July 12, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch refuses to answer questions about the FBI’s Clinton investigation in a Congressional hearing.

160712LorettaLynchManuelBalceCenetaAP

Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on July 12, 2016. (Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / the Associated Press)

Lynch speaks before the House Judiciary Committee several days after the Justice Department ended the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s email usage as secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey answered questions about the investigation before a Congressional committee on July 7, 2016, but Lynch doesn’t follow suit. She says, “While I understand that this investigation has generated significant public interest, as attorney general, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the underlying facts of the investigation or the legal basis for the team’s recommendation.”

At one point, she says she can’t reveal details because she’s not familiar with them. “The director and I had very different roles in this investigation and, therefore, very different amounts of information about this investigation.” But at other times, she indicates she wouldn’t comment anyway. “It would not be appropriate in my role to discuss the specific facts and the law.”

After a meeting with Hillary Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton that many said was inappropriate, on July 1, 2016, Lynch distanced herself from the investigation but didn’t totally recuse herself from it.  (Politico, 7/12/2016)

September 28, 2016: Comey isn’t sure if the FBI was aware of Paul Combetta’s Reddit posts and won’t comment if Combetta committed a crime by deleting them.

When FBI Director James Comey answers questions before a House Judiciary Committee public hearing, two of the committee members ask him key questions about Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server.

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Representative Darrell Issa (R) asks: “Director, I have a lot of concerns but one of them refers to Reddit. At the time that the Department of Justice at your behest, or your involvement, gave Paul Combetta immunity, did you do so knowing about all of the posts he had on Reddit…?”

Comey replies: “I am not sure sitting here. My recollection is and I’ll check this and fix it if I am wrong, that we had some awareness of the Reddit posts, I don’t know whether our folks had read them all or not. We had a pretty good understanding of what we thought he had done, but that is my best recollection.”

Issa then asks: “OK, in the last week, [Combetta] has been deleting [his] Reddit posts. Is that consistent with preserving evidence? … You know, I guess my question to you is, is he destroying evidence relevant to Congressional inquiries? And I will answer it for you: yes he is. And what are you going to do about it?”

Comey answers, “That’s not something I can comment on.”

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Later in the same hearing, committee chair Representative Bob Goodlatte (R), similarly asks: “Paul Combetta, with PRN, posted to Reddit, asking how to strip out a VIP’s, very VIP email address from a bunch of archived email. … This clearly demonstrates actions taken to destroy evidence by those operating Sec Clinton’s private server and by her staff.  … [W]as the FBI aware of this Reddit post prior to offering Mr. Combetta immunity on May 3, 2016?”

Comey responds, “I am not sure. I know that our team looked at it. I don’t know whether they knew about it before then or not.” (House Judiciary Committee, 09/28/2016)

September 28, 2016: FBI Director James Comey denies Paul Combetta attempted to cover up Clinton’s emails.

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey comments on a July 2014 Reddit post by Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server.

Comey says, “Our team concluded that what he was trying to do was when they produced emails not have the actual address but have some name or placeholder instead of the actual dot-com address in the ‘From:’ line.” As a result, the FBI believes Combetta was not engaged in a secret cover-up when he used his “stonetear” alias on the Reddit website to ask for a tool that could delete Clinton’s email address throughout a large file.

However, Republican lawmakers believe Combetta’s Reddit post reveals an effort to hide Clinton’s emails from investigators. For example, committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R) says he believes it was “obviously part of a cover-up. … This clearly demonstrates an action to destroy evidence by people operating Clinton’s private server and her staff.” (Politico, 09/28/2016)

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

Representative Tom Marino (Credit: Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 28, 2016: FBI Director James Comey defends the FBI and claims “we are not weasels.”

In a surprising moment during FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, he defends the character and integrity of the FBI officials who took part in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

FBI Director Comey passionately defends his agents to the House Oversight Committee on September 28, 2016. (Credit: CSpan)

FBI Director Comey defends his agents before the House Oversight Committee. (Credit: CSpan)

Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D) asks, “The foot soldiers, your agents on the ground, you take issue with whether or not they were compromised or they were adhering to somebody elses message. Is that what you’re saying?”

Comey answers, “You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels. We are honest people and … whether or not you agree with the result, this was done the way you want it to be done.”

Politico describes the impassioned moment, “The normally stoic FBI chief grew emotional and emphatic as he rejected claims from Republican lawmakers that the FBI was essentially in the tank for Clinton when it recommended that neither she nor any of her aides be prosecuted in connection with the presence of classified information on Clinton’s private email server. He acknowledged he has ‘no patience’ for such allegations.”(Politico, 09/28/2016)

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

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

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

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

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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