February 18, 2016 and May 3, 2016: A Platte River Networks employee is interviewed twice by the FBI and gives contradictory answers.

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

Paul Combetta (Credit: public domain)

Platte River Networks (PRN) is the computer company managing Clinton’s private server from June 2013 until at least October 2015, and PRN employee Paul Combetta played a pivotal role in the deletion of Clinton’s emails from her server.

On February 18, 2016, Combetta is interviewed by the FBI for the first time. He says that between March 25 and 31, 2015, he realized he failed to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s email account on her server, as Clinton’s lawyer (and former chief of staff) Cheryl Mills told him to do in December 2014. This would result in the deletion of some of her emails after 60 days. However, he claims that despite this realization, he still didn’t take any action. Additionally, on March 9, 2015, Mills sent him and other PRN employees an email which mentioned that the House Benghazi Committee had made a formal request to preserve Clinton’s emails. Combetta tells the FBI that he didn’t recall seeing the preservation request referenced in the email.

On May 3, 2016, Combetta has a follow-up FBI interview, and his answers on key issues completely contradict what he said before. This time, he says that when he realized between March 25 and 31, 2015 that he forgot to change the email retention policy on Clinton’s email account, he had an “oh shit!” moment. Then, instead of finally changing the policy settings, he entirely deleted Clinton’s email mailbox from the server,  and used the BleachBit computer program to effectively wipe the data to make sure it could never be recovered. He also deleted a Datto back-up of the data. And he did all this without consulting anyone in PRN or working for Clinton. Furthermore, he admits that he was aware of the mention in the March 9, 2015 email from Mills mentioning the Congressional request to preserve Clinton’s emails.

A September 2016 FBI report will simply note these contradictions. There will be no explanation why Combetta was not indicted for lying to the FBI, obstruction of justice, and other possible charges. There also will be no explanation why his answers changed so much in his second FBI interview, such as him possibly being presented with new evidence that contradicted what he’d said before. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

April 9, 2016: Cheryl Mills tells the FBI she never knew Clinton’s emails got deleted.

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

Paul Combetta (Credit: Facebook)

In late March 2015, Paul Combetta, an employee of Platte River Networks (PRN), deleted all of Clinton’s emails from her private server and then used a computer program to permanently wipe them. Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers and her former chief of staff, had communications with Combetta in that time period, including speaking in a conference call in which he also participated just after the deletions were done, on March 31, 2015.

However, Mills is interviewed by the FBI on this date, and the FBI will later report that “Mills stated she was unaware that [Combetta] had conducted these deletions and modifications in March 2015.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Mills’ claim is particularly surprising considering that Mills has continued to work as one of Clinton’s lawyers and in August 2015, it was reported that Clinton’s campaign had acknowledged “that there was an attempt to wipe [Clinton’s private] server before it was turned over last week to the FBI.” (NBC News, 8/19/2015)

July 7, 2016: FBI Director Comey says it is unclear if any of Clinton’s emails were deleted by Clinton or anyone else.

At a Congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey is asked by Representative Trey Gowdy (R), “Secretary Clinton said neither she nor anyone else deleted work-related emails from her personal account. Was that true?”

Comey answers, “That’s a harder one to answer. We found traces of work-related emails in — on devices or in slack space. Whether they were deleted or whether when the server was changed out, something happened to them. There’s no doubt that the work-related emails were removed electronically from the email system.” (Politico, 7/7/2016) (CNN, 7/7/2016)

However, in September 2016, the FBI Clinton investigation’s final report will be released, based entirely on information learned by the FBI prior to Comey’s testimony. That makes clear that in late March 2015, someone used a computer program called BleachBit to delete all of Clinton’s emails off her server and then wipe them to prevent their later recovery. It is unknown why Comey fails to mention this.

September 2, 2016: Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin denied they knew about the existence of Clinton’s private server, despite evidence otherwise.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report, released on this day, mentions: “Clinton’s immediate aides, to include [Cheryl] Mills, [Huma] Abedin, [Jake] Sullivan, and [redacted] told the FBI they were unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at [the State Department] or when it became public knowledge. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

However, emails from when Clinton was secretary of state indicate otherwise, at least for Mills and Abedin:

  • Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s server that she often used. On February 27, 2010, she sent an email to Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide helping to manage the server, “HRC [Clinton] email coming back—is server okay?” Cooper replied, “UR [You are] funny. We are on the same server.” These emails were sent to Mills as well.
  • On January 9, 2011, Cooper sent Abedin an email mentioning that he “had to shut down the server” due to a hacking attack.. He sent her another email later in the day, saying he had to shut it down again.
  • On August 30, 2011, State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull emailed Mills, Abedin, and two others, informing them that he was trying to give Clinton a State Department-issued Blackberry “to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning… possibly because of [sic] her personal email server is down.” Abedin sent an email in reply, and a discussion in person apparently followed.
  • The FBI’s final report also indicates that Abedin was instrumental in the creation of the server. “At the recommendation of Huma Abedin… in or around fall 2008, [Cooper] contacted Bryan Pagliano… to build the new server system and to assist Cooper with the administration of the new server system.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)