January 15, 2009—January 21, 2009: A possible conflict of interest between the Clinton Foundation’s work and Clinton’s duties is the main concern during her secretary of state confirmation.

Clinton testifies during her confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, 2009, in Washington, DC. (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Clinton testifies during her confirmation hearing on Jan. 13, 2009, in Washington, DC. (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Clinton declares in her Senate confirmation proceeding that she and former President Bill Clinton are “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of secretary of state.” She vows “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the secretary of state.” She adds that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.” Senate Richard Lugar (R) says, “Foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” and he urges the foundation to reject all donations from them. (The International Business Times, 5/26/2015)

However, most senators are assured by the memorandum of understanding recently signed between the foundation and the White House that addresses conflict of interest issues, even though it will only prevent increases in donations from foreign governments. Senator John Kerry (D) is one of those who express concern that the agreement doesn’t go far enough, but he votes for her anyway. On January 21, 2009, Clinton’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate 94 to 2. (The Associated Press, 1/15/2009) (The New York Times, 1/21/2009)

February 1, 2013: Clinton’s four year tenure as secretary of state ends.

Clinton exiting an airplane in her last week as secretary of state. (Credit: The New Yorker)

Clinton exiting an airplane in her last week as secretary of state. (Credit: The New Yorker)

(The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) Clinton is succeeded by Senator John Kerry (D). Kerry apparently uses a government email account for all work matters, and all his emails are automatically preserved by the State Department for posterity. (The New York Times, 3/2/2015) 

Most of her top aides leave the State Department around the same time, such as Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, and Philippe Reines, while Patrick Kennedy remains. (The New York Times, 8/13/2013)

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.

February 2015: The State Department finally begins archiving the emails of its top officials.

The State Department begins using a system that automatically keeps the emails of high-ranking officials, such as deputy secretary of state, and under and assistant secretaries. Secretary of State John Kerry’s emails have been automatically retained since around the time he took office in 2013.

Patrice McDermott (Credit: Freedom of Information Summit)

Patrice McDermott (Credit: Freedom of Information Summit)

In 2012, an Obama administration directive mandated that departments must devise a system for retaining and preserving email records by the end of 2016, but some departments are slow to adapt.

Patrice McDermott, director of the transparency watchdog group OpenTheGovernment.org, says, “It really is chaos across the government in terms of what agencies do, what individuals do, and people understand that they can decide what they save and what they don’t. If you leave it up to the agency, some are going to behave properly and take it seriously, and some are going to see it as carte blanche to whitewash the record.” (The New York Times, 3/13/2015)

August 11, 2015: Secretary of State John Kerry suggests the Russian and Chinese governments could be reading his email.

Secretary of State John Kerry (Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Secretary of State John Kerry (Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Discussing this possibility, Kerry says, “It is very likely. It is not outside the realm of possibility, and we know they have attacked a number of American interests over the course of the last few days.” He adds that given the number of recent cyber attacks, he “certainly writes things with that awareness.” (Time, 8/12/2015)

September 8, 2015: Secretary of State John Kerry appoints State Department “email czar.”

Janice Jacobs (Credit: CSpan)

The official job title created for Janice Jacobs will be Transparency Coordinator. The position is needed due to the growing number of document requests and lawsuits related to Clinton’s email scandal. The Department has been criticized for responding to document requests slowly or not at all, and for not permanently archiving more documents. CNN reports, “Privately, aides say [Kerry] has been annoyed at the distraction the controversy has caused for his department, which has at times overshadowed his diplomatic efforts.” (CNN, 9/8/2015

It will later be reported that the State Department has started automatically preserving the emails of Kerry and his senior aides. (The Washington Post, 11/9/2015)

Jacobs donated $2,7000 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in July 2015, the maximum allowable by law. (CNN, 9/9/2015)

February 23, 2016: Secretary of State Kerry declines to answer if Clinton’s emails harmed US intelligence.

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (Credit: John Shinkle / Politico)

Senator Ron Johnson (R) asks Secretary of State John Kerry if he knows whether the US intelligence community has had to “mitigate the harm by the potential that our enemies might have access to that classified material that’s on Secretary Clinton’s server.”

Kerry replies, “I would not be able to discuss that in an open session.”

Then when asked by Johnson about letting his staff use a private server to send and receive classified information, Kerry responds, “In today’s world, given all that we’ve learned and what we understand about the vulnerability of our system, we don’t do that, no.” (The Hill, 2/23/2016) (The Daily Caller, 2/23/2016)

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)

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

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

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

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Scott Amey (Credit: public domain)

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

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

October 7, 2016: The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

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Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)

October 17, 2016: Ecuador cuts the Internet access for the leader of WikiLeaks due to its impact on the US presidential election.

Julian Assange stands on a balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, on February 5, 2016.  (Credit: Getty Images)

On October 17, 2016, Julian Assange, the leader of WikiLeaks, announces that his Internet access has been cut off. Assange, an Australian citizen, was granted diplomatic asylum in 2012 by Ecuador. He has been living in the Ecuador embassy in London ever since, due to fears that he could be arrested by the US or Sweden.

In late July 2016, WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Since October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks has been publishing emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta on a daily basis, with the US presidential election due to take place on November 8, 2016.

One day later, the government of Ecuador says it had temporarily restricted Assange’s Internet access, due to WikiLeaks releasing documents “impacting on the US election campaign. … The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate.” However, Ecuador reaffirms its commitment to giving Assange asylum.

Despite the restriction, WikiLeaks continues to publish new Podesta emails every day, and continues posting Tweets on the official WikiLeaks Twitter feed. WikiLeaks accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of pressuring Ecuador into taking action. However, both the US and Ecuador governments deny that. (Politico, 10/18/2016) (Guardian, 10/18/2016)