June 1, 2016: Pagliano will refuse to answer questions in his upcoming deposition.

Lawyers for Clinton’s former computer technician Bryan Pagliano say he “will assert the Fifth Amendment and will decline to answer each and every question” when deposed by Judicial Watch as part of a civil suit on June 6.

Pagliano previously refused to speak to the House Benghazi Committee or Congressional investigators. However, it has been reported that he made an immunity deal with the Justice Department as part of cooperating with the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Also, despite the fact that Pagliano plans on not answering any questions, his lawyers also ask that no video recording of his deposition be made. US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has already ruled that videos of the deposition should be put under seal. However, Pagliano’s lawyers argue there still could be a chance a video could be released later. (Politico, 6/1/2016) (The Hill, 6/1/2016)

Two days later, Sullivan announces that Pagliano’s deposition will be postponed until issues about his pleading the Fifth are resolved. Sullivan has asked Pagliano’s lawyers to reveal the scope of the immunity deal between Pagliano and the Justice Department, and how that could affect this civil case. There are different types of immunity deals, and until now it hasn’t been clear which type applies to Pagliano. (Politico, 6/3/2016) (The Hill, 6/3/2016)

June 1, 2016: Fox News reports that the recently released State Department inspector general’s report increases “the likelihood and pressure” that the FBI will pursue criminal charges against Clinton.

This is according to an unnamed “intelligence source familiar with the FBI investigation.” This source says, “It is very harmful to her and increases the likelihood and pressure on [the Department of Justice] to indict. […] [The report] is not evidence in itself, but it clears up confusion [about] Department of State rules and makes the IG [inspector general] a witness, and the people they interviewed, to her computer antics being done without permission.”

The FBI would need to recommend an indictment before the Justice Department would decide to move forward with the case or not.

The source also says that the report “will be useful as rebuttal, potential evidence in 18 USC 1001 charges and establishing aspects of 18 USC 793.” “18 USC 1001” is a reference to a statute known as the “false statements statute.” “Materially false” statements given to a federal officer could result in five years in prison per violation. “18 USC 793” is a reference to a statute which is part of the Espionage Act, and is known as the “gross negligence” statute. (Fox News, 6/1/2016)

June 8, 2016: It remains unknown if the State Department’s legal office was aware of Clinton’s use of a private email server.

While deposed in a civil lawsuit by Judicial Watch, State Department official Karin Lang declines to say whether or not the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser was aware of Clinton’s private server. She also declines to say whether the department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process or searches were adequate when Judicial Watch in 2013 requested records that could have included emails from Clinton.

Lang is accompanied by four lawyers for the State and Justice departments in the deposition, and they object that such questions violate attorney-client privilege or are a legal judgment. (The Washington Post, 6/8/2016)

June 10, 2016: Justice Department lawyers want the details of Pagliano’s immunity deal to remain a secret.

Bryan Pagliano was Clinton’s computer technician, and he made an immunity deal with the Justice Department in late 2015.

Several days earlier his lawyers revealed to federal judge Emmet Sullivan that it was a limited “derivative use” immunity deal. But they argue that releasing more details of “Mr. Pagliano’s agreements with the United States could prematurely reveal the scope and focus of the pending investigation.” Furthermore, “The FBI cannot publicly disclose the specific focus, scope, or potential targets of any such investigation without adversely affecting the investigation.” (Politico, 6/10/2016)

 Several days later, Sullivan will agree to keep the details a secret.

June 12, 2016: WikiLeaks says it will be making public more of Clinton’s previously unpublished emails.

Juilan Assange appears on ITV on June 12, 2016. (Credit: ITV)

Juilan Assange appears on ITV on June 12, 2016. (Credit: ITV)

In an interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is asked if his organization has any of Clinton’s “undisclosed emails.” He replies, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton,” and “We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton pending publication, that is correct.” He also says, “There is very strong material both in the emails and in relation to the Clinton Foundation.”

He believes this contains enough evidence for the FBI to recommend Clinton’s indictment: “We’ve accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton. We could proceed to an indictment.”

He doesn’t specify when or how many emails might be published. Asked about the FBI’s Clinton investigation, he believes the Justice Department will do the bidding of President Obama and so they will not indict Clinton. (The Guardian, 6/12/2016(ITV, 6/12/2016)

Several days later, a hacked using the nickname Guccifer 2.0 shares files from a recent hack of the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and claims to have given “thousands of files and mails” to WikiLeaks. (Wired, 6/15/2016) (Vice News, 6/15/2016) 

June 27, 2016: Former President Bill Clinton has an “accidental” meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, causing a political storm.

Headlines displayed on a photo capture of a CBS News report on June 27, 2016. (Credit: CBS News)

Headlines displayed on a photo capture of a CBS News report on June 27, 2016. (Credit: CBS News)

On the night of June 27, 2016, Clinton and Lynch are in separate airplanes at the international airport in Phoenix, Arizona. According to an account by Lynch two days later, Clinton walks uninvited from his plane to her plane and talks with her for about half an hour. On June 30, 2016, CBS News will report, “An aide to Bill Clinton says that he spotted her on the tarmac, but CBS News has been told that she was in an unmarked plane.” (CBS News, 6/30/2016)

Lynch will say: “He did come over and say hello, and speak to my husband and myself, and talk about his grandchildren and his travels and things like that. That was the extent of that. And no discussions were held into any cases or things like that.” However, this encounter causes what the New York Times calls a “political furor” and “storm,” because Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary is being investigated by the FBI.

Furthermore, the FBI is expected to make a recommendation to indict her or not “in the coming weeks,” according to the Times. If the FBI does recommend indictment, then the decision to actually indict or not will rest with Lynch. Thus, many Republican politicians and even some Democrats criticize Bill Clinton and Lynch simply for meeting at all during such a politically charged time.

  • Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump calls it “one of the big stories of this week, of this month, of this year.” He says it was a “sneak” meeting, exposing that Clinton’s possible indictment is already a rigged process.
  • Republican Senator John Cornyn says that as a lawyer and attorney general, Lynch “must avoid even the appearance” of a conflict of interest, and renews his call for a special prosecutor to take charge of the Clinton investigation instead of Lynch.
  • David Axelrod, President Obama’s former senior adviser, says he takes Clinton and Lynch at their word that their conversation didn’t touch on the FBI investigation, but that it was “foolish to create such optics.”
  • Democratic Senator Chris Coons says he is convinced Lynch is “an independent attorney general. But I do think that this meeting sends the wrong signal… I think she should have steered clear, even of a brief, casual, social meeting with the former president.”
    Senator Chris Coons (Credit: public domain)

    Senator Chris Coons (Credit: public domain)

  • White House spokesperson Josh Earnest refuses to say whether the meeting was appropriate or not.
  • The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch says the meeting creates the impression that “the fix is in” and calls on the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate the meeting. (The New York Times, 6/30/2016) (The Hill, 6/30/2016) (CBS News, 6/30/2016)

New York University law school professor Stephen Gillers comments: “It was the height of insensitivity for the former president to approach the attorney general. He put her in a very difficult position. She wasn’t really free to say she wouldn’t talk to a former president. […] He jeopardized her independence and did create an appearance of impropriety going onto her plane.” He adds that the meeting “feeds the dominant narrative that the Clintons don’t follow the usual rules, that they’re free to have back channel communications like this one and that’s true even if we assume as I do that nothing improper was said.” (NPR, 6/30/2016)

 

June 29, 2016: The State Department wants to delay the release of emails between Clinton’s former aides and the Clinton Foundation until well after the 2016 presidential election.

Melanne Verveer (left) (Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs,Michael Fuchs (right) (Credit: Center for American Progress)

Former Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer (left) (Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Michael Fuchs (right) (Credit: Center for American Progress)

Conservative group Citizens United has a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking emails that former State Department officials Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs exchanged with employees of the Clinton Foundation or Teneo Consulting, a company closely tied to the Clintons. The court has ordered the emails to be released by July 21, 2016.

However, Justice Department lawyers acting on behalf of the State Department ask US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras for an extension until October 2018 – more than two years. The State Department says they thought in March 2016 that there were only 6,000 pages of emails to process. But an error was discovered and they now believe there are more than 14,000 pages. The department also complains they are falling behind responding to FOIA requests and lawsuits in general.

Citizens United president David Bossie says, “This is totally unacceptable; the State Department is using taxpayer dollars to protect their candidate Hillary Clinton. The American people have a right to see these emails before the [November 2016 presidential] election. […] The conflicts of interest that were made possible by the activities of Hillary Clinton’s State Department in tandem with the Clinton Foundation are of significant importance to the public and the law enforcement community.” (Politico, 6/29/2016)

 

July 1, 2016: Attorney General Loretta Lynch will accept whatever recommendations the FBI and career prosecutors give in the Clinton investigation.

Jonathan Capehart interviews U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Aspen Ideas Festival on July 1, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

Jonathan Capehart interviews Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Aspen, Colorado, on July 1, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch says of the FBI’s Clinton investigation, “The recommendations will be reviewed by career supervisors in the Department of Justice and in the FBI, and by the FBI director, and then as is the common process, they present it to me and I fully expect to accept their recommendations.”

She doesn’t completely recuse herself from the process, saying that if she did that she wouldn’t even be able to see the FBI’s report. She says, “While I don’t have a role in those findings, in coming up with those findings or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I will be briefed on it and I will be accepting their recommendations.” (Politico, 7/1/2016)

The New York Times comments, “Her decision removes the possibility that a political appointee will overrule investigators in the case.” The Justice Department supposedly had been moving towards the arrangement since at least April 2016, but a private meeting on June 27, 2016 between Lynch and Hillary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, “set off a political furor and made the decision all but inevitable.” (The New York Times, 7/1/2016)

Lynch claims that she had been planning to essentially recuse herself for months, although there is no evidence of this. But it seems clear her controversial meeting with Clinton played a role. She says of the meeting, “I certainly wouldn’t do it again. Because I think it has cast a shadow.” (Politico, 7/1/2016)

The Times says that the US attorney general often follows the recommendations of career prosecutors, so she “is keeping the regular process largely intact.” However, when the FBI, led by Comey, wanted to bring felony charges against former CIA Director David Petraeus in 2013, Lynch’s predecessor Eric Holder arranged a plea deal, reducing the charge to a misdemeanor and no jail time. The created a “deep and public rift” between the FBI and the Justice Department. (The New York Times, 7/1/2016)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says President Obama didn’t play a role in Lynch’s decision, nor did he offer input on her decision to make that announcement. (Politico, 7/1/2016)

July 1, 2016: Attorney General Lynch says she regrets meeting with Bill Clinton.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives in Arizona on June 29, 2016 for a planned visit to promote community policing.. (Credit: ABC News)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives in Arizona for a planned visit to promote community policing. (Credit: ABC News)

At the same time that Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces she will mostly recuse herself from deciding if Clinton should be indicted or not, she also says that she regrets having a private meeting with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton. The meeting took place four days earlier, on June 27, 2016.

She says, “I certainly wouldn’t do it again. Because I think it has cast a shadow. The most important thing for me as attorney general is the integrity of this Department of Justice. And the fact that the meeting I had is now casting a shadow over how people will view that work is something that I take seriously and deeply and painfully.”

Politico points out, “Republicans have long complained that the Justice Department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server constitutes a conflict of interest by default. They have argued that Lynch, a Democratic political appointee, might seek to protect the Democratic presidential nominee.” Additionally, Bill Clinton appointed Lynch to be US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. (Politico, 7/1/2016)

July 2, 2016: The FBI finally interviews Clinton as part of its email investigation.

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The Secret Service stands on guard at the home of Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC, on July 2, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

After months of speculation and after interviews with Clinton’s top aides, the FBI finally directly interviews Hillary Clinton. The interview takes place on a Saturday morning over the Fourth of July weekend, and takes place at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Although some news reports one day earlier correctly predicted the day it would take place, no photographers are able to take any pictures of her arriving or leaving.

The New York Times reports, “The interview had been weeks in the making as law enforcement officials and Mrs. Clinton’s team coordinated schedules. Democrats also hoped that holding the interview on a holiday weekend might ease the anticipated storm.”

The interview takes place just three weeks before Clinton is expected to be nominated for president at the Democratic convention. It lasts three and a half hours, a time some consider short after a year-long investigation. It is said to be voluntary, meaning she wasn’t subpoenaed.

Clinton is accompanied into the meeting by her personal lawyer David Kendall, her longtime aides and lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, and Katherine Turner and Amy Saharia, who are lawyers from Kendall’s firm Williams & Connolly. Eight officials from the FBI and the Justice Department conduct the interview.

Little is publicly revealed about the content of the interview. However, one unnamed person who is “familiar with the substance of the session”  characterizes the meeting as “civil” and “businesslike.”

It is anticipated that the interview means the FBI’s interview is nearing a conclusion. However, the Times also reports, “Although the interview on Saturday was an important step toward closure on the email issue, technical analysis of the material remains to be done and could stretch on for an indeterminate period.” (The New York Times, 7/2/2016)

Several days later, it will be revealed that the interview was not recorded, due to FBI policy, and Clinton didn’t have to swear an oath to tell the truth. Also, FBI Director James Comey was not one of the five or six FBI officials to take part, although he had previously given indications that he would. (The Hill, 7/7/2016)

July 3, 2016: If Clinton is elected president, she may keep Lynch as attorney general.

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Obama looks on as Loretta Lynch is sworn in during a formal ceremony on June 17, 2015. (Credit: Oliver Douliery / European Press Agency)

The New York Times reports, “Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton say she may decide to retain Ms. [Loretta] Lynch, the nation’s first black woman to be attorney general, who took office in April 2015.” The Times says this comes from “Democrats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations with Mrs. Clinton and her advisers…” (The New York Times, 7/3/2016)

Lynch technically is the head of the FBI’s Clinton investigation, since she’s in charge of the Justice Department and the FBI is a part of that. She recently announced she would accept the recommendation of the FBI and top Justice lawyers in Clinton’s case, but she has not fully recused herself.

Two days later, and after FBI Director James Comey announces he will not recommend that Clinton be indicted, presumptive Republican presidential nominee will comment on the article’s revelation, saying, “I think it’s a bribe.” (The Washington Post, 7/5/2016)

July 3, 2016: A former FBI official says leaks claiming Clinton will not be indicted “are not being made by anybody that knows what they’re talking about.”

Photo of former FBI director Tom Fuentes appearing on CNN with Fredricka Whitfield on July 3, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

CNN photo of former FBI director Tom Fuentes in an interview with Fredricka Whitfield on July 3, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes comments about the FBI’s Clinton investigation: “What I’ve been hearing is, is that the leaks that are supposedly being attributed that say she’s not likely to be charged are not being made by anybody that knows what they’re talking about. I’ve talked to people who at least know that there’s nothing leaking out of the FBI about any decision that’s been made.”

He continues, “I just question the leaks that are coming out. From what I’ve heard, there are no leaks coming out. And agents that even know and that have friends that are working on this case don’t know what’s going on. This has been tightly held. And also, within the FBI, any threat of a leak of the investigation against employees of the FBI is a career ender. It’s serious and they can be prosecuted. And they know that. And so that’s why you don’t often have leaks come out during the FBI part of it, but when they start disseminating it, especially when the report goes across the street to the Department of Justice, then you’re going to start hearing about that.” (CNN, 7/3/2016)

July 5, 2016: FBI Director Comey announces he will not recommend Clinton’s indictment on any charge, but he calls her “extremely careless” in handling highly classified information.

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation for Clinton and her aides on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey announces his recommendation in a press conference on July 5, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey gives a public speech in front of a group of reporters. The timing is surprising, since this brings an end to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email practices, and just a Sunday and the Fourth of July holiday separate this from the FBI’s interview of Clinton on July 2, 2016. Comey spends most of his speech criticizing Clinton, but ends it by saying he will not recommend that the Justice Department pursue any indictment of Clinton or her aides.

Comey’s fifteen-minute speech includes the following information, in order, with key phrases bolded to assist in understanding.

Comey begins by describing the FBI investigation:

  • The investigation started with a referral from Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough, and “focused on whether classified information was transmitted” on Clinton’s personal email server during her time as secretary of state. It specifically “looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.” The FBI “also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal email server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.”
  • The FBI found that Clinton “used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send email on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways…”
  • The FBI analyzed the over 30,000 work emails that Clinton did turn over to the State Department in December 2014, working with other US government departments to determine which emails contained truly classified information at the time they were sent, and which ones were justifiably classified later.
  • James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    James Comey (Credit: Fox News)

    From the group of 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, “110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was ‘top secret’ at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained ‘secret’ information at the time; and eight contained ‘confidential’ information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them ‘confidential’; the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

  • It had previously been reported that the FBI had recovered most or all of the 31,830 emails that Clinton had deleted, allegedly because they contained personal information only. However, Comey reveals that was not the case, and thousands of emails were not recovered. He gives an example of how when one of Clinton’s servers was decommissioned in 2013, the email was removed and broken up into millions of fragments.
  • The FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails” that were not included in the 30,068 emails Clinton returned to the State Department, even though Clinton claimed under oath that she had returned all her work-related emails. The FBI found these after they “had been deleted over the years and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private email domain.” Others were found in the archived government email accounts of other government employees whom Clinton frequently communicated with. Still others were found “from the laborious review of the millions of email fragments” of the server decommissioned in 2013.
  • Out of these additional work emails, three were classified at the time they were sent or received – none at the ‘top secret’ level, one at the ‘secret’ level, and two at the ‘confidential’ level. None were found to have been deemed classified later.
  • Furthermore, Comey claims “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them. Our assessment is that, like many email users, Secretary Clinton periodically deleted emails or emails were purged from the system when devices were changed. Because she was not using a government account—or even a commercial account like Gmail—there was no archiving at all of her emails, so it is not surprising that we discovered emails that were not on Secretary Clinton’s system in 2014, when she produced the 30,000 emails to the State Department.”
  • 160705DeletingAttorneys

    The three Clinton attorneys who deleted emails are David Kendall (left), Cheryl Mills (center), and Heather Samuelson (right). (Credit: public domain)

    However, he also admits that “It could also be that some of the additional work-related emails we recovered were among those deleted as ‘personal’ by Secretary Clinton’s lawyers when they reviewed and sorted her emails for production in 2014.” He claims that the three lawyers who sorted the emails for Clinton in late 2014 (David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson) “did not individually read the content of all of her emails…” Instead, they used keyword searches to determine which emails were work related, and it is “highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails” that were later found by the FBI elsewhere.

  • Comey states it is “likely” that some emails may have disappeared forever. because Clinton’s three lawyers “deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.” But he says that after interviews and technical examination, “we believe our investigation has been sufficient to give us reasonable confidence there was no intentional misconduct in connection with that sorting effort.”

Comey then begins stating his findings:

  • “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
  • As an example, he points out that “seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the ‘Top Secret/Special Access Program’ [TP/SAP] level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
  • He adds that it was a similar situation with emails classified at the “secret” level when they were sent, although he doesn’t specify how many.
  • He comments, “None of these emails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at departments and agencies of the US government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”
  • He notes that “only a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked ‘classified’ in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”
  • He then criticizes the State Department as a whole. 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 was especially true regarding the use of unclassified email systems.
  • Then he addresses whether “hostile actors” were able to gain access to Clinton’s emails. Although no direct evidence of any successful hacking was found, he points out that “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

After laying out the evidence of what the FBI found, Comey moves to the FBI’s recommendation to the Justice Department. He admits that it is highly unusual to publicly reveal the FBI’s recommendation, but “in this case, given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.”

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

James Comey (Credit: NPR)

Then he comes to these conclusions:

  • “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.”
  • To justify this decision, he claims he examined other cases involving the mishandling or removal of classified information, and “we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.”
  • He then says, “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now. As a result, although the Department of Justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.”
  • He concludes by saying the FBI’s investigation was done competently, honestly, and independently, and without any kind of outside influence.

He doesn’t address the possibility of recommending the indictment of any of Clinton’s aides or other figures like Sid Blumenthal or Justin Cooper. He also doesn’t make any mention of the Clinton Foundation, though there have been media reports the FBI has been investigating it as well. After finishing his speech, he leaves without taking any questions from the media. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/5/2016)

July 6, 2016: The Justice Department won’t pursue an indictment against Clinton, ending the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

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Loretta Lynch holds a press conference on June 29, 2016 to explain her private meeting with Bill Clinton at the Arizona airport. (Credit: ABC News)

One day after FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not give the Justice Department a recommendation to indict Clinton, Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Justice Department agrees with Comey and will not pursue the indictment. Comey did not publicly discuss Clinton’s former aides, but Lynch says there will not be any indictments of her aides either. She also announces that this closes the investigation into Clinton’s email practices during her tenure as secretary of state.

Lynch says, “Late this afternoon, I met with FBI Director James Comey and career prosecutors and agents who conducted the investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system during her time as Secretary of State. I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation.”

On July 1, 2016, Lynch said she would accept whatever recommendations Comey and her top prosecutors would give after it was discovered she’d had a meeting with Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband, several days earlier.

Lynch’s announcement comes one day before Comey is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee, in order to explain his decision to not recommend any indictments.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Reince Priebus criticizes Lynch’s decision, saying, “By so blatantly putting its political interests ahead of the rule of law, the Obama administration is only further eroding the public’s faith in a government they no longer believe is on their side.” (Politico, 7/6/2016)

July 7, 2016: Comey says he didn’t recommend Clinton be charged because he couldn’t prove intent, despite the gross negligence law.

In Congressional testimony, FBI Director James Comey essentially argues that Clinton was guilty of gross negligence, which doesn’t require proof of intent, but he was only willing to indict her on intent-related charges, and there wasn’t enough evidence for that. He says: “Certainly, she should have known not to send classified information. As I said, that’s the definition of negligent. I think she was extremely careless. I think she was negligent. That, I could establish. What we can’t establish is that she acted with the necessary criminal intent.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

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Representative William Hurd (Credit: Alchetron)

Representative William Hurd (R) asks, “What does it take for someone to misuse classified information and get in trouble for it?”

Comey answers, “It takes mishandling it and criminal intent.” He admits that Clinton mishandled the information by having it on a private server, but he doesn’t see evidence of criminal intent. (CNN, 7/7/2016)

He further comments, “There’s not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she knew she was receiving classified information or that she intended to retain it on her server. There’s evidence of that, but when I said there’s not clear evidence of intent, that’s what I meant. I could not, even if the Department of Justice would bring that case, I could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt those two elements.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

At another point in the hearing, he argues, “The question of whether [what she did] amounts to gross negligence frankly is really not at the center of this because when I look at the history of the prosecutions and see, it’s been one case brought on a gross negligence theory.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

The law criminalizing gross negligence in national security lapses was enacted in 1917. Comey says, “I know from 30 years there’s no way anybody at the Department of Justice is bringing a case against John Doe or Hillary Clinton for the second time in 100 years based on those facts.”

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James Smith (Credit: CNN)

The FBI later confirms to Politico that James Smith is the one case Comey is referring to. Smith, a longtime FBI agent, was arrested in 2003 and charged with gross negligence. However, he later pleaded guilty in return for having the charges reduced to one count of making false statements. (Politico, 7/7/2016)

But Comey’s claim that gross negligence has only been used once in recent decades is true only if one looks at cases brought by the Justice Department. Cases have also been brought in the military justice system.

Additionally, Politico points out, “Comey’s universe was also limited to cases actually brought, as opposed to threatened. The gross negligence charge is often on the table when prosecutors persuade defendants to plead guilty to the lesser misdemeanor offense of mishandling classified information.” (Politico, 7/7/2016)

Later in the hearing, Representative Blake Farenthold (R) says, “So Congress when they enacted that statute said ‘gross negligence.’ That doesn’t say ‘intent.’ So what are we going to have to enact to get you guys to prosecute something based on negligence or gross negligence? Are we going to have to add, ‘and oh by the way, we don’t mean — we really do mean you don’t have to have intent there?'”

Comey replies, “That’s a conversation for you all to have with the Department of Justice. But it would have to be something more than the statute enacted in 1917. Because for 99 years, they’ve been very worried about its constitutionality.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

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Representative Tim Walberg (Credit: Twitter)

Representative Tim Walberg (R) asks him, “Do you believe that the — that since the Department of Justice hasn’t used the statute Congress passed, it’s invalid?”

Comey responds, “No. I think they are worried that it is invalid, that it will be challenged on Constitutional grounds, which is why they’ve used it extraordinarily sparingly in the decades.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

During the hearing, it is pointed out several times that felony crime based on negligence and not intent are common at both the state and federal level, for intance manslaughter instead of murder, and their consitutionality has never been successfully challenged. At one point, Comey admits other negligence cases have been sustained in the federal system: “They’re mostly, as you talked about earlier, in the environmental and Food and Drug Administration [FDA] area.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

But he is adamant about not indicting any cases without being able to prove intent. At one point, he even suggests he is philosophically opposed to any laws based on negligence when he mentions, “When I was in the private sector, I did a lot of work with the Chamber of Commerce to stop the criminalization of negligence in the United States.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-July 2016: The FBI reorganizes its Clinton Foundation investigation, despite the involvement of an FBI official with a potential conflict of interest.

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend indicting anyone targeted in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. That effectively closed the investigation. The FBI still has an ongoing investigation in the Clinton Foundation, with four FBI field offices taking part.

Andrew McCabe (Credit: public domain)

Andrew McCabe (Credit: public domain)

About one week after Comey’s announcement, the FBI seeks to refocus the Clinton Foundation investigation. Andrew McCabe is the associate deputy FBI director at the time, the number three position in the FBI, but by the end of the month he is promoted to deputy FBI director, the number two position. McCabe decides the FBI’s New York office will take the lead, with assistance from the Little Rock, Arkansas office.

The Washington field office will instead focus on an investigation involving Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D). McAuliffe was a Clinton Foundation board member until he became governor in 2013, and some media reports indicate the investigation concerns a Chinese businessperson who donated millions of dollars to the foundation. McCabe recused himself from the McAuliffe investigation because political organizations linked to McAuliffe donated over $700,000 to the state senate election campaign of McCabe’s wife in 2015. However, McCabe does not recuse himself from the Clinton Foundation investigation.

According to the Journal, “Within the FBI, the decision was viewed with skepticism by some, who felt the probe would be stronger if the foundation and McAuliffe matters were combined. Others, particularly Justice Department anti-corruption prosecutors, felt that both probes were weak, based largely on publicly available information, and had found little that would merit expanded investigative authority.”

The Justice Department previously declined to empanel a grand jury for the foundation investigation, and still doesn’t give it the additional investigative powers that would come with grand jury backing. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

CNN will add that as part of the reorganization, agents in the Los Angeles, Little Rock, and Washington, DC. field offices, are told to turn over their files to the FBI New York office. “Agents were told to continue their work. But the order to the other field offices angered agents there.”

Additionally, during this meeting or in subsequent meetings over the next month, the New York office is told not to take any major steps in the investigation until after the US presidential election on November 8, 2016. CNN will report that “some agents [in New York] chafed at the decision that they had to sit and wait until after the election.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

Mid-July 2016—August 2016: FBI and Justice Department officials agree to wait until after the 2016 presidential election to decide the next steps in the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

According to a November 2016 New York Times article, senior FBI and Justice Department officials have a series of meetings over what to do regarding the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, which has been in existence since the summer of 2015, but lacks the grand jury authority that would give it subpoena power. The Times will report, “The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”

These officials “agreed that making the Clinton Foundation investigation public could influence the presidential race and suggest they were favoring [Republican presidential nominee Donald] Trump. But waiting, they acknowledged, could open them up to criticism from Republicans, who were demanding an investigation. They agreed to keep the case open but wait until after the election to determine their next steps. The move infuriated some agents, who thought that the FBI’s leaders were reining them in because of politics.” (The New York Times, 11/1/2016)

A CNN article published shortly after the Times article will quote an unnamed law enforcement official familiar with the meetings as saying, “It’s just a (message of) ‘hold right now until after the elections — no subpoenas issued, no interviews.'” Although the Times says the meetings happen in August 2016, CNN says the decision to wait is made in a mid-July 2016 meeting. (CNN, 11/2/2016)

During this time frame, on August 12, 2016, a Justice Department official unsuccessfully attempts to shut down the investigation.

July 21, 2016: The FBI begins sending thousands of recovered Clinton emails to the State Department.

According to Justice Department lawyers in a new court filing, on July 21, 2016, “the FBI began transferring the retrieved materials to the State Department, and will continue to transfer the retrieved materials to the State Department on a rolling basis.”

In late 2014, Clinton and her lawyers kept about 30,000 emails they deemed work related and deleted another 32,000 they deemed personal. The exact number of deleted emails that the FBI managed to recover or find from other sources has not been specified.

Some emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were also found, since one of her email accounts was stored on the same clintonemail.com private server as Clinton’s emails, but the number of recovered Abedin emails is unknown.

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Photo captured from video of Jason Leopold’s immediate response to the results of his Clinton Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: Vice News)

The lawyers say they can’t estimate how long the transfer process will take. Once the State Department has the emails, those judged by the department to be work related will be made responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Those deemed genuinely personal may never be made public. (Politico, 7/22/2016)

Vice News reporter Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA lawsuit demanding the release of all of Clinton’s work-related emails. (The Wall Street Journal, 7/6/2016) (Jason Leopold, Video 7/23/16)

August 11, 2016: According the Daily Caller, the FBI is pursuing multiple investigations regarding possible corruption related to the Clinton Foundation.

Additionally, various US Attorney offices in different states are giving assistance. This is according to an unnamed “former official who has direct knowledge” of the investigations. The main investigation is said to be based in New York, which is where the Clinton Foundation is headquartered.

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Preet Bharara, US attorney for the Southern District of New York. (Credit: R. Umar Abbasi / Wire Image)

This is being led by Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York. The source says that Bharara and his office “would be seen by [FBI] agents as a positive development, as prosecutors there are generally thought to be more aggressive than the career lawyers within the [Justice Department].” The office has specialized in large-scale, sophisticated financial frauds. By contrast, the FBI investigation of Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state was conducted by FBI headquarters without the involvement of state US Attorneys. (The Daily Caller, 8/11/2016)

It is known that one FBI investigation regarding the Clinton Foundation relates to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) and his ties to a Clinton Foundation donor. The Daily Caller report comes hours after an CNN report talking about a failed attempt to start a different Clinton Foundation-related investigation, and makes clear that is not what they are referring to. (CNN, 8/11/2016)

In October 2016, the Wall Street Journal will confirm the existence of an FBI Clinton Foundation investigation, which has been on-going since 2015.

August 12, 2016: A Justice Department official allegedly attempts to shut down the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, but it continues.

Since 2015 or earlier, multiple FBI field offices have been involved in an investigation of the Clinton Foundation. However, in February 2016, the FBI appealed to the Justice Department for additional investigative powers, such as having a grand jury empaneled to gain subpoena power, but the department said no. The investigation continued anyway, without the additional powers the department can give.

Andrew McCabe, left, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, listen during a news conference, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Andrew McCabe, left, and Loretta Lynch, listen during a news conference, July 20, 2016. (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

In October 2016, the Wall Street Journal will report that on August 12, 2016, an unnamed senior Justice Department official calls Andrew McCabe (who was promoted to deputy FBI director one month earlier) to voice his displeasure at finding that New York FBI agents are still openly pursuing the Clinton Foundation investigation during the election season, with Hillary Clinton being one of the major candidates.

McCabe allegedly replies that FBI agents still have the authority to pursue the issue as long as they don’t use methods requiring Justice Department approvals.

The Journal will report, “The Justice Department official was ‘very pissed off,’ according to one person close to Mr. McCabe, and pressed him to explain why the FBI was still chasing a matter the department considered dormant. Others said the Justice Department was simply trying to make sure FBI agents were following longstanding policy not to make overt investigative moves that could be seen as trying to influence an election. Those rules discourage investigators from making any such moves before a primary or general election, and, at a minimum, checking with anti-corruption prosecutors before doing so.”

McCabe allegedly asks the department official, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?”

After a pause, the official allegedly replies, “Of course not.”

The Journal will further report, “For Mr. McCabe’s defenders, the exchange showed how he was stuck between an FBI office eager to pour more resources into a case and Justice Department prosecutors who didn’t think much of the case, one person said. Those people said that following the call, Mr. McCabe reiterated past instructions to FBI agents that they were to keep pursuing the work within the authority they had.”

But according to “others further down the FBI chain of command,” FBI agents “were given a much starker instruction on the case: ‘Stand down.’ When agents questioned why they weren’t allowed to take more aggressive steps, they said they were told the order had come from the deputy director—Mr. McCabe. Others familiar with the matter deny Mr. McCabe or any other senior FBI official gave such a stand-down instruction.”

According to the Journal, some agents within the FBI believe that McCabe and other FBI leaders weren’t defending the investigation strongly enough, while others believe that McCabe’s behavior was correct. Either way, the investigation continues, but still without that subpoena power that can only come from Justice Department support. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

McCabe has a conflict of interest with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who in turn is being investigated by the FBI for activities that could involve the Clinton Foundation.

August 15, 2016: Two Republican Congresspeople specifically point out the comments they believe make Clinton guilty of perjury.

In early July 2016, Republicans formally asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether Clinton committed perjury with some of her comments while speaking before Congress in October 2015.

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Representative Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Twitter)

On August 15, 2016, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the Oversight Committee, write a letter to Channing Phillips, the US attorney for the District of Columbia. The letter points out four comments Clinton made in her Congressional testimony that they believe contradicts what the FBI learned during their Clinton email investigation.

They write: “The four pieces of sworn testimony by Secretary Clinton described herein are incompatible with the FBI’s findings. We hope this information is helpful to your office’s consideration of our referral.”

  • In her testimony, Clinton claimed that none of the material she sent or received via her personal email account was marked as classified. But the FBI later determined that at least three emails contained classified markings, although they were apparently done in error.
  • Clinton claimed her lawyers went through each of her emails individually before deciding to delete them or not. However, the FBI has since claimed this is not so.
  • She said all of her work-related emails were given back to the State Department in December 2014, but thousands of other work-related emails have since been found.
  • She claimed she only used one server while secretary of state, but the FBI says the server was replaced more than once.

Earlier in the month, the Justice Department told Goodlatte and Chaffetz that it is reviewing information “and will take appropriate action as necessary.”

The Hill comments that the “letter is a sign that Republicans are committed to pressuring the Justice Department to act against Clinton, even after it notably declined to prosecute her for mishandling classified information,” and that Republicans “also appear to be making a public case for an indictment, perhaps building off widespread unease with the decision not to prosecute…” (The Hill, 8/16/2016)

August 16, 2016: The FBI gives Congress some classified documents from its Clinton email investigation.

The documents include the FBI’s summary of the interview of Clinton on July 1, 2016, known as a 302.

The State Department wanted to review the 302 interview summaries first, but the FBI ignored that request. On July 7, 2016, FBI Director James Comey said when it came to documents relating to the FBI’s Clinton investigation, he was committed to delivering to Congress “everything I can possibly give you under the law and to doing it as quickly as possible.”

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Representative Adam Schiff (Credit: Michael Buckner / Getty Images)

Representative Adam Schiff (D) criticizes the move. “With the exception of the classified emails that had been found on the private server, I can see little legitimate purpose to which Congress will put these materials. Instead, as the now-discredited Benghazi Committee demonstrated, their contents will simply be leaked for political purposes. This will neither serve the interests of justice nor aid Congress in its responsibilities and will merely set a precedent for the FBI to turn over closed case files whenever one party in Congress does not like a prosecutorial decision. This has been done in the name of transparency, but as this precedent chills the cooperation of other witnesses in the future, I suspect the Department of Justice will later come to refer to it by a different name — mistake.”

The documents can be seen by members of Congress, but they are not allowed to publicly reveal any of it. An FBI spokesperson says, “The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence.”

However, Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the judiciary committee, says, “On initial review, it seems that much of the material given to the Senate today, other than copies of the large number of emails on Secretary Clinton’s server containing classified information, is marked ‘unclassified/for official use.’ The FBI should make as much of the material available as possible.”

Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon also wants to see the material publicly release, saying, “This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI. We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.” (Politico, 8/16/2016)

August 30, 2016: More than 50 House Republicans call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s ties to the Clinton Foundation.

The representatives write a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether Clinton Foundation donors had unusual access to Hillary Clinton while she served as secretary of State. This comes after an August 24, 2016 Associated Press article that claims over half of all the private citizens Clinton met with in those years donated to the foundation.

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Representative John Ratcliffe (Credit: public domain)

Representative John Ratcliffe (R) spearheads the letter, which cites the evidence in the article, then says, “All of this makes it very unclear where the State Department ended and where the Clinton Foundation began. … The facts as they have been reported surrounding the Clinton Foundation warrant an investigation that is beyond reproach and beyond any appearance of political favoritism. Appointing a special counsel is a necessary step at this juncture.”

The presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump has also been pushing for a special prosecutor in recent days. Prominent Republicans such as vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have issued similar statements.

Not surprisingly, Clinton and other Democratic politicians reject the need for a special prosecutor. For instance, Representative Adam Schiff (D) says, “There’s no evidence at all of any illegality in terms of Clinton Foundation and the secretary of state’s of work. … The most that has come to surface is that some of the Clinton Foundation supporters also met with the secretary of state, which you would imagine would be the case. So no, that’s not at all the kind of foundation you would want for the extraordinary step of a special investigator [or] prosecutor.” (The Hill, 8/30/2016)

September 6, 2016: Representative Chaffetz asks a federal prosecutor to determine if Clinton and/or members of her staff played a role in deleting her emails from her private server.

Channing Phillips (Credit: public domain)

Channing Phillips (Credit: public domain)

The request comes in the form of a letter from Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to Channing Phillips, the US attorney for the District of Columbia. It asks the Justice Department to “investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries, and concealment or cover up of evidence material to a congressional investigation.”

Although the FBI ended its Clinton email investigation in July 2016 without recommending an indictment of Clinton or anyone else, newly revealed evidence indicates Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta deleted and wiped all of Clinton’s emails in March 2015. He had communications with Clinton’s lawyers just days before and after the deletions, but the FBI was unable to determine what was said in those communications, possibly due to an assertion of attorney-client privilege. (Salon, 9/6/2016)

September 8, 2016: The Denver Post editorial board suggests the deletion of Clinton emails is a “fishy story.”

The Denver Post Logo (Credit: The Denver Post)

The Denver Post Logo (Credit: The Denver Post)

The Denver Post’s editorial board publishes an editorial on September 8, 2016, entitled “A fishy story in Platte River Networks’ purge of Clinton e-mails.” It focuses on Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta’s FBI interview and his deletion and wiping of Clinton’s emails with a program “wonderfully named BleachBit.”

The editorial mentions Combetta’s “sudden remembrance” to delete the emails, and a subsequent conference call between PRN officials and a “longtime Clinton aide and personal lawyer.” When the FBI eventually attempted to investigate the conference call, they were met with Combetta’s claim of attorney-client privilege. The editorial states, “That just looks awful. So [it’s] little wonder the Republican chairman of the House committee investigating Clinton’s e-mail arrangement — Utah’s Jason Chaffetz — has asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether she or others were involved in the decision to destroy those emails following the preservation order.”

The Post argues “the information from the [FBI’s] summary of its investigation doesn’t sit well. It’s reasonable to ask why the FBI didn’t look deeper. It’s reasonable to ask why [Combetta] would act if, as the logic of the cover story must argue, the emails were simply personal notes about yoga appointments and being a grandmother.”

The editorial agrees with Chaffetz’s call for the Justice Department “to investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries and concealment of cover-up of evidence material to a congressional committee.” It closes by saying, “something about this story feels whitewashed — or maybe bleached out is the better term for it now.” (The Denver Post, 9/8/2016)

September 9, 2016: Representative Gowdy says the FBI “gave immunity to the very person you would most want to prosecute.”

Trey Gowdy appears on Fox News on September 10, 2016 to discuss the immunity deal. (Credit: Fox News)

On September 09, 2016, Trey Gowdy appears on Fox News with Martha MacCallum to discuss the immunity deal given to Paul Combetta. (Credit: Fox News)

Representative Trey Gowdy (R) comments about a New York Times article from the day before that revealed Platte River Networks employee Paul Combetta was not only the person who deleted and wiped Clinton’s emails, but was the person who got an immunity deal from the FBI.

Gowdy says there are two types of immunity Combetta could have received: use and transactional. “If the FBI and the Department of Justice gave this witness transactional immunity, it is tantamount to giving the triggerman immunity in a robbery case.”

Gowdy, who is a former federal prosecutor, says that Combetta “destroyed official public records” despite a subpoena and preservation order from lawmakers for the documents. He adds that he is “stunned” because “It looks like they gave immunity to the very person you would most want to prosecute.” (Fox News, 9/9/2016)

September 9, 2016: A former Justice Department official criticizes how the FBI permitted legally questionable behavior by Cheryl Mills during its Clinton email investigation.

Cheryl Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state, then she was hired to be one of Clinton’s lawyers in 2013, setting up a potential conflict of interest between her different roles. In April 2016, she was interviewed by the FBI, but refused to answer certain questions, claiming attorney-client privilege.

RonaldSievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert, a former assistant director at the Justice Department and member of the department’s National Security Working Group, said the FBI easily could have gone to court to challenge Mills’ privilege claim. But that didn’t happen.

Mills also was allowed to attend Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview as one of Clinton’s lawyers, even though she directly participated in many of the matters being discussed by Clinton when Mills was in her chief of staff role.

Sievert comments, “There seems universal agreement among those of us who know the law that no regular US government employee could get away with this.” (The New York Post, 9/9/2016)

September 19, 2016: A House panel is looking into Combetta’s post about Clinton’s email server.

Representative Mark Meadows (Credit: public domain)

Representative Mark Meadows (Credit: public domain)

Representative Mark Meadows (R) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is reviewing a Reddit post that suggests an IT (Internet technology) specialist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private server  asked for advice on how to alter the contents of “VERY VIP” emails. Meadows is the chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee.

Reddit users uncovered a two-year-old post from an account they believe belongs to Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server. Meadows says, “the Reddit post issue and its connection to Paul Combetta is currently being reviewed by [my] staff and evaluations are being made as to the authenticity of the post. If it is determined that the request to change email addresses was made by someone so closely aligned with the Secretary’s IT operation as Mr. Combetta, then it will certainly prompt additional inquiry.”

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the same House committee, has issued a criminal referral to the US attorney for the District of Columbia. The referral asks that the Justice Department investigate whether Clinton or her aides were involved in the decision to delete the emails while they were under subpoena and a request for preservation of records. (The Hill, 09/19/16)

 

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)

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

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

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2016: The FBI seizes the electronic devices of Huma Abedin’s husband in a sex scandal case, which will lead to the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton and her former deputy chief of staff, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Congressperson who has been beset by two “sexting” scandals, in which it was publicly revealed he sent sexual text messages to other women. On August 28, 2016, the New York Post reported that Weiner had been caught in his third sexting scandal. The next day, Abedin announced she is separating from him and divorcing him. (The New York Post, 8/28/2016)

On September 21, 2016, the Daily Mail further revealed that the still unnamed woman he’d been sexting with in recent months in fact was only 15 years old. (The Daily Mail, 9/21/2016)

This raised the possibility that Weiner could face serious federal criminal charges, especially if the girl lives in a different state, which it turns out she does. (Rolling Stone, 9/22/2016)

As a result, after the Daily Mail article, top federal prosecutors in New York (where Weiner lives) and North Carolina (where the unnamed girl lives) fought over who would get to prosecute the case. The Justice Department gave the case to Preet Bharara, a US attorney in New York.

The New York Times will later report that also in late September 2016, “agents in the FBI’s New York field office understood that the Weiner investigation could possibly turn up additional emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s private server, according to a senior federal law enforcement official.”

On the same day Anthony Weiner's electronic devices were seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

On the same day Anthony Weiner’s electronic devices are seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Then, on October 3, 2016, the FBI seizes several electronic devices owned by Weiner, including a computer laptop, his iPhone, and his iPad. Several days later, FBI agents also confiscate a Wi-Fi router that could identify any other devices that he had used. This is also according to an unnamed US law enforcement official.

When FBI agents search the seized devices, they find thousands of emails sent to or from Abedin on the laptop, because apparently it was used by both Abedin and Weiner before they separated. According to unnamed “senior law enforcement officials,” some of the emails are sent between Abedin and other Clinton aides. However, only FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors directly involved in the Weiner investigation can look at the evidence, and those who took part in the Clinton email investigation, closed in July 2016, do not have the legal authority, at least not yet.

FBI Director James Comey will learn about the emails in mid-October 2016. He will be brief October 27, 2016, and he will write a letter to Congress the next day announcing that he is reopening the Clinton email investigation at least long enough to determine the possible relevance of the emails to the Clinton case. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

October 3, 2016—October 28, 2016: FBI agents investigating a sex scandal find evidence that could be relevant to the Clinton email investigation, and superiors grant permission to reopen that investigation.

One of many text messages between Weiner and the underage girl. (Credit: Daily Mail)

One of many text messages between Weiner and the underage girl. (Credit: Daily Mail)

On October 3, 2016, FBI agents investigating the possible sending of sexually charged messages to a teenage minor by former Representative Anthony Weiner, seize Weiner’s computer laptop. Agents soon discover that the laptop contains 650,000 emails, and many of them belong to Huma Abedin, who is a top Clinton aide as well as Weiner’s wife (although they recently separated).

The FBI agents notify Andrew McCabe, the second highest ranking FBI official, about this. They suggest some emails could be previously unknown to the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, which was closed in July 2016. In an initial review, metadata shows that thousands of emails were sent to or from the private email server that formerly hosted private email accounts of Clinton and Abedin. However, the FBI has searched the laptop looking for child pornography, and the search warrant used doesn’t give them the authority to look for evidence related to the Clinton email investigation.

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Jennifer Hill / FBI

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Jennifer Hill / FBI

Senior FBI officials allow the Weiner investigators to proceed with a closer examination of the metadata on the computer, and then report back.

FBI Director James Comey is first told about the emails around the middle of October 2016.

Around October 25, 2016, senior Justice Department and FBI officials are given an update on the Weiner laptop.

McCabe tells agents working on the Weiner investigation to talk to agents who worked on the Clinton email investigation and decide whether the laptop’s contents could be relevant to their work. The Clinton email investigation agents agree the emails could be potentially relevant. However, no warrant has yet been pursued to give them legal permission to look at the emails.

On October 27, 2016, Comey is given an updated briefing on the situation, and he decides to inform Congress that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being reopened. He does so one day later, even though Justice Department officials strongly object to making such an announcement only 11 days before the 2016 US presidential election. The necessary warrant is obtained two days later. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

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

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

Devin Nunes (Credit: public domain)

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

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

Here are some key excerpts from the letter:

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

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

October 9, 2016—October 13, 2016: Many, including Republicans, criticize Trump for threatening to put Clinton in jail.

Donald Trump creates a firestorm of responses after the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 9, 2016, due to his threat to Clinton that “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” and that she should “be in jail.”Trump’s remarks draw widespread and bipartisan condemnation for being un-American, as well as praise coming from some supporters.

Praise for Trump’s remarks is rare, except perhaps among his ordinary supporters:

    Frank Luntz's focus group at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Fox News)

    Frank Luntz’s focus group at the presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri. (Credit: Fox News)

  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz hosts a group of 30 undecided voters at the debate. According to the results of the poll, Trump’s highest moment during the first half of the debate is when he vows to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton if he is elected president, as well as telling her she should be “ashamed of herself” for misleading the American public on the email issue. By the end of the debate, 21 participants tell Luntz that Trump’s performance had a positive impact on their voting choice going forward, while nine are impressed by Clinton’s performance.  (The Washington Examiner, 10/09/2016)
  • Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters following the presidential debate on October 9, 2016, in St Louis, Missouri.

  • Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway says, “That was a quip.” And regarding Trump’s threat to appoint a special prosecutor, Conway says only that he was “channeling the frustration” of voters.
  • Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana Governor Mike Pence says this comment by his running mate Trump “was one of the better moments of the debate.” (Huffington Post, 10/10/2016)

The overwhelming majority of responses by legal experts and other politicians are critical of Trump. For instance:

  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Obama, writes on Twitter, “In the USA we do not threaten to jail political opponents. [Donald Trump] said he would. He is promising to abuse the power of the office.”
  • John Yoo (Credit: Berkley College)

    John Yoo (Credit: Berkley College)

  • John Yoo, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush who defended the US government’s use of torture, says that Trump “reminds me a lot of early Mussolini. . . . Very, disturbingly similar.” He also calls Trump’s promise to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Clinton is “a compounded stupidity,” because “if you are a Republican or a conservative, you think that special prosecutors are unconstitutional.” (The Washington Post, 10/12/2016)
  • Paul Charlton, a former federal prosecutor and US attorney under George W. Bush, states, “For Donald Trump to say he will have a special prosecutor appointed and to have tried and convicted her already and say she’d go to jail is wholly inappropriate and the kind of talk more befitting a Third World country than it is our democracy. … The Department of Justice isn’t a political tool and it ought not to be employed that way.”
  • Marc Jimenez (Credit: public domain)

    Marc Jimenez (Credit: public domain)

  • Marc Jimenez, a lawyer who served on the legal team backing Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court showdown and also was a US attorney under George W. Bush, says: “This statement demonstrates the clear and present danger that Trump presents to our justice system. For a president to ‘instruct’ an attorney general to commence any prosecution or take any particular action is abhorrent. If it occurred, it would be a politically motivated decision that would cheapen the Department of Justice and contradict the core principle that prosecutors should never consider political factors in their charging or other decisions.”
  • Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked in George W. Bush’s White House, says: “A special prosecutor is supposed to investigate and isn’t appointed to put people in jail. You’re kind of skipping over an important step there. Can you imagine being the defendant prosecuted after being told the prosecutor was someone who was appointed to put you in jail, that had already foreordained that result? … It’s absurd and, if it were serious, it would be absolutely terrifying because it suggests there’s no due process.” (Politico, 10/10/2016)
  • Ari Fleischer (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

    Ari Fleischer (Credit: Jim Young / Reuters)

  • Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush and a supporter of Trump, writes on Twitter, “Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. Presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals. Trump is wrong on this.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/10/2016)
  • Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general for George W. Bush, says, “That to me is the… is a watershed event… that it’s the president of a different party. That makes it an entirely different kind of exercise in my view.” Mukasey spoke at the Republican convention in July 2016, but he says Trump’s suggestion “would make us look like a banana republic.” (NPR, 10/10/2016)
  • Paul Staniland (Credit: University of Chicago)

    Paul Staniland (Credit: University of Chicago)

  • Paul Staniland, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, says these kinds of attacks “can undermine the whole idea of democratic elections, where each side agrees that whoever won will then rule. … This is something that, as someone who studies the developing world and political violence, is kind of freaky. It kind of reminds me of Bangladesh. Thailand is like this, too. You have this real sense that whoever wins the election will go after the loser. Even if leaders succeed only rarely in using the state to punish their rivals, that can quickly spiral out of control, turning politics into a zero-sum game for control over the institutions of law and order.”
  • Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College in New York, says, “The rhetoric alone is extremely dangerous because it undermines people’s belief in our democratic institutions and process. Strongmen typically come to power in democracies, by telling citizens to distrust institutions and procedure — that what is needed is to burn it all down.”
  • Adrian LeBas (Credit: Wilson Center)

    Adrian LeBas (Credit: Wilson Center)

  • Adrienne LeBas, a political scientist at American University, says Trump’s comment is “a threat to the rule of law, a threat to the stability of our institutions, a threat to basic agreements that are necessary for democracy to function. For those of us who work on authoritarian regimes and hybrid regimes, this sort of thing is just eerily familiar.” She calls this “the absolute personalization of power,” similar to what has been seen in “Zimbabwe, Togo, Ethiopia, cases like that, where there are explicit threats to imprison opponents.” (New York Times, 10/11/2016)
  • Twenty-three Republican former Justice Department officials sign a statement criticizing his jail threat and calling for Trump’s defeat in November, 2016.

October 11, 2016: Twenty-three former Republican Justice Department officials criticize Trump for threatening Clinton with jail.

During the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, Donald Trump tells Hillary Clinton “you’ll be in jail” if he wins the presidency. The threat has prompted a group of Republican former Justice Department officials to call for Trumps defeat in November 2016.

Donald I. Baker (Credit: George Washington University)

Donald I. Baker (Credit: George Washington University)

Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, and Donald I. Baker, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division under Gerald Ford, organized the statement. It is signed by 23 former officials served under five Republican presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and claims, “None of us will vote for Mr. Trump and all believe he must be defeated at the polls.”

The statement reads: “We believe that Donald Trump’s impulsive treatment, flair for controversy, vindictive approach to his opponents and alarming views outside the constitutional mainstream ill suit him to oversee the execution of the laws in a fair and evenhanded manner.”

The former officials say Trump’s threats are “shockingly contrary to the premises of our democracy, and conjures up images of foreign police states.” Trump’s “every word seems calculated to create an atmosphere of arbitrariness and unpredictability much better suited to an authoritarian regime.”

William Ruckelshaus (Credit: Energy Foundation)

William Ruckelshaus (Credit: Energy Foundation)

The Wall Street Journal writes, “One notable signer is former Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who, along with the late Attorney General Elliot Richardson, resigned in 1973 rather than carry out President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in an episode known as the Saturday Night Massacre.”

The letter also condemns Trump for proposing to re-institute waterboarding and inflict other forms of torture on enemy prisoners and to kill the families of terrorists, saying those demonstrate his “basic ignorance of the facts as well as the role of our legal system in the fight against terror.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2016)

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)

October 27, 2016: Comey is briefed and decides to announce the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, but Justice Department officials are strongly opposed.

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

In early October 2016, FBI agents discovered 650,000 emails on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Though the agents were investigating Weiner for something unrelated, they eventually brief FBI agents who had worked on the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation, and those agents say they would like to have the legal permission to look at the emails themselves.

Apparently, FBI Director James Comey first learns about the emails in mid-October 2016. Then he is given an updated briefing about it on this day. He decides he should immediately inform Congress about the development, even though the 2016 US presidential election is less than two weeks away. He does so in a letter sent one day later, which immediately becomes public.

However, Justice Department officials are opposed. According to the New York Times, “Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.”

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

According to the Times, Comey decides to write his letter “before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.” This puzzles Justice Department officials. Apparently, some agents were only able to analyze the metadata.

It has long been Justice Department and FBI policy that politics should play no role in any investigative decisions. This is particularly emphasized for any actions taken within 60 days prior to an election. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

One unnamed “US official familiar with the matter” tells Yahoo News that senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending the letter, due to that department policy, adding, “He was acting independently of the guidance given to him.” One government source says that high-ranking Justice Department officials are “apoplectic” about the letter.

However, after listening to the Justice Department’s concerns, Comey concludes that the ramifications of not telling Congress promptly about the new emails far outweigh concerns about the department guidelines. He fears if he doesn’t immediately alert Congress, the FBI’s work will leak to the media and he will be accused of concealing information. If the news comes out before the election, he will be accused of trying to influence the election one way, but if it comes out after the election, he will be accused of trying to influence it the other way. One unnamed senior official says, “This was the least bad choice.”

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George J. Terwilliger III (Credit: McGuire Woods)

Many will criticize Comey for the letter, including some Republicans. For instance, George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under President George Bush (R), says, “There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election. Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences. There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo.” (The New York Times, 10/29/2016) (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)

Politico reports that according to an unnamed “official familiar with the discussions,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch does not speak directly with Comey about the issue. However, her concerns are conveyed to him before he sends the letter. In late June 2016, Lynch pledged to recuse herself from the email investigation after she was seen having a private discussion with Bill Clinton. (Politico, 10/31/2016)

October 28, 2016: Trump praises Comey’s letter and says “this changes everything.”

Trump speaks at a rally on October 28, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Credit: Darren McCollister / Getty Images)

Trump speaks at a rally on October 28, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Credit: Darren McCollister / Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the Clinton email investigation has been at least partially reopened due to the discovery of more emails in the possession of her aide Huma Abedin.

At a campaign rally, Trump says, “Perhaps, finally, justice will be done. … Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” For weeks, he had been highly critical of the FBI, but now he says, “I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the [Justice Department] are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made. This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understand. It is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

He adds in a brief New York Times interview, “I think it’s the biggest story since Watergate. I think this changes everything.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

October 28, 2016: A Republican Representative leaks Comey’s letter to Congress.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Reuters)

Representative Jason Chaffetz (Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Reuters)

On this day, FBI Director James Comey sends a letter to eight Congressional committees, revealing that the FBI is at least partially reopening the FBI’s Clinton email investigation due to newly discovered evidence.

Shortly thereafter, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, reveals in a Tweet: “FBI Dir [Director] just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened.” The full text of Comey’s letter is leaked to the media a short time later that same day.

Three days later, Chaffetz comments, “I thought I would put it out there. People have a right to know. It was newsworthy. It caught me by surprise. … It is absolutely correct” that the investigation is being reopened, after concluding in July 2016. “They are spending time, money and resources investigating. Nobody knows where it’s going to lead, but the reality is, it is reopened.”

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump announces on October 31, 2016 that it has filed a complaint against Chaffetz with the Office of Congressional Ethics “for his role in releasing information” from Comey. The coalition has also lodged a complaint against Comey with the Justice Department, requesting an investigation into whether his letter violated the federal Hatch Act for taking a political action shortly before an election. (Deseret News, 10/31/2016)

October 28, 2016: Carl Bernstein says the FBI’s announcement must mean there is a “real bombshell” in the newly discovered evidence.

Carl Bernstein (Credit: public domain)

Carl Bernstein (Credit: public domain)

Reporter Carl Bernstein, best known for his reporting on the Watergate scandal, comments on the FBI’s surprise announcement that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being reopened. “We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the director of the FBI [James Comey] would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified emails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation.”

He also says, “Right now we’re all talking in a vacuum but I want to add here that in the last, oh, 36, 48 hours, there has been an undercurrent of kind of speculative discussion among some national security people that something might surface in the next few days about emails, and I think the expectation in this chatter — and I took it as just chatter but informed chatter, to some extent — was that it would relate to another round of WikiLeaks emails, which our Justice Department people seem to be saying is not the case, but there has been some noise in the national security community the last day or two of this kind of possibility of some kind of revelation.” (Real Clear Politics, 10/28/2016)

October 29, 2016: Former Democrat and Republican number two Justice Department officials criticize Comey’s announcement.

Jamie Gorelick (left) Larry Thompson (right) (Credit: public domain)

Jamie Gorelick (left) Larry Thompson (right) (Credit: public domain)

Jamie Gorelick was deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton and is supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Larry Thompson held the same position under President George W. Bush and is has criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump. Deputy attorney general is the second highest position in the Justice Department. Together, they write an editorial in the Washington Post with the title: “James Comey is damaging our democracy.”

They are upset at FBI Director Comey for violating the Justice Department tradition not to make any moves that could have a political effect in the 60 day period before an election, with his October 28, 2016 announcement. (The FBI is part of the department.)

Their editorial concludes, “As it stands, we now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

October 29, 2016: A former Justice Department official claims that Comey’s “self-righteousness” has caused him to ignore the wishes of his superiors.

Matt Miller (Credit: Twitter)

Matt Miller served as Justice Department spokesperson when Eric Holder was attorney general. He says it is “stunning” that FBI Director James Comey decided to inform Congress about the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days before the US presidential election despite the opposition of Justice Department leadership.

Miller adds, “[James] Comey forgets that he works for the attorney general. … I think he has a lot of regard for his own integrity. And he lets that regard cross lines into self-righteousness. He has come to believe that his own ethics are so superior to anyone else’s that his judgment can replace existing rules and regulations. That is a dangerous belief for an FBI director to have.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)

Miller also comments on Twitter that Comey’s July 5, 2016press conference was the original sin, and it begat the rest.”  (Politico, 10/28/2016)

October 30, 2016: The FBI obtains a warrant for Huma Abedin’s recently discovered emails and immediately begins analyzing them.

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

When FBI Director James Comey informed Congress on October 28, 2016 that the Clinton email investigation was at least partially reopening due to newly discovered evidence, the agents who had been working on the investigation didn’t have the legal clearance to see the evidence. Possibly previously unknown emails sent to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were found on a computer belonging to her husband Anthony Weiner, due to an FBI investigation into his alleged sexual texting to an underaged girl.
Immediately after Comey sends the letter to Congress, the FBI and the Justice Department begin working on getting a search warrant from a judge so the FBI agents from the Clinton email investigation can read the emails. Two days later, on October 30, 2016, the warrant is obtained.

The FBI immediately begins working to analyze the emails and learn as much as possible about them before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, little more than a week away. One unnamed federal law enforcement official says, “The process has begun.”

The New York Times reports that although “agents had discovered hundreds of thousands of Ms. Abedin’s emails on her husband’s computer [out of an estimated 650,000 emails], but investigators expected to seize only a portion of the total. Agents will have probable cause to search only the messages related to the Clinton investigation. Some of Ms. Abedin’s emails passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private server, officials said, which means there is a high likelihood that the FBI has already read them.”

It is not clear what the scope of the search warrant is, for instance, if it only covers emails from the time Clinton was secretary of state, or if it includes emails from the years afterwards, which might show evidence of a cover-up.

The Times also reports that “senior Justice Department officials said they would make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, saying Mr. Comey’s letter — just days before the election — gave the matter an unprecedented urgency.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

October 30, 2016: 650,000 emails have allegedly been recently discovered by the FBI, many belonging to Huma Abedin, though many could be duplicates or unrelated.

Abedin and Weiner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in May, 2016. (Credit: Reuters)

On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced at least a partial reopening of the Clinton email investigation due to newly discovered evidence, but initial media accounts conflicted over what exactly was found. On this day, the Wall Street Journal reports: “Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop that they believe was used by former [Representative] Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide, and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The Journal claims that although the FBI has received a search warrant since Comey’s announcement so the agents involved with the FBI’s Clinton email investigation can look at the newly discovered emails, “It will take weeks, at a minimum, to determine whether those messages are work-related from the time Ms. Abedin served with Mrs. Clinton at the State Department; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe.”

The emails “stretched back years,” and were found a computer laptop previously unknown by the Clinton email investigation. “Many of the 650,000 emails” are from Abedin’s email accounts, according to anonymous sources. Metadata shows that “many messages, apparently in the thousands,” were either sent to or from Clinton’s private email server. (Both Abedin and Clinton had email accounts hosted on the server.)

The Journal also depicts a long-standing dispute between the FBI, wanting to aggressively pursue leads, and the Justice Department, which often fails to give the FBI the legal approval to do so. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

October 30, 2016: The Wall Street Journal confirms there is an on-going FBI Clinton Foundation investigation, but the Justice Department hasn’t given it investigative powers.

Little Rock FBI Field Office (Credit: public domain)

Little Rock FBI Field Office (Credit: public domain)

In January 2016, Fox News reported that the FBI had an on-going investigation into the Clinton Foundation, but this generally wasn’t reported or discussed in other media outlets. In August 2016, the Daily Caller reported on the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, but this also wasn’t generally reported otherwise. For instance, a CNN story that same month asserted the investigation didn’t exist.

On this day, the Wall Street Journal confirms there is an on-going FBI Clinton Foundation investigation, and provides many new details about it. The investigation began some time before October 2015. By February 2016, four FBI field offices were collecting information about the foundation to see if there is evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling:

  • The Los Angeles office developed an interest in the Clinton Foundation from an unrelated public-corruption case and has issued some subpoenas for bank records related to the foundation.
  • The Washington, DC, office is investigating financial relationships involving Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who has been a Clinton Foundation board member.
  • The New York office has done the most work regarding the foundation.
  • The Little Rock, Arkansas, office has had some role, probably due to the Clintons’ ties in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was governor.
The Jacob K. Javits Federal Building is home to the FBI field agents in New York, New York. (Credit: public domain)

FBI Field Office in New York, New York. (Credit: public domain)

In mid-July 2016, the New York office took charge of the investigation, with the Little Rock office providing assistance.

However, the Journal also reports that senior Justice Department officials have “repeatedly voiced skepticism of the strength of the evidence in [the FBI’s foundation investigation], sought to condense what was at times a sprawling cross-country effort, and, according to some people familiar with the matter, told agents to limit their pursuit of the case.”

Additionally, “Some investigators grew frustrated, viewing FBI leadership as uninterested in probing the charity, these people said. Others involved disagreed sharply, defending FBI bosses and saying [FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe in particular was caught between an increasingly acrimonious fight for control between the Justice Department and FBI agents pursuing the Clinton Foundation case.”

In February 2016, FBI agents presented their evidence on the foundation to senior Justice Department officials. But those officials decided not to give the investigation the legal backing to convene a grand jury, which means investigators don’t have subpoena or search warrants power. However, the investigators have continued without that power, apparently collecting much of their evidence from publicly available information.

This situation has apparently continued ever since, with the investigation continuing but hobbled due to the lack of the legal powers given by a grand jury. According to the Journal paraphrasing an unnamed official, “the [New York] FBI office [is] eager to pour more resources into [the] case and Justice Department prosecutors [don’t] think much of the case…” (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

FBI Miami Field Office (Credit: public domain)

FBI Miami Field Office (Credit: public domain)

Also on October 30, 2016, the Daily Caller will allege there is a fifth FBI field office – the Miami, Florida office – involved in the investigation.

Additionally, later on the same day, the Clinton Foundation denies knowledge of any government investigation targeting them.

However, the Washington Post confirms the Wall Street Journal’s claims. The Post emphasizes that the investigation has been blocked by the Justice Department’s public integrity section prosecutors, who are not politically appointed. (The Washington Post, 10/30/2016)

October 30, 2016: Former Attorney General Eric Holder says that Comey made “a serious mistake.”

Eric Holder (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Eric Holder (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Eric Holder, US attorney general from 2009 to 2015, writes an editorial in the Washington Post with the title: “James Comey is a good man, but he made a serious mistake.”

He writes, “I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. … Director Comey broke with these fundamental principles. I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI. And he has allowed — again without improper motive — misinformation to be spread by partisans with less pure intentions.“

Holder continues, “This controversy has its roots in the director’s July [2016] decision to hold a news conference announcing his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton.” He says, given that Attorney General Loretta Lynch recused herself from the case, instead of having Comey “publicly share his professional recommendation, as well as his personal opinions” about the case in a “a stunning breach of protocol,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates could have announced the final decision of the department, without Comey’s extensive public commentary.

Holder concludes, “I served with Jim Comey and I know him well. This is a very difficult piece for me to write. He is a man of integrity and honor. I respect him. But good men make mistakes. In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.” (The Washington Post, 10/31/2016)

October 30, 2016: Former Attorney General Mukasey claims Comey is in a no-win situation due to his earlier failure to pursue a vigorous Clinton email investigation.

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey (Credit: The Associated Press)

Michael Mukasey, the US attorney general from 2007 to 2009, writes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal with the title: “The FBI Director’s Dishonorable Choice.”

He suggests that FBI Director James Comey’s recent highly controversial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 US presidential election is due to earlier mistakes Comey made in the investigation.

“Recall that Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers for their confidential determination of whether those facts justify a federal prosecution. Nonetheless, in July [2016] he announced that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would seek to charge her with a crime, although Mrs. Clinton had classified information on a private non-secure server—at least a misdemeanor under one statute; and although she was ‘extremely careless’ in her handling of classified information such that it was exposed to hacking by hostile foreign nations—a felony under another statute; and apparently had caused the destruction of emails—a felony under two other statutes.”

He continues, “Those decisions were not his to make, nor were the reasons he offered for making them at all tenable: that prosecutions for anything but mishandling large amounts of classified information, accompanied by false statements to investigators, were unprecedented; and that criminal prosecutions for gross negligence were constitutionally suspect.”

He also points to immunity deals made with key suspects that even included destroying their computers after limited searches, and a failure to get to the bottom of computer technician Paul Combetta’s destruction of Clinton’s emails in March 2015, supposedly done entirely on his own for no clear motive. “Why would an FBI director, who at one time was an able and aggressive prosecutor, agree to such terms or accept such a fantastic story?”

He also claims that emails between President Obama and Clinton on her private server suggested that “if Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her non-secure system, so was [Obama].” The FBI needs the cooperation of a grand jury, and only the legal authority of a grand jury would give the FBI subpoena power to conduct a real investigation. If Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to allow a grand jury, Comey “could have gone public with his request, and threatened to resign if it was not followed. … Instead, Mr. Comey acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought.”

That lack of courage put Comey in his no-win situation when more evidence happened to come to light shortly before Election Day. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)