January 19–20, 2001: John Deutch pleads guilty to mishandling government secrets, then Bill Clinton pardons him.

CIA Director John Deutch (Credit: public domain

CIA Director John Deutch (Credit: public domain

Deutch was CIA director from May 1995 to December 1996. Shortly after he retired from the job, it was discovered that he stored and processed hundreds of highly classified government files on unprotected home computers that he and his family also used to connect to the Internet. An investigation began which dragged on for years. He was stripped of his CIA security clearance in 1999.

On January 19, 2001, Deutch agrees to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for mishandling government secrets as part of a plea bargain with the Justice Department. However, just one day later, President Bill Clinton officially pardons him. This is Clinton’s last day as president. (The Associated Press, 1/24/2001)

August 22, 2001: A top al-Qaeda expert quits the FBI due to fallout from a briefcase incident.

John P. O'Neill (Credit: public domain)

John P. O’Neill (Credit: public domain)

John O’Neill, considered the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda, retires from the bureau. In July 2000, he left a briefcase containing classified documents in a room with other FBI agents while he went outside to take a cell phone call. His briefcase was missing when he returned. It was recovered by police a short time later with only a pen and lighter missing. Fingerdusting revealed the documents were never touched, and a Justice Department investigation cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.

However, he felt the incident damaged his career so much that he took a job offer to work as head of security at the World Trade Center. He is killed on 9/11 just a couple of weeks after starting his new job. (PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002) (US Department of State, 3/31/2016)

2008: A government guide explains how to deal with the accidental mention of classified information.

The US government posts an internal guide on how to deal with “spillage”—the common term for classified information accidentally getting onto an unclassified system. The guide, “National Instruction on Classified Information Spillage,” explains how such errors should be assessed and reported. One step mentioned for more severe cases is: “Determine whether the incident should be referred to the Department of Justice for investigation and/or criminal prosecution.” (The New York Times, 8/8/2015)

January 15, 2009: The Clinton Foundation releases its list of donors for the first time.

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Victor Dahdaleh (Credit: Leon Neal / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

The foundation is not legally obliged to do so, but there is political pressure, with this being the first day of Hillary Clinton’s Senate confirmation hearing for her to become the next secretary of state.

The list shows that over 200,000 donors gave at least $492 million dollars since the foundation was founded in 1997. Exact contribution amounts are unknown because the list only gives ranges. At least $46 million comes directly from foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia. The foundation promises to reveal all future donors on a yearly basis, and new foreign government donations will be scrutinized by “government ethics officers.” Some donations come from sources that could lead to controversy or conflicts of interest.

For instance, the Blackwater security firm donated between $10,001 to $25,000. The Associated Press notes the company is “at risk of losing its lucrative government contract to protect US diplomats in Iraq.”

The Internet company Yahoo, as well as its top executives Jerry Yang, Frank Biondi, and Terry Semel donated as well. The Associated Press comments that the company has been “involved in disputes over surrendering Internet information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of dissidents there.”

Also, Victor Dahdaleh gave between $1 million to $5 million. He is a Canadian investor involved in aluminum production. He has been sued for fraud and bribery by a Bahrain aluminum company, and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation about it. (The Associated Press, 1/18/2009) Dahdaleh will be acquitted in the legal case in 2013. But he will be implicated in a different financial scandal in 2016. (Yahoo Finance, 5/25/2016)

March 9, 2012: A Justice Department memo clarifies a policy of avoiding interference in elections.

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder (Credit: public domain)

Eric Holder, the US attorney general from 2009 until 2015, writes a memo during the 2012 US presidential race outlining Justice Department policy on how to avoid interfering in elections. It states that department employees (which includes the FBI) “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” If an employee is “faced with a question regarding the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election,” that person should contact the department’s public integrity section “for further guidance.”

The department has had such policies for decades, and they usually are restated every presidential election, but the memo adds clarity to them. (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016) (US Department of Justice, 3/9/2012)

This department policy will be tested in 2016, when the FBI reopens an investigation into Clinton’s emails just 11 days before Clinton is on the ballot for the US presidential election.

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)

2014: The data on Clinton’s first private server is transferred to another computer, causing some of Clinton’s emails to be lost.

When Clinton became secretary of state in January 2009, her emails were hosted on her first private email server, which was an Apple computer (either an Apple Power Macintosh G4 or G5 tower). In March 2009, the server was replaced by a new one built by Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano. The old server was repurposed to serve as a personal computer and/or workstation for household staff at Clinton’s Chappaqua, New York, house.

At some unknown point in 2014, the data on this Apple computer is transferred to an Apple iMac computer. The hard drive of the old Apple computer is then discarded. Clinton’s emails from January 2009 until around March 18, 2009, are apparently lost as a result.

On October 14, 2015, Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, tells the Justice Department that a review of the iMac was conducted, as requested by the Justice Department, and no emails were found belonging to Clinton from when she was secretary of state. The FBI will not directly examine the iMac. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

April 23, 2015: Petraeus is given a remarkably lenient plea bargain despite his serious security violations.

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

CIA Director David Petraeus (Credit: public domain)

A federal judge sentences former CIA director and general David Petraeus to two years of probation and a $100,000 fine for giving his biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell, access to notebooks, classified information about official meetings, war strategy, and intelligence capabilities. Petraeus had been the CIA director from 2011 to 2012, but he was forced to quit due to the scandal. (The New York Times, 4/23/2015) 

The FBI seeks jail time for him, but doesn’t get it due to the plea bargain with the Justice Department. The New York Times will later report that FBI Director James Comey made the case to Attorney General Eric Holder that “Mr. Petraeus deserved to face strenuous charges. But the Justice Department overruled the FBI, and the department allowed Mr. Petraeus to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015) The sentence is considered surprisingly light, given the evidence.

In 2016, the Washington Post will report, “FBI officials were angered by the deal and predicted it would affect the outcome of other cases involving classified information.” One former US law enforcement official will complain the deal “was handled so lightly for his offense there isn’t a whole lot you can do.” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016)

Summer 2015: The FBI begins an investigation of the Clinton Foundation.

An FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation begins around the summer of 2015, after the publication of the controversial book Clinton Cash in May 2015. The author Peter Schweizer will be interviewed multiple times by the FBI. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

In October 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report: “The probe of the foundation began… to determine whether financial crimes or influence peddling occurred related to the charity.” (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

In November 2016, CNN will comment on the investigation starting due to Clinton Cash: “It’s not uncommon for FBI probes to begin as a result of or be fueled by published news articles or books.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

The investigation will continue, but the Justice Department will not give the FBI subpoena powers, keeping the investigation limited and hobbled.

 

July 23, 2015: Accounts differ if the FBI has started a criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails.

The New York Times reports that “two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation” into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in Clinton’s emails. (The FBI works for the Justice Department.)

The next day, a Justice Department confirms the report. But later in the day, the Justice Department backs away from its characterization of the referral as “criminal.” (The New York Times, 7/24/2015) (The Washington Post, 7/24/2015) Indeed, such a request was made on July 6, 2015. But technically, the referral is called a “security referral” and not a criminal one.

However, it will later emerge that the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails actually began in late May 2015, thus making the dispute over the type of referral largely a moot point. (CNN, 8/20/2015)

July 31, 2015: Clinton’s lawyer is asked to turn over his copies of Clinton’s emails.

A typical thumb drive, a.k.a. USB Drive (Credit: Tech Target)

A typical thumb drive, a.k.a. USB Drive (Credit: Tech Target)

On July 31, 2015, a Justice Department prosecutor calls Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall seeking a thumb drive that contained a copy of the 30,000 emails that Clinton had already turned over to the State Department, according to a person briefed about the conversation.

On August 6, 2015, Kendall gives the FBI his thumb drive, as well as two copies. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015)

August 11, 2015: Clinton finally agrees to allow the Justice Department to investigate her private server, as well as thumb drives housing her work emails.

This comes after months of her refusing to hand it over. (The New York Times, 8/11/2015The old server is picked up by the FBI from the management of Platte River Networks (PRN) one day later. It is being kept at an Equinix data center in Secaucus, New Jersey, and it is picked up there.

However, the company transferred Clinton’s data to a new server, which is also being managed by PRN and is kept at the same data center. The FBI won’t pick up that one until October 2015.

September 4, 2015: Justice Department lawyers oppose a search for Clinton’s deleted emails.

Judicial Watch asks a federal judge to order the State Department to take steps to determine whether any of the 31,830 emails deleted by Clinton still exist. They argue that Clinton’s emails are essentially government property that she should not have been allowed to take when she left the State Department.

However, Justice Department lawyers acting on behalf of the State Department oppose the request. They argue that personal emails are not federal records and don’t need to be preserved. One such government lawyer asserts, “There is no question that former Secretary Clinton had authority to delete personal emails without agency supervision—she appropriately could have done so even if she were working on a government server.”

Others have noted that at least some of the deleted emails have been found and were work-related. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2015)

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)

October 8, 2015: President Obama calls Clinton’s use of a private email server a “mistake,” but also says, “I don’t think it posed a national security problem.”

President Obama in a 60 Minutes interview that aired October 11, 2015. (Credit: CBS News)

President Obama in a 60 Minutes interview that aired October 11, 2015. (Credit: CBS News)

In a 60 Minutes interview, he goes on to say, “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.” He adds that, “We don’t get an impression that there was purposely efforts […] to hide something or to squirrel away information,”

However, several days later a White House spokesperson says Obama will wait for the Justice Department investigation’s determination about that. Politico will later comment, “Agents and retired FBI personnel told journalists the comments were inappropriate given the fact that the FBI inquiry was ongoing.” (The Associated Press, 10/13/2015(CNN, 10/13/2015) (Politico, 3/9/2016)

October 16, 2015: FBI agents are upset at President Obama’s comment that he thinks Clinton made a mistake but didn’t endanger national security

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, headquarters of the FBI in Washington, DC. (Credit: Aude / Wikimedia Commons)

The J. Edgar Hoover Building, headquarters of the FBI in Washington, DC. (Credit: Aude / Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Times reports that although the White House backtracked later, “Those statements angered FBI agents who have been working for months to determine whether Mrs. Clinton’s email setup did in fact put any of the nation’s secrets at risk, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Investigators have not reached any conclusions about whether the information on the server was compromised or whether to recommend charges, according to the law enforcement officials. But to investigators, it sounded as if Mr. Obama had already decided the answers to their questions and cleared anyone involved of wrongdoing.”

Ron Hosko, who was a senior FBI official until he retired in 2014, says, “Injecting politics into what is supposed to be a fact-finding inquiry leaves a foul taste in the FBI’s mouth and makes them fear that no matter what they find, the Justice Department will take the president’s signal and not bring a case.” (The New York Times, 10/16/2015

An unnamed upset FBI agent at the Washington Field Office, where the investigation is based, says, “We got the message. […] Obama’s not subtle sometimes.” (The New York Observer, 10/19/2015)

November 10, 2015: The FBI’s inquiry into Clinton’s emails has turned into a “full-blown investigation.”

Tom Fuentes (Credit: CNN)

Tom Fuentes (Credit: CNN)

Politico reports, “The FBI’s recent moves [regarding Clinton’s private emails] suggest that its inquiry could have evolved from the preliminary fact-finding stage that the agency launches when it receives a credible referral, according to former FBI and Justice Department officials interviewed…” The FBI has been conducting interviews and gathering documents.

Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI, says, “This sounds to me like it’s more than a preliminary inquiry; it sounds like a full-blown investigation. When you have this amount of resources going into it… I think it’s at the investigative level.” (Politico, 11/10/2015)

November 17, 2015: The Clinton Foundation is accused of being a money laundering front to benefit the Clintons.

Ken Silverstein (Credit; Tribute Magazine)

Ken Silverstein (Credit; Tribute Magazine)

Longtime investigative journalist Ken Silverstein writes an expose about the foundation for Harper’s Magazine. He asserts: “If the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies do their jobs, the foundation will be closed and its current and past trustees, who include Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton, will be indicted. That’s because their so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich Clinton family friends.”

As one example, Silverstein notes that the Clinton Foundation has received more than $1 billion to purchase HIV/AIDS drugs for poor people around the world. “However, a unit set up to receive the money…clearly spent far, far less than it took in. In fact, the unit’s accounting practices were so shoddy that its license was revoked by the state of Massachusetts, where it was headquartered.”

An unnamed “money-laundering expert and former intelligence officer based in the Middle East who had access to the foundation’s confidential banking information” claims that all investigators would have to do “is match up Hillary’s travel as secretary of state with Bill’s speaking arrangements. Bill heads out to foreign countries and he gets paid huge amounts of money for a thirty-minute speech and then she heads out for an official visit as a favor. She racked up more miles than any secretary of state [other than Condoleezza Rice] and that’s one of the reasons why. How can they get away with that?” The Clinton Foundation has not commented on the allegations. (Harper’s Magazine, 11/17/2015)

December 22, 2015: Pagliano is secretly interviewed as part of an immunity deal with the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano makes a “derivative use” immunity deal with the Justice Department by this time, though it’s not clear exactly when this happens. Then he gives testimony to the FBI and the Justice Department as part of the FBI’s Clinton investigation. Apparently he speaks to investigators at least twice, though it is not known when the second interview takes place. “Derivative use” immunity wouldn’t prevent investigators from prosecuting Pagliano, but limits them from using any evidence derived from his testimony against him.

The media will first report on the immunity deal in March 2016, and more details will be made public in a court filing in June 2016. (LawNewz, 6/7/2016) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

 

January 25, 2016: Tom DeLay says, “I have friends that are in the FBI, and they tell me…they’re ready to recommend an indictment.”

Tom Delay (Credit: public domain)

Tom Delay (Credit: public domain)

He adds, “And they also say that if the attorney general does not indict, they’re going public. So one way or another, either she’s gonna be indicted, and that process begins, or we try her in the public eye with her campaign.”

DeLay is a Republican and was the former House Majority Leader. He was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy in 2010, but that conviction was later overturned. (The New York Daily News, 1/26/2016)

January 28, 2016: The Navy’s intelligence chief had his security clearance suspended during an investigation, but Petraeus and Clinton did not.

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch (Credit: public domain)

Vice Admiral Ted Branch had his security clearance suspended in November 2013, after the Navy learned his name surfaced in a Justice Department-led corruption investigation involving dozens of Navy personnel. No evidence has emerged that he compromised military secrets or committed any crimes. However, over 800 days later he has neither been charged nor cleared. He is the head of the Navy’s intelligence division, but he has less access to classified information than the lowest ranking sailor. He can’t even walk into any office without it being swept by security personnel first to make sure any classified documents are locked up. (The Washington Post, 1/28/2016)

By contrast, news reports indicate that neither Clinton nor any of her top aides have had their security clearances suspended, despite the ongoing FBI’s investigation into the mismanagement of classified information in their unsecured emails. Additionally, when CIA Director David Petraeus came under FBI investigation for mismanaging classified information in late 2012, his security clearance also was not formally revoked. He only had it suspended after he resigned. (Bloomberg News, 2/4/2016)

January 29, 2016—March 9, 2016: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest is criticized for his Clinton scandal comments.

On January 29, 2016, Earnest is asked if the White House believes Clinton will be indicted for her email scandal or not. He replies, “I know that some officials over there have said is that she is not a target of the investigation. So that does not seem to be the direction that it’s trending, but I’m certainly not going to weigh in on a decision or in that process in any way. That is a decision to be made solely by independent prosecutors. But, again, based on what we know from the Department of Justice, it does not seem to be headed in that direction.”

On March 9, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that Earnest shouldn’t have made such comments. “Certainly, it’s my hope when it comes to ongoing investigations, that we would all stay silent. […] It is true that neither I nor anyone in the department has briefed Mr. Earnest or anyone in the White House about this matter. I’m simply not aware of the source of his information.”

Earnest then clarifies that he was only referring to his opinion of news reports. (Politico, 3/9/2016)

Before February 2016: The FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation gains evidence from at least two confidential informants involved in other investigations.

Peter Schweizer (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting between FBI and Justice Department officials about the direction of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation. The investigation began in the summer of 2015, following the publication of the book Clinton Cash by conservative author Peter Schweizer.

At first, the investigation mostly focused on the allegations against the foundation in the book. But the Wall Street Journal will report that by the time of the February 2016 meeting, “Within the FBI, some felt they had moved well beyond the allegations made in the anti-Clinton book. At least two confidential informants from other public-corruption investigations had provided details about the Clinton Foundation to the FBI, these people said.”

The Journal will report, “The FBI had secretly recorded conversations of a suspect in a public-corruption case talking about alleged deals the Clintons made… The agents listening to the recordings couldn’t tell from the conversations if what the suspect was describing was accurate, but it was, they thought, worth checking out.”

However, prosecutors in the Justice Department think “the talk was hearsay and a weak basis to warrant aggressive tactics, like presenting evidence to a grand jury, because the person who was secretly recorded wasn’t inside the Clinton Foundation.” This causes some FBI agents to grow increasingly frustrated with resistance from the Justice Department as well as some leaders in the FBI.

In the February 2016 meeting, the Justice Department will turn down a request from the FBI investigation for grand jury backing. Without it, they can’t gather evidence using subpoenas or search warrants. But the investigation will continue without those legal powers. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

Before February 2016: A suspicious bank transaction draws the attention of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

In November 2016, CNN will report that in the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, “at least one FBI field office also received notification of a possible suspicious bank transaction. The transaction involving a Clinton Foundation donor was flagged in what is known as a suspicious activity report, routine notices sent through the Treasury Department’s financial enforcement arm.”

The timing of this incident is not clear. But the CNN article will mention it prior to describing a pivotal meeting between the FBI and Justice Department in February 2016. (CNN, 11/2/2016)

February 2016: The Justice Department declines to give the FBI Clinton Foundation investigation the legal authority for more investigative powers, but the investigation continues anyway.

In the summer of 2015the FBI begins investigating the Clinton Foundation. By early 2016, four FBI field offices (New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Little Rock, Arkansas) have been pursuing information about the foundation.

In February 2016, FBI officials make a presentation to the Justice Department, apparently trying to get more legal authority, such as subpoena power, which can only come from the Justice Department agreeing to empanel a grand jury. The FBI had gained evidence from at least two informants who came up in other investigations and were critical of the foundation. It also may have learned of a suspicious bank transaction by this time.

Assistant Attorney General, Leslie Caldwell (Credit: Jason Doiy)

Assistant Attorney General, Leslie Caldwell (Credit: Jason Doiy)

The meeting is held in Washington, DC, and is attended by FBI officials, prosecutors from the Justice Department’s public integrity section, and Leslie Caldwell, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division. Robert Capers, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will later play a key role in the conflict between the FBI and Justice Department, but neither he nor prosecutors from his office attend. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

The Wall Street Journal will report on this in October 2016: “By all accounts, the meeting didn’t go well. Some said that is because the FBI didn’t present compelling evidence to justify more aggressive pursuit of the Clinton Foundation, and that the career anti-corruption prosecutors in the room simply believed it wasn’t a very strong case. Others said that from the start, the Justice Department officials were stern, icy, and dismissive of the case. ‘That was one of the weirdest meetings I’ve ever been to,’ one participant told others afterward, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The Journal will add, “Anti-corruption prosecutors at the Justice Department told the FBI at the meeting they wouldn’t authorize more aggressive investigative techniques, such as subpoenas, formal witness interviews, or grand jury activity. But the FBI officials believed they were well within their authority to pursue the leads and methods already under way, these people said.”

As a result, the FBI foundation investigation(s) will continue, but without subpoena power and other common investigative powers. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

Not long after the meeting, the Justice Department will allegedly send a message for all offices to “stand down,” but that won’t stop the investigation either.

After February 2016: Justice Department officials allegedly tell FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation to “stand down,” to no effect.

The Wall Street Journal Logo (Credit: public domain)

The Wall Street Journal Logo (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting between the FBI and Justice Department to determine the fate and direction of the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation. The FBI wanted more investigative power to intensify their investigation, but the Justice Department refused to give it, claiming their case is weak.

The Wall Street Journal will later report that after this meeting, “Justice Department officials became increasingly frustrated that the [FBI] agents seemed to be disregarding or disobeying their instructions. Following the February meeting, officials at Justice Department headquarters sent a message to all the offices involved to ‘stand down,’ a person familiar with the matter said.”

The Journal will explain that this means to “proceed more overtly” and “act discreetly,” due to the sensitivities of conducting an investigation into the foundation closely linked to Hillary Clinton, who is a major Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election, while the election is in full swing.

However, the investigation will continue as before, though still without the additional powers only the Justice Department can grant. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

February 2016—Early November 2016: It is alleged that a US attorney has increased tensions between the FBI and Justice Department over the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

On November 2, 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report, “Starting in February [2016] and continuing today, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and public-corruption prosecutors [at the Justice Department] became increasingly frustrated with each other, as often happens within and between departments. At the center of the tension stood [the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York], Robert Capers, who some at the FBI came to view as exacerbating the problems by telling each side what it wanted to hear…”

Robert Capers (Credit: public domain)

Robert Capers (Credit: public domain)

In February 2016, there is a key meeting in which FBI investigators presented their evidence to Justice Department officials, hoping to be granted additional powers so they could conduct a more vigorous investigation. But the department officials turned them down, claiming that their case was weak.

The stances in the FBI and Justice Department would essentially remain unchanged through late October 2016, when the conflict would erupt into public view due to a series of leaks.

The Journal will report, “At times, people on both sides of the dispute thought Mr. Capers agreed with them. Defenders of Mr. Capers said he was straightforward and always told people he thought the case wasn’t strong. … In subsequent conversations with the Justice Department, Mr. Capers told officials in Washington that the FBI agents on the case ‘won’t let it go…'”

However, Capers is not the only official singled out for blame in public leaks. The Journal will also report that “some have blamed the FBI’s No. 2 official, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, claiming he sought to stop agents from pursuing the case this summer. His defenders deny that, and say it was the Justice Department that kept pushing back on the investigation.” McCabe has been criticized for a conflict of interest that could make him biased in favor of the foundation, but he has refused to recuse himself from the foundation investigation.

In August 2016, the FBI and Justice Department agree to delay major decisions in the investigation until after the presidential election on November 8, 2016. However, multiple leaks to the media show that tensions remain high in the conflict. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/2/2016)

February 8, 2016: The Justice Department seems to be against appointing a special prosecutor for Clinton’s email scandal.

Melanie Newman (Credit: public domain)

Melanie Newman (Credit: public domain)

Department spokesperson Melanie Newman says in a statement, “This matter is being reviewed by career attorneys and investigators and does not meet the criteria for the appointment of a special prosecutor.” There has been increasing pressure, especially from Republicans, to appoint a special prosecutor.

Many worry about a potential conflict of interest if Attorney General Loretta Lynch were to head any prosecution. Although Lynch isn’t seen as personally close to Hillary Clinton, Lynch was appointed to be the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Furthermore, there is speculation that Lynch might keep her job as attorney general if Clinton wins the presidential election in November 2016, giving her a personal investment in the outcome of any prosecution.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Charles Grassley (R) has said that a special prosecutor would reassure Americans that decisions are made “without regard to any political considerations.” Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primaries, said in October 2015, “I think they probably won’t indict her, because the attorney general is from New York, who I believe is a friend of Hillary Clinton.” (The Hill, 2/8/2016)

February 9, 2016—February 22, 2016: The FBI is unable to obtain any of Clinton’s BlackBerrys to examine them; two useful Clinton iPads are found, but they only contain three previously unknown emails.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation determines that Clinton used 11 BlackBerrys while she was secretary of state, and two more using the same phone number after she left office. On February 9, 2016, the Justice Department requests all 13 BlackBerrys from Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall.

Williams & Connolly replies on February 22, 2016 that they were unable to locate any of them. As a result, the FBI is unable to acquire or forensically examine any of Clinton’s BlackBerrys.

The FBI also identifies five iPads associated with Clinton which she could have used to send emails. The FBI obtains three of them, though it’s not clear if they come from Williams & Connolly or other sources. One iPad was given away by Clinton shortly after she bought it, so it is not examined by the FBI.

Out of the other two, one contains three previously unknown Clinton emails from 2012 in the “drafts”” folder. The FBI assesses the three emails and determines they don’t contain any potentially classified information. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

March 2, 2016: It is reported Clinton’s former computer technician has made an immunity deal.

Hillary Clinton and Brian Pagliano at a party, date and location unknown. (Credit: Facebook)

Hillary Clinton and Brian Pagliano at a party, date and location unknown. (Credit: Facebook)

It is reported that Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton staffer who helped set up her private email server, has accepted an immunity deal from the FBI and the Justice Department.

In September 2015, Pagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to speak to the House Benghazi Committee. He managed the server from 2008 until mid-2013. He actually started secretly cooperating with investigators in late 2015. The Clinton campaign claims they are “pleased” Pagliano is finally cooperating with prosecutors. (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016) 

The next day, Congressional Republicans say they want to interview Pagliano, since the deal means his Fifth Amendment pledge is no longer applicable. They also want to see the exact terms of the deal. (The Associated Press, 3/3/2016)

March 2,2016–March 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation is focusing on possible crimes.

On March 2, 2016, the Washington Post reports, “The Clinton campaign has described the [FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails] as a security review. But current and former officials in the FBI and at the Justice Department have said investigators are trying to determine whether a crime was committed.” One former senior law enforcement official asks, “There was wrongdoing. But was it criminal wrongdoing?” (The Washington Post, 3/2/2016) 

The next day, CNN similarly reports, “FBI investigators are expected to shift their focus on whether the highly sensitive government information, including top secret and other classified matters, found on Clinton’s private email server constitutes a crime.” (CNN, 3/3/2016)

March 2, 2016–March 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation could conclude by May 2016.

The New York Times reports, “A federal law enforcement official said that barring any unforeseen changes, the FBI investigation [into Clinton’s emails] could conclude by early May. Then the Justice Department will decide whether to file criminal charges and, if so, against whom.”

In addition to the FBI investigation, there are continuing inquiries by the State Department inspector general, the Intelligence Community inspector general, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and the House Benghazi Committee. There are also numerous on-going lawsuits that could reveal more information to the public. (The New York Times, 3/2/2016)

March 5, 2016: Pagliano’s immunity deal suggests a grand jury could already have been convened.

Danny Cevallos (Credit: CNN)

Danny Cevallos (Credit: CNN)

CNN’s legal analyst Danny Cevallos suggests the news that the FBI has granted immunity to Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano could mean a grand jury has been convened in the FBI’s Clinton investigation. “The smart bet is yes. After all, the fact that there are immunity agreements logically means there’s a grand jury investigation in some district. The grand jury is typically the genesis of the government’s subpoena power. The next, bigger question, is whether anyone will be indicted. The mere fact that the [Department of Justice] wants to talk to Pagliano does not mean anyone will be indicted. But if [they are] investigating criminal activity, they tend to find criminal activity.”

Cevallos points out that the federal conviction rate is well above 90%. He also suggests that Pagliano may not be out of legal danger, depending on what kind of immunity he was given. (CNN, 3/5/2016) 

Other legal observers have conflicting opinions on the significance of the deal. Criminal defense lawyer Jacob Frenkel says it “raises exponentially the stakes in the investigation. […] This is a significant piece in providing clarity to an otherwise complicated jigsaw puzzle, [but] we do not know exactly where Mr. Pagliano’s finger or fingers will point.” Also, there has been no official sign that a grand jury has been convened. (The Washington Post, 3/3/2016)

March 9, 2016: Attorney General Lynch shows no interest in the Clinton Foundation’s foreign donors.

Senator Thom Tillis (Credit: NC Political News)

Senator Thom Tillis (Credit: NC Political News)

Senator Thom Tillis (R) asks Attorney General Loretta Lynch if the Justice Department is looking into whether Bill and/or Hillary Clinton took funds from foreign governments while Hillary served as secretary of state. Presumably this refers to the Clinton Foundation, which accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments during that time. Lynch replies, “I’m not aware of any other issue along the lines of what you have outlined.” (Politico, 3/9/2016)

March 20, 2016: The FBI allegedly is moving towards recommending an indictment of Clinton, but it is facing political pressure not to do so.

The New York Post reports, “FBI chief James Comey and his investigators are increasingly certain that presidential nominee Hillary Clinton violated laws in handling classified government information through her private email server, career agents say.”

One unnamed former official says, “You don’t start granting people close to Clinton immunity unless you are seriously looking at charges against your target.”

However, it is also believed that the Obama White House is putting pressure on Comey not to recommend charges against Clinton. The Post further reports that “some FBI staffers suggest the probe’s at a point where Comey might quit in protest if [the] Justice [Department] ignores a recommendation to pursue a criminal case against Clinton.” (The New York Post, 3/20/2016)

March 30, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton investigation has reportedly reached a “critical stage.”

David Schuster (Credit: public domain)

David Schuster (Credit: public domain)

Reporter David Schuster says, “The FBI, led by Director James Comey, has now finished examining Clinton’s private emails and home server. And the sources add that Comey’s FBI team has been joined by the Justice Department prosecutors. Together, they are now examining the evidence, analyzing relevant laws, and attempting to arrange interviews with key figures in the investigation.

Those interviews, according to attorneys, will include former State Department aide Philippe Reines, former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills, and Clinton herself. Soon after those interviews—in the next few days and weeks—officials expect Director Comey to make his recommendation to Attorney General Loretta Lynch about potential criminal charges.” (Mediate, 3/30/2016)

Spring 2016: FBI and Justice Department officials consider opening a specific corruption case regarding the Clinton Foundation, but decide not to do so.

160401ClintonMcAuliffePaulJRichardsAFPGetty

Clinton appears with Governor Terry McAuliffe during a campaign rally on February 29, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Credit: Paul J. Richards / Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

According to CNN in August 2016, some time around the spring of 2016, the FBI receives a notice from a bank of suspicious activity from an unnamed foreigner who had donated to the Clinton Foundation. Three FBI field offices come to an agreement that an investigation regarding this activity should be started. However, during a meeting between the FBI and the Justice Department, it is decided not to pursue an investigation. According to CNN, Justice officials are concerned the request seems more political than substantive, especially given that Hillary Clinton is running for president at the time, and they are against opening an investigation, so it is not pursued.

However, at least one other Clinton Foundation investigation raised at that same meeting does continue – an FBI investigation into Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) and his ties to a Clinton Foundation donor. (CNN, 8/11/2016)

April 10, 2016: President Obama downplays the seriousness of Clinton’s email scandal.

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama being interviewed on Fox News, April 10, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

President Obama comments about Clinton’s email scandal. He says, “I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that, and she’s acknowledged, that there’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.” (MSNBC, 4/10/2016)

When asked about some of Clinton’s emails that were deemed to have a “top secret” classification, he says, “What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are—there’s classified, and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret, top secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source.”

When asked about the independence of the FBI investigation, he says, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case.” (CBS News, 4/10/2016)

April 28, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Justice Department hasn’t set a deadline to finish the FBI’s Clinton investigation because doing so would hurt its effectiveness.

Asked in an interview if voters deserve to know the result of the investigation before the Democratic primaries are over, Lynch replies, “People have to have confidence that we treat every case the same, no matter whose last name is involved, no matter how much publicity it gets. We don’t make predictions on the time because that essentially cuts off the independence of that and it cuts off the thoroughness.” (Bloomberg News, 4/28/2016)

May 5, 2016: CNN alleges the FBI has not proven that Clinton “willfully” broke the law; the investigation could conclude within weeks.

CNN reports, “The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven’t found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law the US officials say.” However, nothing has been said about crimes that did not involve willful violation of the law, such as gross negligence, or unsecure possession of classified material.

Unnamed officials also claim that “The probe remains focused on the security of the server and the handling of classified information and hasn’t expanded to other matters.”

Furthermore, “FBI officials overseeing the probe now expect to complete their work in the next few weeks and then turn over the findings to the Justice Department, which will make a final decision on whether to bring charges against anyone.” (CNN, 5/5/2016)

May 5, 2016: Accounts differ on the results of the FBI’s Clinton investigation so far.

The Washington Post reports, “Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to US officials familiar with the matter.” Additionally, “One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.” (The Washington Post, 5/5/2016)

However, a few hours later, NBC News cites unnamed US officials who have a different point of view. “As for where the investigation stands, these officials say it is a long way from over. […] No conclusions have been reached about whether any laws were violated in setting up or using the system, the officials say.” (NBC News, 5/5/2016)

May 10, 2016: A key record keeping official says the disappearance of Pagliano’s emails “stink to high heavens.”

Daniel Metcalfe (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / Legal Times)

Daniel Metcalfe (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / Legal Times)

Dan Metcalfe, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information and Privacy for 25 years, comments on news that the State Department can’t find the emails of Clinton’s computer technician Bryan Pagliano: “If it is true that federal records directly documenting his work no longer exist, then that is awfully coincidental, to put it most charitably—especially given the nature of his work and the role he has played in the Clinton email controversy.”

He adds, “And it certainly now raises reasonable suspicion, as it did with the Senate a few months ago, that something was very much amiss here—either with record creation or record preservation, or both. For someone who has taken the Fifth regarding his government activity, it is more than suspicious that his agency suddenly determine that the records that you would ordinarily expect it to have maintained about his work are just not there. […] In short, the whole thing stinks to high heavens.” (LawNewz, 5/10/2016)

May 10, 2016: A recent interview shows differences between FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors in the Clinton email investigation.

Cheryl Mills (right) and her attorney Beth Wilkinson (left) (Credit: Getty Images)

Cheryl Mills (right) and her attorney Beth Wilkinson (left) (Credit: Getty Images)

The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s former aide Cheryl Mills was recently interviewed by the FBI as part of their Clinton investigation. (It will later be revealed the interview took place on April 9, 2016.) Not long after it started, an FBI investigator asked Mills about how Mills chose which of Clinton’s emails to turn over to the State Department and which ones to delete.

It has been reported that process was done by Mills along with Clinton associates David Kendall and Heather Samuelson. However, Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson and the Justice Department had agreed the topic would be off-limits. Mills and Wilkinson left the room, but they returned a short time later. Ultimately, Mills was not asked about that topic.

The Washington Post reports that Justice Department “prosecutors were somewhat taken aback that their FBI colleague had ventured beyond what was anticipated…” The topic was considered off-limits because “it was considered confidential as an example of attorney-client privilege.” Mills is a lawyer, but she served as Clinton’s chief of staff and it has never been reported that she has legally represented Clinton.

The Post also reports, “It is not completely unknown for FBI agents and prosecutors to diverge on interview tactics and approach, and the people familiar with the matter said Mills answered investigators’ questions.” (The Washington Post, 5/10/2016)

May 23, 2016: The FBI is investigating the governor of Virginia, including his time as a board member of the CGI.

Governor Terry McAuliffe (Credit: public domain)

Governor Terry McAuliffe (Credit: public domain)

CNN reports, “Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, US officials briefed on the probe say. […] [I]nvestigators have scrutinized McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative [CGI],” a yearly conference run by the Clinton Foundation. There is no allegation that the foundation did anything wrong.

The investigation is particularly focused on a $120,000 donation by Wang Wenliang through his US businesses to McAuliffe’s campaign for governor. Wang is a Chinese citizen and used to be a delegate to China’s National People’s Congress. However, he holds permanent resident status in the US, and is therefore eligible to donate to political campaigns, so it’s not clear what the alleged wrongdoing is. Wang has also given $2 million to the Clinton Foundation, as well as other major donations to other US-based charities. (CNN, 5/23/2016)

May 25, 2016: Clinton’s spokesperson defends Clinton not cooperating for the inspector general’s report by claiming she’s cooperating with the FBI investigation instead.

Brian Fallon (Credit: Bloomberg Politics)

Brian Fallon (Credit: Bloomberg Politics)

Clinton’s spokesperson, Brian Fallon, responds to the State Department inspector general’s report critiquing Clinton’s email practices.

He attempts to justify why Clinton and her top aides did not get interviewed for the inspector general’s report by saying, “To our mind, it made sense to prioritize the review being conducted by the Justice Department 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. And she has similarly encouraged all of her aides to cooperate in every way with that Justice Department review.”

By “Justice Department review,” he is referring to the FBI’s Clinton investigation, even though the FBI director recently said they are conducting an “investigation” and not any kind of “review.”

Fallon argues that by the time the FBI investigation is done, “it will be impossible for anybody to suggest that she didn’t answer every question that anybody had.”

According to Politico, “He also said that there were questions raised about whether the inspector general—an independent position appointed by President Barack Obama—has an anti-Clinton bias, though he said there was no indication of any bias in the [inspector general’s report].” (Politico, 5/25/2016)

May 26, 2016: Justice Department lawyers are “wholly opposed” to Clinton being deposed in a civil suit related to her emails.

Justice Department lawyers oppose Judicial Watch’s request that Clinton give a sworn deposition. There are two closely related civil suits in which Judicial Watch has been granted the right of discovery, allowing them to depose witnesses. Six of Clinton’s former aides are already being deposed in the suit presided over by federal judge Emmet Sullivan.

Judicial Watch recently requested that Clinton be deposed in the other suit, presided over by federal judge Royce Lamberth. However, department lawyers argue that Lamberth should let the depositions in the other case play out before allowing Clinton to be deposed in his case. They call the request “wholly inappropriate,” adding, “Judicial Watch makes no attempt here to justify why the witnesses it names would provide any relevant information that is not redundant and cumulative of the discovery that has already been ordered and initiated.”

However, while they oppose Clinton being deposed, they do not oppose Judicial Watch’s request to depose former Clinton aide Jake Sullivan. So far, Judicial Watch has not asked for Clinton or Sullivan to be deposed in the other suit. (Politico, 5/27/2016)

May 27, 2016: Cheryl Mills is deposed under oath, but frequently fails to answer questions.

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Cheryl Mills speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2012. (Credit: Clinton Global Initiative)

Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills is deposed by Judicial Watch as part of civil lawsuit presided over by US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan. She is questioned for seven hours, with eleven other lawyers present, including four Justice Department lawyers assisting Mills.

The deposition is contentious, with Judicial Watch lawyers frequently arguing with Mills’ lawyer Beth Wilkinson and State Department lawyers. Mills has also worked as one of Clinton’s lawyers at times (though not while Clinton was secretary of state), and Wilkinson often objects to questions on the grounds of attorney-client privilege between Mills and Clinton. For instance, Mills fails to answer any questions about the sorting and deleting of Clinton’s emails in late 2014, when Mills was one of Clinton’s lawyers who performed that task. Mills also doesn’t answer many questions about Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano. (LawNewz, 5/31/2016) (Politico, 5/31/2016) (Judicial Watch, 5/31/2016)

Mills is frequently forgetful or uncertain with her answers. The New York Post calculates she says “I can’t recall” 40 times and “I don’t know” 182 times. (The New York Post, 6/11/2016)