July 5, 2016: A State Department official denies the department generally has lax security.

In his public comments concluding the FBI’s Clinton investigation, FBI Director James Comey not only criticizes Clinton and her aides for being “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” but criticizes the department as a whole. He says that 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 is especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.

However, State Department spokesperson John Kirby says, “We’re going to continue to look for ways to improve, but we don’t share the broad assessment made of our institution that there’s a lax culture here when it comes to protecting classified information.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016) (The New York Times, 7/5/2016)

July 7, 2016: The State Department resumes its Clinton email investigation.

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John Kirby (Credit: CCTV-America)

In January 2016, it was reported that the State Department had started its own investigation into Clinton’s email practices while Clinton was secretary of state. (This is separate from the State Department inspector general’s investigation, which concluded in late May 2016). However, this investigation was put on hold in March 2016 in deference to the FBI’s investigation. Now that the FBI finished its investigation on July 5, 2016, the State Department is resuming its own investigation.

Department spokesperson John Kirby announces the resumption, but he doesn’t reveal many details about it. He also sets no deadline for when it will be completed.

It is believed the investigation will consider administrative sanctions against Clinton and her aides. Although most of them are out of government, they could face some problematic penalties, such as the loss of security clearances, which could prevent future government employment. The investigation is likely looking into the past behavior of aides such as Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jake Sullivan, as well as Clinton herself. (The Associated Press, 7/7/2016)

The BBC comments that this means “Hillary Clinton – and some of her most trusted senior advisors – will twist in the wind a while longer. The State Department’s renewed inquiry into possible mishandling of classified information in emails is not nearly as serious as the recently closed FBI criminal investigation, but it keeps the email server story alive for an indeterminate period of time.”

Clinton cannot lose her security clearance if she’s elected president in November 2016, but she could be prevented from including some of her most trusted aides into positions in her administration if they lose their security clearances. The State Department’s investigation also is likely to help keep the controversy alive at least through Election Day. (BBC, 7/7/2016)

September 15, 2016: More information about the emails between Clinton and Obama is made public.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

While Clinton was secretary of state, she exchanged 18 emails with President Obama from her private email account. All information about these emails has remained classified. But some details are finally released due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News.

All of the emails were exchanged between May 18, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Obama sent eight emails to Clinton, and the other ten were from Clinton to Obama. None of the emails appear to contain highly sensitive or classified information, but instead are thank you notes, holiday greetings, and the like.

All of the emails were withheld under presidential privilege and privacy act and deliberative process exemptions to the FOIA. The new details are formally submitted in  what is called a Vaughn Index, a document prepared for FOIA lawsuits in which government departments justify the withholding of information. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)

In February 2016, it was reported there were 19 emails between Clinton and Obama, not 18. It is unclear if the Vaughn Index is missing one or if the report of 19 emails was off by one.