Late 2010: A State Department official falsely claims Clinton’s computer system has legal approval and warns staffers never to speak of the issue again.

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

Two members of Clinton’s senior executive staff will later claim they discussed their concerns about Clinton’s use of a personal email address, each in a separate meeting with John Bentel, the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat for Information Resource Management.

In one of those meetings, Bentel says that Clinton’s personal communication system has been reviewed and approved by the department’s legal staff and that the matter is not to be discussed any further. However, a later State Department inspector general investigation will find no evidence that any department lawyers ever make such a review.

The other staff member who raised concerns about the server is told by Bentel that the mission of his office is to support Clinton and, in the words of a May 2016 inspector general report, “instruct[s] the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”

Bentel will later claim he has no memory of any of these issues and will refused to be interviewed by any investigators. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016) (Yahoo News, 5/25/2016)

August 30, 2011: Clinton again decides not to use the government email address already provided her.

Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011 at 10:10 a.m. EDT (Credit: NASA)

Hurricane Irene on August 27, 2011 at 10:10 a.m. EDT (Credit: NASA)

Clinton’s private BlackBerry temporarily stops working, due to disruptions in the New York area following Hurricane Irene, and some State Department officials are talking about what to do to fix the problem.

John Bentel, director of the department’s Information Resources Management (IRM) office, notes in an email sent to department official Monica Hanley that a government email address was set up for Clinton when she became secretary of state: SSHRC@state.gov. He points out, “you should be aware that any email would go through the Department’s infrastructure and subject to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] searches.”

However, Clinton has never used the account, and she still chooses not to use it. Instead, this account is only used by Clinton’s staff to maintain an Outlook calendar.

Bentel notes there are some old emails associated with the account, but none since January 2011, and they could be deleted.

Hanley forwards the email to Clinton’s deputy secretary of state Huma Abedin, but if here’s any email reply from her or Clinton, it’s unknown. (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)  (US Department of State, 6/20/2016)

Late June 2015: A State Department official claims to have no knowledge of Clinton’s private server, but later evidence will suggest otherwise.

Randy Turk (Credit: Baker Botts)

Randy Turk (Credit: Baker Botts)

John Bentel, director of the department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) office while Clinton was secretary of state, is questioned behind closed doors by the House Benghazi Committee. According to a later account by his lawyer Randy Turk, Bentel testifies he has “no memory or knowledge” of Clinton’s private email server and only learned about it from the newspapers in March 2015.

In early 2016, he will refuse to speak to Congressional investigators and then refuse to speak to a State Department inspector general’s investigators. But the inspector general’s report released in May 2016 will uncover emails and other witness accounts suggesting Bentel did know about her private server and that he stopped his staffers from taking action to keep Clinton’s email practices within the law. (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016)

March 14, 2016: A State Department official is refusing to answer questions about Clinton’s private server.

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

John Bentel (Credit: public domain)

It is reported that Senate Republicans have been trying to interview John Bentel since December 2015. Bentel was the director of Information Resources Management (IRM) in the State Department’s Office of Executive Secretariat when Clinton was secretary of state, and thus he may have knowledge about both Clinton’s private email account and her private server. But he has refused to answer their questions about Clinton’s private server. Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees respectively, have told Bentel that they would prefer a “voluntary and informal” meeting, but “will consider other options if faced with a continuing lack of cooperation,” potentially referring to a subpoena.

Bentel was secretly questioned by the House Benghazi Committee in June 2015, and claimed he had “no memory or knowledge” about such issues.

But in May 2016, evidence will emerge suggesting otherwise, and that he might have played a role in a cover-up. (The Hill, 3/14/2016) (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between May 25, 2016 and July 5, 2016: State Department official John Bentel denies all allegations of wrongdoing in an FBI interview.

John Bentel (Credit: Facebook)

John Bentel (Credit: Facebook)

According to a 2016 State Department inspector general’s report, department officials alleged that John Bentel, the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat for Information Resource Management, discouraged them from raising concerns about Clinton’s use of personal email. The report also alleges that Bentel falsely claimed that Clinton had legal approval for the use of her computer system.

At some point between the release of this report on May 25, 2016 and the conclusion of the FBI’s Clinton investigation by July 5, 2016, Bentel is interviewed by the FBI. According to an FBI summary, “Bentel denied that State [Department] employees raised concerns about Clinton’s email to him, that he discouraged employees from discussing it, or that he was aware during Clinton’s tenure that she was using a personal email account or server to conduct official State business.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

July 8, 2016: Judicial Watch asks to depose Clinton and two others in a civil suit.

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Clarence Finney (Credit: CSpan)

Judicial Watch files a motion to depose Clinton as part a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit relating to Clinton’s emails. US District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered six of Clinton’s former aides to be deposed, and left open the possibility that Clinton could be deposed later, depending on the answers given by the aides.  All six finished their depositions by the end of June 2016.

Judicial Watch argues it has “attempted to obtain as much evidence as possible from other State Department officials, but Secretary Clinton is an indispensable witness and significant questions remain, including why records management officials apparently had no knowledge of [her email] system when so many other officials used the system to communicate with her. Consequently, Secretary Clinton’s deposition is necessary.”

Additionally, Judicial Watch is asking to depose two other former Clinton aides who had knowledge of Clinton’s private server, John Bentel and Clarence Finney. They also want to depose Clinton in a similar lawsuit presided by Judge Royce Lamberth.

Sullivan announces that the motion will be argued on July 18, 2016. (LawNewz, 7/8/2016)

July 18, 2016: Clinton’s lawyer insists Clinton’s use of a private server was allowed by policy, despite clear evidence it wasn’t.

160718EmmetSullivan

Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Journal

Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer David Kendall appears in court regarding Clinton’s email controversy for the first time since the issue became public in March 2015. He is opposing a request to have Clinton deposed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch.

The judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, has said publicly that Clinton violated government policy by doing official business on the private server. The State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, also concluded the same in a May 2016 report. Kendall nonetheless maintains that Clinton’s behavior “was clearly permitted and allowed” by policy. However, he admits that her server was never specifically approved by anyone at the State Department. He also argues that the reason Clinton set up and used a private email server for all her emails was “a matter of convenience.”

Sullivan doesn’t immediately decide whether Clinton should be deposed or not. However, Judicial Watch has also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel, and Sullivan does definitively state that at least Bentel “should be deposed.” (Politico, 07/18/2016)

August 19, 2016: A judge rules that Clinton can respond to a deposition with written answers instead of being questioned in person.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

Judicial Watch has been seeking to have Clinton deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving her emails. However, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rules: “Judicial Watch’s argument that a deposition is preferable in this case because of the ability to ask follow-up questions is not persuasive. Given the extensive public record related to the clintonemail.com system, a record which Judicial Watch has acknowledged

Judicial Watch will be able to anticipate many follow-up questions. For those follow-up questions that Judicial Watch is unable to anticipate, it can move this Court for permission to serve additional interrogatories.”

Sullivan notes that due to legal precedents applicable to current and former Cabinet officials, he should only require Clinton to appear at a deposition if “exceptional circumstances” justify it.

Sullivan says he is still intent on finding out why Clinton’s private server was set up and whether there were other reasons beyond Clinton’s public claim of “convenience.” He also says it is important that she at least answer questions in writing about this because depositions of Clinton’s staff had shown that “her closest aides at the State Department do not have personal knowledge of her purpose in using the [server].”

Politico notes, “Technically, it is still possible one of several other judges considering similar cases could issue such an order [for Clinton to be deposed in person], but the clock may run out soon on efforts to force such an appearance in advance of the November [presidential] election.”

Judicial Watch also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel.

Sullivan rejects the deposition of Finney, despite the fact that Finney’s job was to organize responses to FOIA requests. However, he does order the future deposition of Bentel. It has been reported that Bentel blocked other department employees from raising questions about Clinton’s use of her server. (Politico, 8/19/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

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

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

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