Spring 2013: A back-up of all of Clinton’s emails are put onto a laptop and then forgotten about.

Monica Hanley (Credit: Bolton-St. Johns)

Monica Hanley (Credit: Bolton-St. Johns)

In the spring of 2013, Clinton aide Monica Hanley works with Bill Clinton aide Justin Cooper to create an archive of Clinton’s emails. Clinton aide Huma Abedin will later tell the FBI that the archive was created as a reference for the future production of a book. Whereas Hanley will later tell the FBI that the archive was created as a security precaution after Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal had his email account broken into on March 14, 2013, publicly exposing Clinton’s email address.

Cooper gives Hanley an Apple MacBook laptop from the Clinton Foundation and helps her through the process of remotely transferring Clinton’s emails from Clinton’s server to the laptop and a thumb drive. These two copies of the Clinton emails are intended to be stored in Clinton’s houses in Chappaqua, New York, and Whitehaven, Washington, DC. However, Hanley will tell the FBI that this doesn’t happen because she forgets to give the laptop and the thumb drive to Clinton’s staff.

Nearly a full year will pass before Hanley finds the laptop again. She will send it though the mail, only to apparently have it get permanently lost somehow. It is unclear what happens to the thumb drive, but it will not be seen again either. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

November 2013 and December 2014: Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall and his law partner get security clearances, but they probably aren’t valid for the Clinton emails he possesses.

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Katherine Turner (Credit: Williams & Connolly)

Kendall gets a “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” (TS/SCI) security clearance from the Justice Department in November 2013. He and his Williams & Connolly law partner Katherine Turner also get a “top secret” clearance from the State Department in December 2014. This is so Kendall can review information related to the House Benghazi Committee’s on-going investigation.

At some point in late 2014, Kendall, Cheryl Mills (Clinton’s chief of staff), and Heather Samuelson (another lawyer) read and sort through all of Clinton’s over 60,000 emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state. At least 22 of these will later be determined to have contained “top secret” information. Kendall then keeps a copy of over 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, including the 22 top secret ones, in a safe in the office he shares with Turner.

Only in July 2015 will government security officials give him first one safe and then a second more secure safe to hold the thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails, before Kendall gives up the thumb drive in August 2015.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R) will later suggest, “Neither Mr. Kendall nor Ms. Turner have a security clearance at a sufficient level to be a custodian of TS/SCI material. Thus, it appears Secretary Clinton sent TS/SCI material to unauthorized persons.” Politico will later point out, “Clearances, especially Top Secret ones, are normally granted in connection with specific matters and do not entitle recipients to all information classified at that level…” (Politico, 8/25/2015) 

Furthermore, Clinton’s emails are handed over to the State Department on December 5, 2014, making it likely that at least some of the time-consuming reading and sorting of 60,000 emails took place prior to the security clearances that were given in November 2014. (The Washington Post, 3/10/2015) 

John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence official, will later comment, “TS/SCI information must always be placed in a Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), a special, purpose-built room designed to protect against physical and electronic intrusion. A full-blown SCIF surely Kendall did not possess. […] Anything less is a clear violation of Federal law. Hillary has placed herself and her attorney in a precarious position here.” (John Schindler, 8/26/2015)

Additionally, it is unknown if Mills and Samuelson, who read and sorted all of Clinton’s emails with Kendall, had the security clearances to do so.

Late July 2014—December 5, 2014: The Clinton lawyer who sorts Clinton’s emails appears to have no security clearance and no special skills to do so.

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Heather Samuelson (Credit: LinkedIn)

Between late July 2014 and December 5, 2014, Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson spends “several months” sorting Clinton’s emails into work-related and personal, according to an account she will later give to the FBI.

Samuelon allegedly does the vast majority of the sorting by herself. Clinton will later claim that she had no direct involvement in determining which emails to keep or delete and left that process to her lawyers. Her personal lawyer David Kendall, her lawyer and former chief of staff Cheryl Mills allegedly only assist Samuelson when there is an email she is uncertain about.

Samuelson is said to be a Clinton loyalist, and she worked under Clinton in the State Department in the White House Liaison Office. But she has no background in federal record keeping, and it is unclear if she has any security clearance. (Politico, 9/4/2015)

In the FBI’s final report on their Clinton email investigation, released on September 2016, there will be no mention of Samuelson having any kind of security clearance when she sorts the emails. However, the report will mention when other people who handled Clinton’s emails did have security clearances, such as Bill Clinton aide Oscar Flores.

It will later emerge that thousaands of emails Samuelson sorted as personal were recovered after being deleted and found to be work-related. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Shortly After October 28, 2014: A computer file from Platte River has a key role in how Clinton’s emails are sorted, according to testimony by Cheryl Mills.

Cheryl Mills after testifying privately to the House Benghazi Committee while Representatives Elijah Cummings and Trey Gowdy stand behind her, on September 3, 2015. (Credit Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

On September 3, 2015, Clinton’s former chief of staff Cheryl Mills will testify under oath in front of the House Benghazi Committee. After being asked about her role in sorting and deleting Clinton’s emails, Mills says that “after the letter came” from the State Department on October 28, 2014 asking for Clinton’s work-related emails, “Secretary Clinton asked [Clinton’s personal lawyer] David Kendall and myself to oversee a process to ensure that any records that could be potentially work-related were provided to the department.”

Mills is asked if she or Kendall were in physical possession of the server at the time.

She replies, “No. … [T]hat server, as I understand it, doesn’t contain any of her records. So we asked Platte River to give us a .pst [computer file] of all of her emails during the tenure where she was there, which they did. And we used that .pst to first search for and set aside all of the state.gov records, then to actually do a name search of all of the officials in the department so that we could ensure that all the senior officials that she would likely be corresponding with got looked at and searched for by name, and then a review of every sender and recipient so that you knew, if there was a misspelling or something that was inaccurate, that you would also have that review done, as well. And then that created the body of, I think, about 30,000 emails that ended up being ones that were potentially work-related, and not, obviously, completely, but it was the best that we could do, meaning obviously there were some personal records that are turned over, and the department has advised the Secretary of that.”

Mills further explains that she and Kendall “oversaw the process. The person who actually undertook it is a woman who worked for me.” This woman is another lawyer, Heather Samuelson, who Mills admits doesn’t have any specialized training or skills with the Federal Records Act or identifying official records.

Then Mills is asked what happened to the “universe of the .pst file” after the work-emails had been sorted out.

She replies: “So the potential set of federal records, we created a thumb drive that David Kendall kept at his office. And then the records themselves, that would have been the universe that they sent, Platte River took back. […] So they just removed it. So it ended up being on system, and they just removed it. And I don’t know what is the technological way they do it, because it’s a way you have to access it, and then they make it so you can’t access it anymore.” (House Benghazi Committee, 10/21/2015)

June 24, 2015—August 6, 2015: Clinton’s emails are not properly secured with her lawyer.

The location of Williams & Connolly LLP offices, in Washington, DC. (Credit: Google Earth)

The location of Williams & Connolly LLP offices, in Washington, DC. (Credit: Google Earth)

On June 24, 2015, Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough learns in a letter written by Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall that copies of Clinton’s emails are being kept on a thumb drive in a safe in Kendall’s Washington, DC, office. This concerns McCullough, since those emails may still contain highly classified information.

The next day, McCullough calls an FBI official and has that person work with the State Department to give Kendall a government-issued safe to store the thumb drive instead. (The Washington Post, 8/14/2015

The safe is installed in the office Kendall shares with his Williams & Connolly law partner Katherine Turner on July 6. Kendall and Turner had both recently gotten security clearances. (Politico, 8/25/2015) 

However, concerns soon arise that some of Clinton’s emails may contain “top secret” classified material, and even the new safe may not be secure enough. Additionally, the security clearances of Kendall and Turner may not be high enough to allow them to read or possess top secret information. Further security arrangements are made, although it’s not clear what those are.

Kendall finally turns the thumb drive over to the FBI on August 6, ending the problem. (Politico, 9/17/2015)

July 29, 2015: Congressional Republicans are increasingly concerned about Clinton’s lawyer possessing her emails.

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Bradley Moss (Credit: public domain)

Senator Ron Johnson (R), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, writes a letter to Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall. He asks him what he’s done to “safeguard the classified material in (his) possession,” meaning a thumb drive containing Clinton’s emails.

Bradley Moss, a lawyer who handles national security information, comments: “As a general rule, private non-government individuals, even those maintaining a security clearance, are not authorized to privately store classified information. […] I’m not aware of any other private lawyer who has a clearance being allowed to do what is being permitted here.” (McClatchy Newspapers, 7/30/2015) 

The FBI will finally take all the copies of the emails from Kendall on August 6, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

August 1, 2015—August 7, 2015: The company managing Clinton’s private server learns that another company has been making back-up copies of all the server data in the Internet “cloud” since 2013.

Clinton’s server has been managed by Platte River Networks (PRN) since June 2013. And since that time, PRN has subcontracted Datto, Inc. to make periodic back-ups of all the data on the server. PRN has thought that the back-ups have been only made through a device attached to the server called the Datto SIRIS S2000.

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

Sam Hickler (Credit: public domain)

However, on August 1, 2015, an unnamed PRN employee notices that data from the server was possibly being sent to an off-site Datto location. On August 6, 2015,  Sam Hickler, PRN’s vice president of operations, contacts Datto employee Leif McKinley about this, CCing PRN employees Paul Combetta and Treve Suazo.

McKinley confirms that, due to a misunderstanding, Datto has been making periodic back-ups of the server data through the Internet “cloud” as well as locally through the device. Furthermore, periodic back-ups have been made this way since June 2013.

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Treve Suazo (Credit: Platte River Networks)

Suazo, the CEO of PRN, tells Datto on August 6, 2015, that “This is a problem.” This is because the Clinton Executive Services Corp. (CESC), the Clinton family company that hired PRN to manage the server, explicitly stated from the beginning that they didn’t want any remote back-ups to be made. Thus, PRN employees tell Datto not to delete whatever data was stored in the cloud, and instead work to get it back to the control of PRN.

On August 7, 2015, Datto and PRN employees discuss saving the data on a thumb drive and sending it to PRN. Then, according to an email from one unnamed PRN employee to another, they would have Datto “wipe [the data] from the cloud.”

This is according to a letter that will be sent in October 5, 2015 to Datto CEO Austin McChord by Senator Ron Johnson (R). Johnson is chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and is conducting oversight of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. However, Johnson will be unable to determine what happened next, such as if the thumb drive was sent and the data was wiped. Furthermore, McChord will not be able to reveal that information to Johnson because Datto needs PRN’s permission to share that information and PRN won’t give it. (US Congress, 9/12/2016) (US Congress, 9/12/2016)

August 6, 2015: Clinton’s lawyers give the FBI a thumb drive containing over 30,000 Clinton work-related emails.

Williams & Connolly, the law firm of Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, gives the FBI a thumb drive which has a .pst file containing 30,524 emails. On December 5, 2014, Clinton’s lawyers gave the State Department 30,490 emails, sorted to be all of Clinton’s work-related emails. It isn’t clear why there is a 34 email difference.

On July 31, 2016, the Justice Department asked Kendall to turn over his thumb drive.

Clinton lawyer Heather Samuelson put the .pst file on a thumb drive and gave it to Kendall around the above-mentioned December 5, 2014 date. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

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

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

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

August 12, 2015: The FBI picks up one of Clinton’s private email servers, as well as thumb drives containing copies of her emails.

An inside look at one Equinix’s many data centers across the United States. (Credit: Equinix)

The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s old server, which was in a New Jersey data center, had all its data deleted some time earlier.

A lawyer for Platte River Networks, the company that managed the server, says, “To my knowledge, the data on the old server is not available now on any servers or devices in Platte River Network’s control.”

Investigators also take thumb drives from Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall containing copies of Clinton’s emails. (The Washington Post, 8/12/2015) 

There are two Clinton servers in existence at the time, and both the old and new ones are located at the Equinix data center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

However, a September 2016 FBI report will explain that Clinton’s lawyers never revealed that Clinton’s emails had once been transferred from the old server to the new server, so the FBI only picks up the old server. The FBI will later learn on its own about the transfer and then pick up the new server as well, on October 3, 2015. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

August 19, 2015: Clinton’s lawyer claims that all data, including Clinton’s emails, was erased from her server before it was turned over to the FBI.

150819ClintonTurnerKendallGetty

David Kendall (right) and Katherine Turner (left) sit behind Clinton during her testimony to the Benghazi committee on October 23, 2015. (Credit: Getty Images)

Lawyer David Kendall tells this to the Senate Homeland Security committee. He adds that both he and his office partner lawyer Katherine Turner had been given security clearances to handle a thumb drive containing some of Clinton’s emails, but he doesn’t say when. His comments don’t clarify if Clinton’s server was wiped or merely erased.

“Wiping” means that new data is written over the old data several times to make sure it can never be recovered. (The Guardian, 8/19/2015)

September 22, 2015: Clinton’s emails were improperly secured up until August 2015.

After it became clear by May 2015 that some of Clinton’s emails contained classified information, the security of the email copies possessed by Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall became an issue. In July 2015, State Department officials installed a special safe in Kendall’s office to store them.
However, on this day, Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield writes to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R) that “while the safe was suitable for up to (top secret) information, it was not approved for TS/SCI material.” “TS/SCI” stands for “top secret, sensitive compartmented information.” Top secret information and above, such as TS/SCI, must be kept in a specially built secure room known as a SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility]. Frifield argues that no one in the department knew Clinton’s emails contained such highly classified information.
The issue was resolved in August 2015 when the FBI took away Kendall’s copies of the emails. (The Associated Press, 9/28/2015)