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

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Acting Inspector General Harold Geisel (Credit: public domain)

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 18, 2012—February 2013: A nuclear energy whistleblower is targeted for allegedly having classified information on a computer.

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

Lawrence Criscione (Credit: Michael Weaver / McClatchy)

On September 18, 2012,  NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] engineer Lawrence Criscione sends a long letter to NRC chair Allison Macfarlane about dangerous problems at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina. He shares the letter with 13 members of Congress.

One day later, the NRC’s inspector general begins investigating if he illegally made information marked “For Official Use Only” public. Another government agency soon rules that such information is an “unofficial administrative marking that has no legal import.”

But in February 2013, the inspector general nevertheless asks the Justice Department to charge him with misusing his government computer to transmit sensitive information. Several days later, the department decides not to prosecute him. But it takes another 13 months before he is formally cleared.

Speaking in 2015, Criscione believes he was unfairly targeted to discourage other whistleblowers. Referring to Clinton’s email scandal, he says, “If a career civil servant had a server with ‘top secret’ information in his basement, he would without a doubt do time” in prison. (McClatchy Newspapers, 9/29/2015)

Early June 2013: State Department officials discover Clinton’s personal email address and then fail in their legal obligation to share her emails with others.

Heather Higginbottom (Credit: public domain)

Heather Higginbottom (Credit: public domain)

State Department staff reviewing material to possibly give to Congressional committees examining the September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack discover emails sent by former Clinton aide Jake Sullivan to a personal email address belonging to Clinton.

In ensuing weeks, senior department officials discuss if the Federal Records Act (FRA) requires the department to turn over emails from such personal accounts. In fact, the act does require emails to be turned over if they are work-related. However, an internal investigation will later determine that the department does not notify the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of a potential loss of records at any point in time. Furthermore, none of Clinton’s emails are given to any Congressional committee in 2013, nor are they provided in response to any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that year.

According to department official Heather Higginbottom, Secretary of State John Kerry is not a part of these discussions or decisions. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) 

Around this debate period, on August 7, 2013, department officials find 17 FOIA requests relating to Clinton in their records, with some of them specifically requesting Clinton emails. But none of the requesters are told about any of Clinton’s emails  apparently due to the result of this debate.

Clinton’s personal email address will be rediscovered in May 2014 after a document request from the new House Benghazi Committee.

August 11, 2015: One Clinton investigation has expanded to investigate Clinton’s top aides.

The State Department inspector general’s office says it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton’s former top aides, after requests from Congress. In March 2015, three Republican Senate committee chairs—Richard Burr, Ron Johnson, and Bob Corker—requested an audit of some of her aides’ personal emails.

Douglas Welty, a spokesperson for the inspector general’s office, says, “We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate.” However, the office won’t say which aides are being investigated.  (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/11/2015)

September 2, 2015: Congressional committees are interested in the Clinton Foundation’s financial dealings.

The Daily Beast reports that regardless of what becomes of the FBI’s investigations into Clinton’s emails and private server, “more than one [Congressional] committee is interested in Hillary’s emails, far beyond the Benghazi investigation. Congressional investigators are looking into issues beyond classification, to include possible dirty financial deals” that benefitted Bill and Hillary Clinton and/or their Clinton Foundation.

An unnamed senior Congressional staffer says, “This was about a lot more than just some classified emails, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. But we’re happy to let the FBI do the heavy lifting for right now.” The staffer adds, “[N]ow the media won’t let go—and the Bureau definitely won’t. I wouldn’t want to be Hillary right now.” (The Daily Beast, 9/2/2015)

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

Carrie Johnson (Credit: Doby Photography / NPR)

Carrie Johnson (Credit: Doby Photography / NPR)

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

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

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

January 20, 2016: A Clinton spokesperson suggests an Obama appointed inspector general is coordinating against Clinton.

In the wake of a new revelation that some of Clinton’s private emails discussed top secret “special access programs,” Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon suggests that Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and Congressional Republicans have coordinated against Clinton. This claim comes after the contents of a letter McCullough sent to Congress were leaked to the media.

Fallon says, “I think that Republicans are continuing to try to trumpet up and resurface these allegations for the purposes of hurting her campaign.” After a reporter points out that McCullough isn’t a Republican, Fallon replies, “Actually, I think this was a very coordinated leak yesterday. Because two months ago, there was a political report that directly challenged the finding of this inspector general, and I don’t think he liked that very much. So I think that he put two Republican senators up to sending him a letter so that he would have an excuse to resurface the same allegations he made back in the summer that have been discredited.” (Politico, 1/20/2016

Fallon backtracks two days later, admitting he doesn’t know whether McCullough leaked the letter, but suggests he still bears responsibility for the fact it was leaked. McCullough was appointed by President Obama in 2011 and unanimously approved by the Senate. (CNN, 1/22/2016)

May 26, 2016: Some on Clinton’s campaign allegedly privately admit that Clinton tried to keep her emails from public scrutiny.

Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton," published January, 2008. (Credit: Amazon)

Carl Bernstein’s “A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton,” published January, 2008. (Credit: Amazon)

Journalist Carl Bernstein says that Clinton “set up a home brew server for purposes of evading the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA], evading subpoenas from Congress, that’s its real purpose, to not have accountability, to not have transparency.”

He alleges, “if you talk to people around the Clinton campaign very quietly, they will acknowledge to you, if you are a reporter who knows some of the background, that this is the purpose of it. Is so she would not be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. So that—because the e-mails aren’t there, that nobody knew about this server.”

He also calls the recently released State Department inspector general report “a devastating event for Hillary Clinton. It is a time bomb that has been ticking and it’s starting to explode around her and there’s more to come because the FBI’s investigation is ongoing.”

In addition to his famous role exposing the Watergate scandal, Bernstein wrote a 2008 book about Clinton. (CNN, 5/27/2016)

June 6, 2016: Because of FBI Director Comey, Republican Congresspeople would “probably” accept an FBI decision not to recommend Clinton’s indictment.

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Lyn DeBruin / The Associated Press)

Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Lyn DeBruin / The Associated Press)

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R) is asked if he and other Republicans in Congress would accept no indictment recommendation from the FBI. “Probably, because we do believe in [FBI Director] James Comey. I do think that in all of the government, he is a man of integrity and honesty. […] His finger is on the pulse of this. Nothing happens without him, and I think he is going to be the definitive person to make a determination or a recommendation. We’ll see where that goes.” (Politico, 6/6/2016)

August 16, 2016: The FBI gives Congress some classified documents from its Clinton email investigation.

The documents include the FBI’s summary of the interview of Clinton on July 1, 2016, known as a 302.

The State Department wanted to review the 302 interview summaries first, but the FBI ignored that request. On July 7, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said when it came to documents relating to the FBI’s Clinton investigation, he was committed to delivering to Congress “everything I can possibly give you under the law and to doing it as quickly as possible.”

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Representative Adam Schiff (Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images)

Representative Adam Schiff (D) criticizes the move. “With the exception of the classified emails that had been found on the private server, I can see little legitimate purpose to which Congress will put these materials. Instead, as the now-discredited Benghazi Committee demonstrated, their contents will simply be leaked for political purposes. This will neither serve the interests of justice nor aid Congress in its responsibilities and will merely set a precedent for the FBI to turn over closed case files whenever one party in Congress does not like a prosecutorial decision. This has been done in the name of transparency, but as this precedent chills the cooperation of other witnesses in the future, I suspect the Department of Justice will later come to refer to it by a different name — mistake.”

The documents can be seen by members of Congress, but they are not allowed to publicly reveal any of it. An FBI spokesperson says, “The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence.”

However, Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the judiciary committee, says, “On initial review, it seems that much of the material given to the Senate today, other than copies of the large number of emails on Secretary Clinton’s server containing classified information, is marked ‘unclassified/for official use.’ The FBI should make as much of the material available as possible.”

Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon also wants to see the material publicly release, saying, “This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI. We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.” (Politico, 8/16/2016)

September 14, 2016: The US intelligence community has declined to conduct a required damage assessment caused by the classified information on Clinton’s private email server.

Joel Melstad, spokesperson for the of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), says, “ODNI is not leading an [intelligence community]-wide damage assessment and is not aware of any individual IC element conducting such formal assessments.”

Most of the above “top secret” emails sent or received on Clinton’s server related to the US drone program in Pakistan. According to the Washington Free Beacon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “agreed with security officials who argued against the need to carry out the damage assessment. Intelligence officials argued in internal discussions that since many details of the drone missile program targeting terrorists were disclosed in earlier leaks unrelated to Clinton’s use of a personal email server, gauging the damage done by her conduct would be difficult, and possibly unnecessary.”

However, “Other officials said Clapper’s decision appeared based on political considerations and was an effort to avoid embroiling American intelligence agencies in charges they were attempting to influence the outcome of Clinton’s bid for the White House.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

Representative Mike Pompeo (Credit: Politico)

A June 2014 counterintelligence directive, ICD-732, states that “damage assessments shall be conducted when there is an actual or suspected unauthorized disclosure or compromise of classified national intelligence that may cause damage to US national security.”

Representative Mike Pompeo (R) says, “FBI Director [James] Comey has made clear that there was highly classified and sensitive information on Secretary Clinton’s personal server. It is imperative that [a damage assessment] be conducted to determine what harm to American national security may have occurred and, just as importantly, to prevent the massive mishandling of sensitive materials from ever happening again.”

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla (Credit: public domain)

Angelo Codevilla, a former US intelligence officer, says, “Common sense, the intelligence community’s standard practice, as well as a 2014 directive, require assessing the damage done by any such compromise.” She also asserts that Comey’s “vague and evasive” comments regarding Clinton’s handling of classified information confirm that a significant number of secrets were compromised.

Michelle VanCleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave (Credit: public domain)

Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive, similarly asserts, “Whenever there is a significant compromise of national security information, as the FBI’s report confirms happened here, it is essential to conduct an assessment of the damage in order to protect plans, programs, or lives that may be at risk.” There have been reports that Clinton’s emails revealed the names of some undercover CIA officers as well.

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid (Credit: The Institute of World Politics)

Kenneth deGraffenreid, a former deputy national counterintelligence executive, says, “Intelligence agencies hate conducting damage assessments that could show people that somebody did something wrong, or improper, or did it poorly. They never want that known. It’s a bureaucracy that does one thing: protects itself.”

He says Congress should force the intelligence community to conduct the damage assessment, since it will find no political advantage in doing it voluntarily.

However, the Free Beacon reports, “Congressional sources said the House and Senate intelligence oversight committee are reluctant to require the damage assessment since it would codify in writing the false claim that no damage was caused to the drone program by the compromise of secrets by Clinton and her aides.” (The Washington Free Beacon, 9/14/2016)

October 27, 2016: Comey is briefed and decides to announce the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, but Justice Department officials are strongly opposed.

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

In early October 2016, FBI agents discovered 650,000 emails on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Though the agents were investigating Weiner for something unrelated, they eventually brief FBI agents who had worked on the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation, and those agents say they would like to have the legal permission to look at the emails themselves.

Apparently, FBI Director James Comey first learns about the emails in mid-October 2016. Then he is given an updated briefing about it on this day. He decides he should immediately inform Congress about the development, even though the 2016 US presidential election is less than two weeks away. He does so in a letter sent one day later, which immediately becomes public.

However, Justice Department officials are opposed. According to the New York Times, “Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.”

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

According to the Times, Comey decides to write his letter “before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.” This puzzles Justice Department officials. Apparently, some agents were only able to analyze the metadata.

It has long been Justice Department and FBI policy that politics should play no role in any investigative decisions. This is particularly emphasized for any actions taken within 60 days prior to an election. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

One unnamed “US official familiar with the matter” tells Yahoo News that senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending the letter, due to that department policy, adding, “He was acting independently of the guidance given to him.” One government source says that high-ranking Justice Department officials are “apoplectic” about the letter.

However, after listening to the Justice Department’s concerns, Comey concludes that the ramifications of not telling Congress promptly about the new emails far outweigh concerns about the department guidelines. He fears if he doesn’t immediately alert Congress, the FBI’s work will leak to the media and he will be accused of concealing information. If the news comes out before the election, he will be accused of trying to influence the election one way, but if it comes out after the election, he will be accused of trying to influence it the other way. One unnamed senior official says, “This was the least bad choice.”

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George J. Terwilliger III (Credit: McGuire Woods)

Many will criticize Comey for the letter, including some Republicans. For instance, George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under President George Bush (R), says, “There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election. Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences. There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo.” (The New York Times, 10/29/2016) (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)

Politico reports that according to an unnamed “official familiar with the discussions,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch does not speak directly with Comey about the issue. However, her concerns are conveyed to him before he sends the letter. In late June 2016, Lynch pledged to recuse herself from the email investigation after she was seen having a private discussion with Bill Clinton. (Politico, 10/31/2016)

October 29, 2016: Both Republican and Democratic senators want more information from the FBI about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional committees, revealing that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened due to the discovery of potentially relevant new evidence. But his letter is only three paragraphs long and is very vague. Subsequent media reports say the evidence is newly discovered emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Senators who sign the letter are from left to right

Democratic Senators who wrote to Lynch and Comey are from left to right, Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin. (Credit: public domain)

The next day, four Democratic senators – Patrick Leahy, Thomas Carper, Dianne Feinstein, and Benjamin Cardin – write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Comey, asking for more information. They want to know, by October 31, 2016, more details of the investigative steps being taken, the number of emails involved, how many of the emails are duplicates of those already known.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson, chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a similar letter to Comey. “In line with your commitment to be transparent with Congress and the public, I respectfully request that the FBI provide as much information as possible about these new developments without harming the integrity of its ongoing investigation.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

October 31, 2016: The White House stays out of the controversy about Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation.

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest says the Obama Administration “will neither defend nor criticize what [FBI] Director [James] Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation.” He is referring to Comey’s October 28, 2016 letter informing Congress that the FBI is at least partially reopening its Clinton email investigation, just 11 days before the 2016 US presidential election. Earnest says the White House has no recommendations for Comey over what information to give to the public.

Additionally, President Obama “doesn’t believe that Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election. The president doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party. He’s in a tough spot.” (CBS News, 11/1/2016)

Earnest says the White House has no independent knowledge as to why Comey made the decision to inform Congress as he did. He adds that Obama believes Comey is a “man of integrity.”

Yet Earnest also says that government officials have powers which “are tempered by longstanding practice and norms that limit public discussion of facts that are collected in the context of those investigations. … The president believes that it’s important for those guidelines and norms to be followed.” (Reuters, 10/31/2016) (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)