April 2015: State Department Inspector General Steve Linick begins an inquiry into Clinton’s emails at John Kerry’s request.

Inspector General Steve Linick (Credit: US State Department)

Inspector General Steve Linick (Credit: US State Department)

The New York Times will later reveal, “Secretary of State John Kerry asked Mr. Linick’s office to conduct a review after the disclosure [in March 2015] that Mrs. Clinton had exclusively used a computer server installed in her New York home for official and personal email correspondence from 2009 to 2013…” The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into an FBI investigation. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) (The New York Times, 3/10/2016)

Bloomberg News will also later report, “The State Department inspector’s entire review [is] part of an effort initiated by Janice Jacobs, the department’s transparency coordinator for managing information and records, who was appointed by Kerry…” (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2016) Jacobs donates $2,7000 to Clinton’s presidential campaign in July 2015, the maximum allowable by law. (CNN, 9/9/2015)

The State Department inquiry started by Linick will eventually develop into a formal FBI investigation, as well as a final inspector general’s report published in May 2016.

May 1, 2015: A former government expert says Clinton violated government rules with her private emails and private server.

Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believes Clinton’s use of a private server was against NARA’s rules. Baron claims that “the setting up of and maintaining a private email network as the sole means to conduct official business by email, coupled with the failure to timely return email records into government custody, amounts to actions plainly inconsistent with the federal recordkeeping laws.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) 

He adds that “any employee’s decision to conduct all email correspondence through a private email network, using a non-.gov address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies.” (US Senate Judiciary Committee, 5/1/2015)

Shortly After May 22, 2015: Apparently, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private emails and her private server begins around this time.

It will later be widely reported that after State Department Inspector General Steve Linick finds four emails with what he deemed classified information in a random sample of 40 of Clinton’s emails, Linick and another inspector general will formally ask the FBI for a “security referral” into Clinton’s emails in July 2015. The FBI’s investigation will formaly begin on July 10, 2015.

And while that is true, CNN will report in August 2015 that the FBI already began investigating Clinton’s emails in May 2015 due to one email being released on May 22nd that appeared to contain intelligence that should have been classified.

That email, written by State Department official Tim Davis on April 10, 2011, and forwarded to Clinton, contained the latest information about plans to evacuate US government officials from Libya that day, as well as the latest US military intelligence on the civil war raging near those officials. (CNN, 8/20/2015)

June 5, 2015: Robert Reich criticizes Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (Credit: The Nightly Show)

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (Credit: The Nightly Show)

Reich, who was the secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, says Hillary Clinton “hasn’t yet given a convincing explanation for why she used a private email account when she was secretary of state, and why she and her husband have made so many speeches for hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop from special interests that presumably want something in return. In other words, she needs to be more open and transparent about everything.” In 2013, he said he would support Hillary for president, but now he says he’s neutral. (ABC News, 6/5/2015)

June 17, 2015: Obama’s former senior adviser David Axelrod says he would have made an inquiry if he knew Clinton was using a private server.

David Axelrod appears on Morning Joe to discuss the Clinton server. (Credit: MSNBC)

David Axelrod appears on Morning Joe to discuss the Clinton server. (Credit: MSNBC)

Axelrod, who was President Obama’s chief campaign strategist, as well as his senior adviser from January 2009 to January 2011, speaks about Clinton’s use of a private email server. He says, “I was there, I was the senior adviser. I didn’t know that.” He suggests that had he known, he would have made an inquiry. “I might have asked a few questions. […] I would have concerns about it.”

In July 2015, after some emails between him and Clinton are released, he clarifies that he knew Clinton used a personal email account, but didn’t know she used a private server. (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/14/2015)

July 6, 2015: Two department watchdogs refer the Clinton email case to the FBI.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick jointly send the FBI a “security referral,” asking the FBI to investigate Clinton’s private emails and server. This grew out of McCullough and Steve Linick reviewing some of the over 30,000 Clinton emails handed over to the State Department in December 2014. (The Los Angeles Times, 3/27/2016) (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015) 

However, according to another account by CNN in August 2015, the FBI had already begun investigating Clinton’s emails in late May 2015, so presumably this referral would only have spurred on that effort. (CNN, 8/20/2015) The FBI formally begins their Clinton investigation four days later, on July 10, 2015.

July 7, 2015: Clinton denies she did anything wrong with her use of private email and a private server.

She says, “Everything I did was permitted. There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing… Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system.” (CNN 7/7/2015)

Two days later, the Washington Post gives her statement three out of four “Pinocchios,” saying her actions subverted the intent of the rules and she had outright ignored the requirement to turn over all her work-related emails before she left government service. (The Washington Post, 3/9/2016)

July 31, 2015—August 7, 2015: Emails of Clinton’s top two aides are ordered saved before they can be destroyed.

Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy notifies Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills and her deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin to immediately return all government related emails and records in their possession, along with all copies. According to Politico, Kennedy sends “urgent letters” about this to the lawyers of Mills and Abedin. (Politico, 11/6/2015) 

On August 7, 2015, Mills’ lawyer states that after planning to turn over some emails under court order by August 10, “we have instructed her to delete any and all electronic records in her possession.” But that evening, Judge Emmet Sullivan issues an order instructing Clinton, Mills, and Abedin not to destroy any emails they may still have. (The New York Observer, 8/7/2015) 

The emails will apparently be saved, because a judge will later order the release of all of Abedin’s emails, and a lawsuit to release all of Mills’ emails is still in progress. (Politico, 1/11/2016) (The Hill, 3/9/2016)

August 2015: Secretary of State Powell received two classified emails, but under very different circumstances than Clinton.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Secretary of State Colin Powell (Credit: CBS News)

Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall writes a letter to the State Department claiming that Clinton’s “use of personal email was consistent with the practices of other secretaries of state.” Kendall points in particular to Colin Powell, who appears to be the only other secretary of state to use a private email account while in office. But Powell had a government email account in addition to private one.

According to the Washington Post, “Powell conducted virtually all of his classified communications on paper or over a State Department computer installed on his desk that was reserved for classified information, according to interviews.” He also had a phone line installed in his office solely to link to his private email account, which he generally used for personal or non-classified communication. The State Department’s inspector general did find that Powell’s personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained “national security information classified at the ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ levels.” (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016) 

It will later come out that the two emails were at the lowest ‘confidential’ level and did not actually contain any intelligence but were classified for other reasons. (ABC News, 3/4/2016)

August 8, 2015: A former State Department official is “stunned” by Clinton’s use of a private email for government work.

William Johnson, who was in the department from 1999 to 2011, tells the New York Times, “I was stunned to see that [Clinton] didn’t use the State Department system for State Department business, as we were always told we had to do. If I’d done that, I’d be out on bond right now.” He says someone should be punished—if not Clinton, then officials whose job was to safeguard secrets and preserve public records. (The New York Times)

August 8, 2015: The former director of the US government’s Information Security Oversight Office says he is dismayed by Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account while she was secretary of state.

J. William Leonard (Credit: Mike Oliver / The First Amendment Center)

J. William Leonard (Credit: Mike Oliver / The First Amendment Center)

J. William Leonard asserts that the State Department has an obligation to monitor unclassified email for classified spillage, as well as to protect computer systems and provide emails to Congress or the public when required to by law. He says, “The agency can’t fulfill those legal responsibilities if it doesn’t have control over the server.” (The New York Times)

August 11, 2015: The State Department won’t reveal which Clinton aides used her private server or other non-government accounts.

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

In March 2015, the House Benghazi Committee subpoenaed records, including work-related emails from personal accounts, from ten former Clinton aides, for a two-year period surrounding the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. The State Department then asked those ten people for their records. It is known that four of the aides—Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, and Philippe Reines—have turned over records, including from personal email accounts. However, it is not known what happened with the other six, or even who they are.

Clinton wrote in a sworn affidavit on August 6, 2015 that Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s private server and that Mills did not. Otherwise, department officials and Clinton’s staff have failed to reveal who else had an email account on Clinton’s server or even which other aides had any kind of personal email account.

The Intelligence Community inspector general’s office says it is not currently involved in any inquiry into Clinton’s former top aides because it is being denied full access to the aides’ emails by the State Department.

The media outlet Gawker is suing for access to Reines’ emails. Bradley Moss, a lawyer for Gawker, says: “I think the headline is that there’s nothing but murkiness and non-answers from the State Department. I think the State Department is figuring this out as it goes along, which is exactly why no one should be using personal email to conduct government business.”  (McClatchy Newspapers, 8/11/2015)

August 12, 2015: Clinton’s communications director claims the FBI’s Clinton investigation is “nonsense.”

Jen Palmieri (Credit: MSNBC)

Jennifer Palmieri (Credit: MSNBC)

In a mass email sent to Clinton supporters, Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri says that investigations by the FBI and other government agencies into Clinton’s use of a private email account and private server are partisan attacks “designed to do political damage to Hillary in the run-up to the election.”

Palmieri claims that that Clinton is not facing a criminal investigation. “The bottom line: This kind of nonsense comes with the territory of running for president. We know it, Hillary knows it, and we expect it to continue from now until Election Day.” (The Chicago Tribune, 8/12/2015)

August 13, 2015: “The FBI is seeking to determine whether data from [Clinton’s] private email server may still exist elsewhere.”

Matt Devost (Credit: Twitter)

Matt Devost (Credit: Twitter)

This is according to Bloomberg News, based on information from an unnamed US official. The data may have been backed up on another machine. Peter Toren, a former computer crimes prosecutor for the Justice Department, says Clinton didn’t use a private server “because it was convenient for her. There’s a ton of email services that are available that are actually quite secure, easy to use, and you can use them on every device.” (Bloomberg News, 8/13/2015)

Security expert Matt Devost similarly comments that when it comes to a private server like Clinton’s, “You erase it and everything’s gone,” while commercial email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail retain copies even after users erase them from their inboxes, which could be why Clinton didn’t use them for her email account. (Bloomberg News, 3/4/2015)

However, many of Clinton’s top aides did use commercial email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and the FBI could find copies of some of Clinton’s emails by asking those companies to check their back-up copies. (Bloomberg News, 8/13/2015)

August 14, 2015: Clinton’s top two aides also used private email accounts for government work.

State Department official John F. Hackett reveals to a federal judge that two of Clinton’s aides “used personal email accounts located on commercial servers at times for government business.” Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills had a Google Gmail account, and Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin had an account on the same clintonemail.com private server used by Clinton. (The Washington Times, 8/14/2015

Clinton has argued that 90% or more of her emails would have been archived by the State Department since she communicated mostly with other State Department employees. But in fact less than one percent of emails were archived by the department during her tenure there, and she emailed Mills and Abedin more than anyone else. (The Washington Post, 11/9/2015)

August 17, 2015: The State Department finds thousands of emails of a Clinton aide after claiming they had none.

Philippe Reines (Credit: Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

Philippe Reines (Credit: Evan Vucci / The Associated Press)

In 2012, the news website Gawker filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to get the emails between key Clinton aide Philippe Reines and numerous journalists. Reines was Senior Advisor and Press Secretary for Clinton while she was secretary of state.

However, even though a key part of Reines’ job was emailing journalists, the State Department responded in 2013 that “no records responsive to your request were located.”

Then, after more legal action, on August 17, 2015, the State Department says they found 17,855 emails between Reines and the journalists, which they promise to hand over.

It turns out that, like Clinton, Reines exclusively used a private email for his government work, and, like Clinton, this meant no records were found in any requests for his emails. (US News and World Report, 8/17/2015) (Gawker, 3/3/2015)

August 20, 2015: A federal judge asserts that Clinton violated government policy by storing government emails on her private server.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan says of Clinton in a court hearing, “We wouldn’t be here today if this employee had followed government policy.” He orders the State Department to ask the FBI if Clinton’s server now possessed by the FBI still contains official records that have been demanded in various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits. He says that although the law normally doesn’t allow for searches of private email accounts, this is an unusual situation because “there was a violation of government policy.”

In response, Clinton’s spokesperson Brian Fallon continues to insist that Clinton’s behavior was “permissible under the department’s policy at the time.” (Politico, 8/20/2015)

August 25, 2015: Clinton is accused of wanting to avoid leaving a paper trail.

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence officer, writes in the Los Angeles Times, “It’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that Clinton, after the scandals that rocked her husband’s presidency during the 1990s, simply did not want to leave behind a paper trail (or e-trail). And so, as secretary of state, she tried to skirt federal records law by employing her own IT systems and servers, and by exclusively using a personal email address. This maneuver, however, created a far bigger problem than the one she intended to avoid, because a large portion of what any secretary of state does is classified to some degree. High-level diplomacy is inherently a secret matter and always has been.” (The Los Angeles Times, 08/25/2015)

September 3, 2015: Former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills testifies to the House Benghazi Committee in a private session.

Cheryl Mills (front) with Representative Trey Gowdy (second from left), and Representative Elijah Cummings (left), on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Susan Walsh / The Associated Press)

Cheryl Mills (front) with Representative Trey Gowdy (second from left), and Representative Elijah Cummings (left), on September 3, 2015. (Credit: Susan Walsh / The Associated Press)

It is reported that much of her testimony focuses on how over half of Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of state were deleted, since Mills was part of the process. (Politico, 9/4/2015)

  • Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal recently gave some of his work-related email correspondence with Clinton to the committee, and all or part of 15 of them had not been handed over by Clinton, despite Clinton’s claim that she had turned over all her work-related emails. Mills could not explain how those had been missed.
  • Mills also says she was not involved in setting up Clinton’s private server, nor was she part of the decision to move it to the care of the Platte River Networks company in mid-2013.
  • She also says that she “overwhelmingly” used a State Department email for work, but she admits she did use her private email account when she was at home or overseas. (Politico, 9/3/2015)
  • She claims that many people at the State Department knew Clinton was using a personal email account for her government work.
  • She says that neither she nor Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall had personally gone through Clinton’s over 60,000 emails to determine which to hand over and which to delete. Instead, a member of their legal staff who was reporting to them did it. (This is a likely reference to lawyer Heather Samuelson.) (The New York Times, 9/3/2015)

September 8, 2015: Clinton apologizes for using only one private email account.

Clinton apologizes for her use of a private email server on September 8, 2005. (Credit: ABC News)

Clinton apologizes for her use of a private server on September 8, 2015. (Credit: ABC News)

Just one day after refusing to apologize for her actions regarding her emails, Clinton says in an ABC News interview, “I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. …. What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility.”

This is the first time she has admitted to making any kind of mistake in the matter. (The Wall Street Journal, 9/8/2015) (ABC News, 9/8/2015)

September 30, 2015: A White House official claims Clinton was told not to use private email accounts for government work.

Valerie Jarrett (Credit: The Associated Press)

Valerie Jarrett (Credit: The Associated Press)

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, is asked if there was guidance from the White House to Cabinet secretaries including Clinton not to use private email accounts. “Yes, there were. Yeah, absolutely. […] Obviously, we want to make sure that we preserve all government records, and so there was guidance given that government business should be done on government emails and that if you did use a private email that it should be turned over.” (C-SPAN, 9/30/2015)

October 2, 2015: The State Department asks Clinton to search again for any missing emails from her time as secretary of state.

Alec Gerlach (Credit: Twitter)

Alec Gerlach (Credit: Twitter)

According to State Department spokesperson Alec Gerlach, the department sends a letter to Clinton’s legal representative, “[making] an additional request for any records that former Secretary Clinton may have in her possession.” This is due to news reports in September 2015 that additional work-related emails between her and Army General David Petraeus from her first weeks as secretary of state were found. (McClatchy Newspapers, 12/31/2015)

The letter contains a particular request for emails from the first two months Clinton was secretary of state. This is because Clinton claimed that she only started using her private email in March 2009, but in September 2015, some private emails of hers were found from sources other than Clinton dating back to January 2009.

More recently, Clinton’s aides have claimed that Clinton could not turn over emails from this two month period because they had not been captured on her private server. They haven’t explained why this might be. (McClatchy Newspapers, 10/6/2015) It is unknown if any more emails from that time are found by Clinton, and it’s also not known if she still has copies of her emails.

October 7, 2015: The FBI has allegedly seized four State Department computer servers as part of its Clinton email investigation.

According to the Free Beacon, the servers were located at the department’s headquarters building in Washington, DC, and were maintained by the department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management. It is claimed they were taken by the FBI “several weeks ago.”

According to two unnamed people familiar with the investigation, the servers are being analyzed by technical forensic analysts who are trying to determine how “top secret” information was sent to Clinton’s private email account by her aides. Spokespeople for the FBI, State Department, and Clinton’s campaign refuse to comment about the matter. (The Free Beacon, 10/7/2015)

October 22, 2016—October 23, 2015: Clinton falsely claims the vast majority of her emails were saved by the State Department.

Testifying before the House Benghazi Committee on October 22, 2015, Clinton argues that it doesn’t matter if she used a private email address because the State Department “had between 90 and 95 percent of all my work-related emails in the State Department system.”

When asked how she knows this, she says, “We learned that from the State Department and their analysis of the emails that were already on the system. We were trying to help them close some gaps that they had.” (The Washington Post, 10/22/2015)

However, the next day, the State Department says the number didn’t come from any State Department analysis but was created by the Clinton campaign. A State Department inspector general report from earlier in 2015 showed that far less than one percent of all emails were permanently preserved by the State Department.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker reviews Clinton’s statement and gives it three out of four “Pinocchios.” (The Washington Post, 11/9/2015)

November 6, 2015: Clinton’s lawyer says that Clinton hasn’t found any more of her emails.

On October 2, 2015, the State Department the department sent a letter to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, making “an additional request for any records that former Secretary Clinton may have in her possession,” especially from her first two months as secretary of state. This is due to news reports in September that additional work-related emails between her and Army General David Petraeus from her first weeks as secretary of state were found. (McClatchy Newspapers, 12/31/2015)

On November 6, 2015, Kendall replies in a letter, “With regard to her tenure as secretary of state, former Secretary Clinton has provided the department on December 5, 2014, with all federal email records in her custody, regardless of their format or the domain on which they were stored or created, that may not otherwise be preserved, to our knowledge, in the department’s recordkeeping system. She does not have custody of emails sent or received during the first few weeks of her tenure as she was transitioning to a new address, and we have been unable to obtain these. In the event we do, we will immediately provide the Department with federal record emails in this collection.” (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

Note this suggests the possibility that Clinton or her representatives may still possess some copies of her emails.

Early 2016: Clinton’s personal email accounts apparently are attacked by hackers.

Little is known about hacking attempts on Clinton’s email accounts around this time, or how many accounts she has. But a June 2016 Forbes article about hacking attempts on Clinton’s campaign staffers mentions in passing: “Earlier this year, Clinton’s personal email accounts, found to have been used without the right permissions for official business, were also allegedly targeted by hackers in separate attacks.” (Forbes, 6/16/2016)

January 11, 2016: Emails from top Clinton aide Huma Abedin will be released in batches.

Huma Abedin using a cell phone on January 28, 2016. (Credit: The Associated Press)

Huma Abedin using a cell phone on January 28, 2016. (Credit: The Associated Press)

The State Department agrees to begin publicly releasing nearly all of Abedin’s emails to or from a private email account that she used while she was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. The department has determined it has 29,000 pages of emails from Abedin, using an account from the same clintonemail.com server that Clinton used. (The number of emails in those pages is unclear.)

The department will process these in batches of 400 pages a month, with the processing starting on March 1, 2016. Most of the emails in each batch will released except for a few exceptions, such as forwards of news articles. The last batch is due to be released in April 2017.

This release is because of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) brought by Judicial Watch. Tom Fitton, the head of Judicial Watch, says, “Obviously, [Abedin] was as close an aide as you could have had to Mrs. Clinton. If Mrs. Clinton didn’t keep records she should have or destroyed or deleted them, maybe we can find them through Ms. Abedin. And Ms. Abedin’s activities are also controversial.” (Politico, 1/11/2016) (The Hill, 1/12/2016)

February 24, 2016: Secretary of State John Kerry says he didn’t know Clinton used a private server or that she used a private email address.

Speaking before a Congressional hearing, Kerry is asked about Clinton’s email in light of the fact he sent several emails to her when she was secretary of state. He replies, “I had no knowledge of what kind of email she had. I was given an email address, and I sent it to her.” He says he didn’t think to check if her address ended with .gov, as official government addresses always do. (The Free Beacon, 2/25/2016)

March 15, 2016: Republicans sue for more Clinton and Clinton Foundation emails.

The Republican National Committee files four new lawsuits stemming from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it had filed in 2015. The lawsuits include a demand for all emails between 14 State Department officials and private email domains associated with Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation. These new filings bring the total number of civil suits over access to Clinton’s records pending in federal court to at least 38. (The Associated Press, 3/17/2016)

April 5, 2016: Huma Abedin gives hints about her multiple email accounts that the FBI fails to properly follow up on.

Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, is interviewed by the FBI. During the interview, she discloses she had four email accounts while working at the State Department:

  • an official State Department email account.
  • an account on Clinton’s clintonemail.com private email server.
  • a personal Yahoo account.
  • another personal email account that she had previously used to support the political activities of her husband Anthony Weiner.
Huma Abedin stops for a moment to text a message. (Credit: Polaris)

Huma Abedin stops for a moment to text a message. (Credit: Polaris)

Abedin says she “routinely” forwarded State Department emails and documents to both her clintonemail.com account and her Yahoo account so she could more easily print them.

She is asked about one classified email sent to her State Department account from an aide to Richard Holbrooke, a special State Department envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She had forwarded the email to her Yahoo account in order to print it, but tells the FBI she was “unaware of the classification of the document and stated that she did not make judgments on the classification of material she received. Instead, she relied on the sender to make that assessment and to properly make and transmit the document.”

In October 2016, it will be discovered that copies of at least some of Abedin’s emails wound up on the computer of her husband Weiner, leading FBI Director Comey to at least partially reopen the Clinton email investigation. Yahoo News will later suggest that Abedin’s FBI interview offered hints that “there might be relevant material on her husband’s personal devices. But agents do not appear to have followed up on the clues.” Furthermore, “there is no indication” for the FBI interview summary that the FBI “ever pressed her on what has now turned into an explosive issue in the final days of the 2016 campaign:”

Joseph DiGenova, who Yahoo News will describe as “a former US attorney and independent counsel who has been a strong critic of Comey and the FBI probe,” will call this evidence that the FBI investigation was “not thorough” and was “fatally flawed.” He will add, “The first thing [FBI agents] should have done was gotten a sworn affidavit about all her accounts and devices.” Then they should have immediately attempted to obtain the devices, including Weiner’s.

On June 28, 2016, Abedin will be deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. Testifying under oath, she will give answers that differ from her FBI interview. When asked about her email accounts, she will claim she rarely used her personal Yahoo account, and when she did she only used it to forward State Department “press clips” so she could print them. (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)

May 25, 2016: The State Department’s inspector general issues a report that sharply criticizes Clinton’s email practices.

Cover of the Office of Inspector General's Report, May 25, 2016. (Credit: OIG)

Cover of the Office of Inspector General’s Report, May 25, 2016. (Credit: OIG)

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General releases a report with the title “Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements.” The 83-page report is the main headline at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere, because it sheds new light on Clinton’s email scandal. The Post calls it “a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private server and that agency staff members would not have given their blessing if it had been sought because of ‘security risks.’”

The report did not cover the classified content of some of Clinton’s emails due to the on-going FBI investigation and instead focuses mainly on record management issues for Clinton as well as the four previous secretaries of state. The office’s inquiry was initiated by a request from Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015, and was led by Inspector General Steve Linick, who was appointed by President Obama in 2013. The report reveals:

  • There were “long-standing systemic weaknesses” in the State Department’s recordkeeping. Department officials were “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks” of widespread email use. This problem went “well beyond the tenure of any one secretary of state,” but most of the report focuses on Clinton’s tenure.
  • Former secretary Colin Powell is singled out for violating department policy by using a personal email account while in office, as Clinton did. But the report notes that in the four years between the end of Powell’s tenure and the start of Clinton’s, the department’s warnings about the “obligation” to mainly use government email accounts for work matters had become more detailed and frequent.
  • Dozens of department employees sometimes used personal email accounts for work matters. But only three were discovered who used such accounts exclusively: Clinton, Powell, and Scott Gration, who was US ambassador to Kenya in 2011 and 2012. Gration faced an internal rebuke for doing so and was forced to resign. Clinton was the only one to use a private server as well.
  • Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with security and records management officials, but investigators “found no evidence” that she had requested or received approval from anyone to conduct work matters mainly by personal emails. Furthermore, department officials “did not—and would not—approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business.”
  • Similarly, Clinton had not sought permission to use a private email server, and would not have received it if she had.
  • Clinton was required to demonstrate to security and records management officials that both her server and her mobile devices “met minimum information security requirements,” but she never did so.
  • Clinton should have handed over copies of her work emails immediately upon stepping down in February 2013. Failure to do so violated department policies and the Federal Records Act. Instead, she provided only some work emails, and those only in December 2014, nearly two years later, after the Republican-led House Benghazi Committee began asking for some of her emails.
  • A video image from MSNBC's coverage of the inspector general's report, on May 25, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

    A video image from MSNBC’s coverage of the inspector general’s report, on May 25, 2016. (Credit: MSNBC)

    Clinton has claimed she effectively left copies of her emails with the State Department because she mainly emailed other department officials. However, the report says that was an inappropriate form of preservation. Additionally, four of her closest aides, whom she exchanged emails with most often, also made “extensive” use of personal email accounts, so none of those emails would have been preserved in State Department records just by being received by those aides.

  • There was “some awareness” of Clinton’s email account among senior department officials. But there also appear to have been efforts to keep her use of a private server a secret. For instance, in 2010, when two department computer technicians raised concerns that her server might not properly preserve records, a higher official told them her setup had been reviewed by lawyers and warned them “never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.” Furthermore, no evidence of such a legal review has been found.
  • Clinton has claimed she exclusively used a private email account for “convenience.” However, this claim is belied by Clinton’s response to an email from Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, in November 2010. When Abedin prodded Clinton about “putting you on State email or releasing your email address to the department […] ,” Clinton replied that she would consider a |separate address or device, “but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
  • Clinton turned over 30,000 work-related emails in December 2014, while deleting another 31,000 emails she said were personal in nature. However, the report claims her email handover was “incomplete,” and there are gaps and missing emails. For instance, the above-mentioned November 2010 email was not handed over by Clinton but was found through other means.
  • Several incidents were uncovered in which Clinton or some of her aides worried that Clinton’s private server had been hacked. For instance, a January 2011 email to a Clinton aide said Clinton’s server was shut down because “someone was trying to hack us.” It is unknown if the server actually was broken into at that time. However, Clinton and her aides failed to alert department computer security personnel to the hacking attempts, as required by department policy.
  • Clinton, as well as nine of her former top aides, refused to be interviewed for the report. By contrast, the four previous secretaries of state, as well as current Secretary of State John Kerry, were interviewed.

(The Washington Post, 5/25/2016) (The New York Times, 5/25/2016) (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

May 25, 2016: The New York Times rebuts every claim the Clinton campaign makes criticizing the inspector general’s report.

Hours after a report is released by the State Department’s inspector general that is highly critical of Clinton’s email practices, the Clinton campaign releases a statement that largely dismisses the report’s critique. The New York Times analyzes and disputes every claim made in the 203-word Clinton rebuttal:

  • “The inspector general documents just how consistent her email practices were with those of other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email.” The Times points out that only former Secretary of State Colin Powell exclusively used a personal email account for work matters, and nobody else used a private email server.
  • “The report shows that problems with the State Department’s electronic record-keeping systems were longstanding and that there was no precedent of someone in her position having a State Department email account until after the arrival of her successor.” The Times notes the department did have long-standing recordkeeping issues. However, the rules became more stringent by the time Clinton became secretary of state. Most of Clinton’s predecessors simply didn’t use email at all.
  • “Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the department during her tenure…” The Times notes that many in the State Department did know of Clinton’s private email address, due to exchanging emails with her. “It is equally clear, however, that senior department officials were sensitive about people raising red flags about it. When two junior staff members expressed concerns to their boss in the Information Records Management office, he ‘instructed the staff never to speak of the secretary’s personal email system again.’”
  • “There is no evidence of any successful breach of the secretary’s server.” While it is true the report contains no proof the server was breached, the server was shut down twice due to hacker attacks. Prior to the report, Clinton claimed there was no evidence it was even attacked.
  • “We agree that steps ought to be taken to ensure the government can better maintain official records, and if she were still at the State Department, Secretary Clinton would embrace and implement any recommendations, including those in this report, to help do that.” The Times notes, “many of these regulations [pointed out in the report] existed, in one form or another, when she was in office.”
  • “As this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records.” The Times counters, “Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email and server stored in her home was, in fact, unique. She left the State Department without turning over any emails, and only did so after she was contacted by the department’s lawyers, who were under pressure to produce documents from the House Select Committee on Benghazi.” Furthermore, the emails she turned over now appear to be incomplete.
  • The Times concludes by noting that the Clinton campaign statement “does not repeat an assertion Mrs. Clinton has made before: that her arrangement, while unwise, was permitted. Last September, she told the Associated Press: ‘What I did was allowed. It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that.’” (The New York Times, 5/25/2016)

May 26, 2016: Clinton continues to insist she handed over all her work emails despite clear evidence to the contrary.

The Associated Press reports that the State Department inspector general’s report on Clinton’s emails released one day earlier refer to some Clinton work-related emails that were not included in the 30,000 work emails Clinton turned over in December 2014. The report stated that Clinton gave an “incomplete” account of her work emails, with obvious gaps, including failing to turn over any emails from her first two months as secretary of state.

According to the Associated Press, “The existence of these previously unreleased messages—which appear to have been found among electronic files of four former top Clinton State Department aides—renews concerns that Clinton was not completely forthcoming when she turned over [her 30,000 emails].”

Nevertheless, after the inspector general’s report was released, Clinton continues to maintain, “I have provided all of my work-related emails, and I’ve asked that they be made public, and I think that demonstrates that I wanted to make sure that this information was part of the official records.” (The Associated Press, 5/26/2016)

May 26, 2016: Senate investigators protest they were not given copies of emails from Clinton and her top aides that were given to the State Department.

The State Department inspector general’s report on Clinton’s emails released one day earlier referred to some Clinton work-related emails that were not included in the 30,000 work emails Clinton turned over in December 2014. Senate investigators had asked the State Department for all of Clinton’s emails months ago.

Furthermore, in the summer of 2015, the department got 72,000 pages of work emails from four of Clinton’s top aides—Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan, and Philippe Reines—and yet the department didn’t share those with Congressional investigators either.

Senator Charles Grassley (R), who has been leading a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server, says, “Documents in those 72,000 pages were systematically withheld from Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] requestors and Congressional oversight committees, including the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I chair. […] It is disturbing that the State Department knew it had emails like this and turned them over to the inspector general, but not to Congress.” (The Associated Press, 5/26/2016) 

Even after the inspector general’s report was released, there still has been no sign the Department has shared those emails.

May 27, 2016: Clinton’s spokesperson says her past comments may have been wrong, but not “untruthful.”

Factcheck.org publishes an analysis of Clinton’s past statements regarding her email scandal with the information in the newly released State Department inspector general’s report, and concludes that the report “contradicts several of Clinton’s long-standing talking points.”

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon concedes that there are such contradictions, but that “doesn’t make her statements untruthful.” He explains: “It did not occur to her that having it on a personal server could be so distinct that it would be unapproved. We’re not intending to say post the IG [inspector general] report that her server was allowed. We don’t contest that. We’re saying—the use of personal email was widespread.”

Since the report has been released, Fallon and Clinton have continued to insist that Clinton’s use of a personal email account was allowed. But Factcheck.org points out that the department’s rules clearly prohibited using such an account for day-to-day business. The report discovered that Clinton was one of only three employees ever found to do so, and one of those (Scott Gration) resigned just before he was to be punished for it during Clinton’s term.

Fallon also says that “we agree in retrospect” with the report’s finding that “her practice of copying aides on her emails did not end up producing a full record since State’s IT [information technology] systems didn’t save everything. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t take steps to comply.”

However, Factcheck.org notes those steps only came 21 months later, due to pressure from the House Benghazi Committee, and even then, the emails she handed over don’t appear to have included all her work emails. (Factcheck.org, 5/27/2016)

May 27, 2016: New evidence raises the possibility a State Department official could have been preventing other officials from acting on Clinton’s unlawful email practices.

Douglas Cox (Credit: Cuny School of Law)

Douglas Cox (Credit: Cuny School of Law)

Yahoo News reports that “Senate investigators and a conservative group [Judicial Watch] are zeroing in on newly revealed evidence about the activities of a now retired State Department computer specialist in orchestrating what they charge was a ‘cover-up’ of the former secretary of state’s email practices.” That person is John Bentel, who was director of the department’s Information Resource Management (IRM) office until December 2012.

According to a newly released State Department inspector general’s report, in late 2010, two IRM staffers separately raised issues with Bentel that some of Clinton’s private emails might need to be preserved to comply with the law and regulations. But according to the report, Bentel told one of the staffers that Clinton’s email practices had been “reviewed and approved by Department legal staff”—which was not true—and “that the matter was not to be discussed any further.” Bentel told the other staffer that the mission of the IRM “is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.”

In response to this report, Senator Chuck Grassley (R) says, “If what these two witnesses said is true, it is an outrage, and it raises a lot of serious questions. Good and honest employees just trying to do their job were told to shut up and sit down. Concerns about the secretary’s email system being out of compliance with federal record-keeping laws were swept under the rug.”

Additionally, in June 2015, Bentel told the House Benghazi Committee that he had “no memory or knowledge” of Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state.

But in August 2011, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, emailed the idea of giving Clinton a new email address because “her personal email server is down.” Bentel suggested giving Clinton a government email account, but warned, “you should be aware that any email would go through the department’s infrastructure and [be] subject to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] searches.”

Grassley says he intends to learn more about Bentel’s role in a possible cover-up. And Judicial Watch plans to question former Clinton aides like Abedin and Cheryl Mills about Bentel’s role when they are deposed under oath in the coming weeks.

Law professor Douglas Cox say that Bentel’s role was “the most shocking part of the [inspector general’s] report. It shows there was dissent within the State Department precisely by the people responsible for insuring compliance with record-keeping and cyber-security issues—and they were told something that appears not to be true.” (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016) (The New York Times, 5/26/2016)

May 30, 2016: USA Today’s editorial board publishes an editorial: “Hillary Clinton broke the rules.”

The newspaper’s editorial board reacts to the State Department inspector general’s report criticizing Clinton’s email practices. “Clinton’s bad decision had turned into something far worse: a threat to national security, one that she repeatedly ignored despite multiple warnings.”

The editorial cites four warnings Clinton faced in a six-month period in 2011 that all pointed to the security danger of using a private email account. But despite these warnings, and others, “Clinton and several of her top aides continued to use personal email for sensitive State Department business thousands of times.”

It concludes, “It’s already clear that, in using the private email server, Clinton broke the rules. Now it remains to be seen whether she also broke the law.” (USA Today, 5/30/2016)

May 31, 2016: Clinton claims she never told anyone to hide her email usage.

State Department chief of information resource management, John Bentel (left), Hillary Clinton (right) (Credit: Yahoo News)

State Department chief of information resource management, John Bentel (left), Hillary Clinton (right) (Credit: Yahoo News)

The recently released State Department inspector general’s report mentions that two State Department employees expressed concerns about Clinton’s email usage but were told by their boss that her usage had been approved by the department’s lawyers when it had not, and “that the matter was not to be discussed any further.” Media reports have identified that boss as John Bentel. (Yahoo News, 5/27/2016) 

Clinton is asked about this in an interview, and says, “I do not know who that person is or, you know, what that person might have said because it’s not anything that I am aware of. […] I certainly never instructed anyone to hide the fact I was using a personal email. It was obvious to hundreds of people, visible to the many people that I was emailing throughout the State Department and the rest of the federal government.”

However, Clinton fails to mention that the problem was not her using a private email account, which was allowed. It was using a private email account for the majority of day-to-day business, which was not. (Politico, 5/31/2016)

June 1, 2016: The State Department is fighting a request to turn over more emails by Clinton’s former aides.

US Department of State - Washington Logo (Credit: public domain)

US Department of State – Washington Logo (Credit: public domain)

The Republican National Committee (RNC) previously filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails from Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills, her former deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, computer technician Bryan Pagliano, and Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy (who still holds that job).

In a court filing, department lawyers argue that hundreds of emails would be involved, and going through them all “would impose an unreasonable burden on the [department].” Lawyers further allege, “FOIA requests are not supposed to be labored over for generations.”

Politico comments, “The literary turn of phrase is likely to prompt some mockery from FOIA requesters who’ve waited years for State to respond to much narrower requests than the GOP’s and faced such waits long before the agency was deluged with requests prompted by the disclosure of Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.” (Politico, 6/1/2016)

June 7, 2016: Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta acknowledges that Clinton’s email scandal has “definitely hurt her” and that some may consider it “disqualifying.”

John Podesta (Credit: Center for American Progress)

John Podesta (Credit: Center for American Progress)

Podesta admits that her use of just one email account for work and personal matters was a “mistake.” He adds, “But the question is, given the stakes of this election, is that, you know, is that a mistake that you would judge as disqualifying. Maybe some people will.”

Asked about the significance of the continuing email investigations, he says, “I think it’s definitely hurt her. She said it was a mistake from the outset, wished that we could take it back, but she used a private email system.” (The Daily Caller, 6/8/2016)

June 8, 2016: Officials dealing with FOIA requests didn’t know Clinton used private email for work until long after she left the State Department.

State Director of Executive Secretariat Staff Karin Lang is deposed under oath as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. Lang says the personnel in charge of responding to FOIA requests in Clinton’s office were not aware during her tenure and for at least a year afterwards that she used a private email account for work-related matters, even though dozens of senior department officials corresponded with her using that email address.

Referring to a FOIA request relating to emails of Clinton and her top aide Huma Abedin initiated in May 2013, Lang says, “No one engaged in this FOIA search had awareness of that source of potentially responsive documents during the time period of this FOIA search. They were not aware of the existence of emails from [Clinton] that could be potentially responsive to this request.” (Politico, 6/9/2016) (Judicial Watch, 6/8/2016)

June 22, 2016: More Clinton work emails are released, showing the State Department weakened its computer network because of a problem with Clinton’s private server.

The State Department releases more of Clinton’s work-related emails, despite Clinton’s claims that she turned over all her work-related emails in December 2014. Judicial Watch asked for the emails which were mentioned in the May 2016 State Department inspector general’s report on Clinton’s email practices.

The emails show that in December 2010, State Department employees struggled to fix a problem that was causing emails from Clinton’s private server to be rejected as spam by the department’s computer network. The spam filtering problem persisted since at least early November, as can be seen in a November 13, 2010 email chain between Clinton and her deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin complaining about them.

As a result, on December 21, 2010, the ScanMail anti-spam security feature for the entire network was disabled, leaving the network more vulnerable. Apparently, the software intended to block “spear phishing” emails that could install malware to infect the network was also disabled around the same time.

On January 9, 2011, Clinton’s server was apparently attacked by hackers at least twice, causing the server to be temporarily shut down. (The Associated Press, 6/22/2016) (US Department of State, 6/20/2016

Spear phishing was a reoccurring problem for Clinton and the department in 2011. In March 2011, the department warned of “a dramatic increase since January 2011 in attempts by”—[redacted]—“to compromise the private home email accounts of senior Department officials” using the spear phishing method. (US Department of State, 11/5/2015) 

In June 2011, the department issued another warning for all employees not to use personal email accounts for work, due to more spear phishing attacks. (The Washington Post, 3/27/2016

Between May and July 2011, Clinton got three emails that appear to have been spear phishing attacks. Despite this, Clinton continued to exclusively use a private email address for all her work and personal emails. (US Department of State, 10/30/2015) (US Department of State, 5/25/2016)

June 23, 2016: The State Department confirms that a key work-related Clinton email was never turned over by Clinton.

John Kirby (Credit: public domain)

John Kirby (Credit: public domain)

On November 13, 2010, in response to an email by Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin, Clinton wrote, “Let’s get separate address or device but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.” Clinton never did get a separate address or device, but the worry about the “personal being accessible” suggests her excuse that she didn’t have a government email account merely due to “convenience” does not tell the full story. Clinton’s comment was first reported in the May 25, 2016 State Department inspector general’s report, then the full email was released on June 22, 2016.

One day later, State Department spokesman John Kirby comments, “While this exchange was not part of the approximately 55,000 pages provided to the State Department by former Secretary Clinton, the exchange was included within the set of documents Ms. Abedin provided the department in response to our March 2015 request.”

Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon comments, “Secretary Clinton had some emails with Huma that Huma did not have, and Huma had some emails with Secretary Clinton that Secretary Clinton did not have.” However, he declines to say if Clinton deleted any work-related emails before they were all reviewed by three of her lawyers in late 2014. One of those lawyers, David Kendall, is contacted but also declines to comment.

The Associated Press notes that Clinton has claimed she turned over all her work-related emails in December 2014, and yet “her 2010 email with Abedin appears clearly work-related under the State Department’s own criteria…” (The Associated Press, 6/23/2016)

September 19, 2016: Internet sleuths discover many similarities between Paul Combetta and ‘stonetear’

In the hours following the discovery of the “stonetear” Reddit account, internet sleuths discover the following reasons “stonetear” is an online alias for PRN employee Paul Combetta:

1. On July 24, 2014stonetear’ posted a request for help on Reddit, asking for help stripping the email address from a VIP’s (VERY VIP) client’s archived emails. The day before, Clinton’s lawyers sent some of Clinton’s emails so they could begin sorting them.

2. On December 10, 2014, ‘stonetear’ asked for advice from Reddit users on how to implement a 60-day email “purge” policy. It is also reportedly near the same time that Clinton told her lawyer Cheryl Mills she didn’t need her “personal” emails, resulting in Mills telling those managing Clinton’s server to delete them.

Another sample captured of Combetta as 'stonetear' asking Reddit users for help. (Credit: Reddit)

Another sample captured of Combetta as ‘stonetear’ asking Reddit users for help. (Credit: Reddit)

3. The inactive website combetta.com is registered to the email address stonetear@gmail.com in a search of domain registration information using the service whois.com.

4. This Facebook photo is captioned by a friend of Combetta and refers to him as “Stone Tear.”

Paul Combetta is referred to as "Stonetear" by a friend in this FB photo. (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta is referred to as “Stonetear” by a friend in this FB photo. (Credit: Facebook)

5. An account for a person named Paul Combetta on the web bazaar Etsy also has the username ‘stonetear.’

6. Platte River Networks (PRN) has stated Combetta is their only employee who lives in Rhode Island.  ‘Stonetear’  claims to live in Rhode Island in his posts on Reddit.

7. A website publicizing a help file for the video game Betrayal at Krondor thanks Combetta and shows his email address is stonetear@gmail.com

A photo capture from the website Krondor, thanking Combetta for his help with an internet game and includes stonetear@gmail.com as his email address. (Credit: public domain)

8. Moreover, Stonetear@gmail.com has a Google Account profile picture that looks like Combetta.

A captured shot of Combetta’s ‘stonetear’ Gmail account with photo included. (Credit: public domain)

FBI Director James Comey will later confirm that Paul Combetta is “stonetear” in his testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on September 28, 2016.  (CSpan 01:27:39, 09/28/2016)

(US News & World Report, 09/19/2016), (Vice News, 09/19/2016)