Clinton-Obama emails

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)

More information about the emails between Clinton and Obama is made public.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (Credit: public domain)

While Clinton was secretary of state, she exchanged 18 emails with President Obama from her private email account. All information about these emails has remained classified. But some details are finally released due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News.

All of the emails were exchanged between May 18, 2012 and January 31, 2013. Obama sent eight emails to Clinton, and the other ten were from Clinton to Obama. None of the emails appear to contain highly sensitive or classified information, but instead are thank you notes, holiday greetings, and the like.

All of the emails were withheld under presidential privilege and privacy act and deliberative process exemptions to the FOIA. The new details are formally submitted in  what is called a Vaughn Index, a document prepared for FOIA lawsuits in which government departments justify the withholding of information. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)

In February 2016, it was reported there were 19 emails between Clinton and Obama, not 18. It is unclear if the Vaughn Index is missing one or if the report of 19 emails was off by one.

Clinton’s campaign chair privately suggests getting the White House to ask to keep all emails between Clinton and Obama from being publicly released.

John Podesta (Credit: ABC News)

John Podesta (Credit: ABC News)

Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta writes an email to Cheryl Mills, one of Clinton’s lawyers. The email is written two days after Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email address was publicly revealed, and one day after a House committee requests the preservation of all of Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state.

Podesta writes, “Think we should hold emails to and from potus? That’s the heart of his exec [executive] privilege. We could get them to ask for that. They may not care, but I seems like they will.” “Potus” stands for “president of the United States,” which in this case is Barack Obama.

The email will be released by WikiLeaks in October 2016. Mills’ reply, if any, is unknown. (WikiLeaks, 10/7/2016)

It will later be reported that there were only about 18 emails between Clinton and Obama during her secretary of state tenure.

Clinton sends President Obama an email from on or above Russian soil; Obama uses a pseudonym for his email address.

Clinton meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 29, 2012. (State Department)

Clinton meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 29, 2012. (State Department)

It has been reported that Clinton and President Obama exchanged 18 emails in the four years of Clinton’s secretary of state tenure. However, very few details have been released about any of them, except for this one. This email is an exception because when Clinton will be interviewed by the FBI in July 2016, she will be asked about the email, apparently since it was sent from Russia. A September 2016 FBI report will mention it is sent on July 1, 2012 and that the subject line is: “Fw: Congratulations!”

Additionally, an FBI summary of her interview will mention, “Clinton stated she received no particular guidance as to how she should use the president’s email address [redacted]. Since the foregoing email was sent from Russia, Clinton stated she must have sent it from the plane.”

Elsewhere in the FBI report, it will be mentioned that the FBI was unable to determine whenever Clinton sent emails overseas while on the ground or in an airplane because the State Department didn’t give the FBI detailed enough information about her travel schedule. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin will be asked about this email in an April 2016 FBI interview, though it will be described as “an email chain dated June 28, 2012, with the subject ‘Re: Congratulations!'” According to the FBI summary, “Abedin did not recognize the name of the sender. Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be a pseudonym used by [President Obama], Abedin exclaimed ‘How is this not classified?’ Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email. Abedin provided that she did not go on the trip to St. Petersburg [Russia] and noted that security protocols in St. Petersburg were not necessarily the same as they were in Moscow, where they were not allowed use to their BlackBerrys.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/23/2016)

Based on Abedin’s comments, it appears probable that Clinton sends an email in the chain with her BlackBerry from St. Petersburg, Russia, though it is unclear if she is on an airplane at the time or not, or if the plane is flying on on the ground.

Accordng to some basic details that will be revealed about the Clinton-Obama emails in September 2016, it appears Obama emails Clinton on June 28, 2012, then Clinton replies to him on June 28, 2012, which coincides with her time in St. Petersburg, on June 28 and 29, 2012. Then her aide Monica Hanley sends an email to Obama on July 1, 2012. It is not clear why this Hanley email will later be included in a list of Obama-Clinton emails or why the FBI wil refer to a July 1, 2012 email in Clinton’s FBI interview instead of the June 28, 2012 Clinton email mentioned in the Abedin FBI interview. (Vice News, 09/15/16) (Vicc News, 09/15/16)