. The next day, Abedin announced she is separating from him and divorcing him. (The New York Post, 8/28/2016)

On September 21, 2016, the Daily Mail further revealed that the still unnamed woman he’d been sexting with in recent months in fact was only 15 years old. (The Daily Mail, 9/21/2016)

This raised the possibility that Weiner could face serious federal criminal charges, especially if the girl lives in a different state, which it turns out she does. (Rolling Stone, 9/22/2016)

As a result, after the Daily Mail article, top federal prosecutors in New York (where Weiner lives) and North Carolina (where the unnamed girl lives) fought over who would get to prosecute the case. The Justice Department gave the case to Preet Bharara, a US attorney in New York.

The New York Times will later report that also in late September 2016, “agents in the FBI’s New York field office understood that the Weiner investigation could possibly turn up additional emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s private server, according to a senior federal law enforcement official.”

On the same day Anthony Weiner's electronic devices were seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

On the same day Anthony Weiner’s electronic devices are seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Then, on October 3, 2016, the FBI seizes several electronic devices owned by Weiner, including a computer laptop, his iPhone, and his iPad. Several days later, FBI agents also confiscate a Wi-Fi router that could identify any other devices that he had used. This is also according to an unnamed US law enforcement official.

When FBI agents search the seized devices, they find thousands of emails sent to or from Abedin on the laptop, because apparently it was used by both Abedin and Weiner before they separated. According to unnamed “senior law enforcement officials,” some of the emails are sent between Abedin and other Clinton aides. However, only FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors directly involved in the Weiner investigation can look at the evidence, and those who took part in the Clinton email investigation, closed in July 2016, do not have the legal authority, at least not yet.

FBI Director James Comey will learn about the emails in mid-October 2016. He will be brief October 27, 2016, and he will write a letter to Congress the next day announcing that he is reopening the Clinton email investigation at least long enough to determine the possible relevance of the emails to the Clinton case. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

October 28, 2016: Comey reveals the Clinton email investigation is at least partially reopened due to the discovery of Huma Abedin emails in an unrelated case, shocking the US presidential race just 11 days before the election.

FBI Director James Comey sends a letter to eight Congressional committees, informing them that emails relevant to the Clinton email investigation have surfaced in another unrelated case, causing at least a partial reopening of the investigation. This is a major political shock and an unprecedented action, since it comes just 11 days before the US presidential election.

Huma Abedin and husband Anthony Weiner (Credit: Elinor Carucci / Vanity Fair)

Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner (Credit: Elinor Carucci / Vanity Fair)

Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s longtime close aides and her deputy chief of staff during her tenure as secretary of state, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic Congressperson. However, she is estranged from him and began divorce proceedings against him two months earlier, due to his repeated sex scandals. In his most recent scandal, it is alleged he sent illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl. This led to an FBI investigation, and his computer and electronic devices were seized by the FBI on October 3, 2016. When his computer was examined, it was determined that it had been used by both Abedin and Weiner, and thousands of Abedin’s emails were found that could be relevant to the Clinton email investigation. That discovery in turn led to Comey being briefed on October 27, 2016, and then his surprise announcement one day later.

The New York Times reports calls Comey’s letter an “October surprise” that has “rocked” the 2016 presidential race. It has “left Mrs. Clinton’s team furious and scrambling for explanations while bolstering the spirits of Donald J. Trump after a wave of controversies and Republican defections had led many to write him off.”

Comey writes a very short letter that fails to mention many details. It states, in full: “In previous Congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.”

James Comey (Credit: public domain)

James Comey (Credit: public domain)

“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigation team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to access their importance to our investigation.

“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016) (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

Later the same day, Comey also sends a short letter to all FBI officials, explaining his decision to send the letter. It is immediately leaked to the public. In it, he says, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)

The New York Times further reveals that Comey was only briefed about the emails the day before, and they have not yet been closely examined. “A senior law enforcement official said that tens of thousands of emails belonging to Ms. Abedin were on Mr. Weiner’s laptop…” However, “Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server.” It is also unknown how many could be duplicates of previously known emails. (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

The Washington Post reports, “The correspondence included emails between Abedin and Clinton, according to a law enforcement official.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)

Clinton and other Democrats are highly critical of Comey’s letter while Trump and other Republicans praise it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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