June 3, 2019 – Former State official testifies he warned about Clinton email issues and was concerned about interference with classified Clinton Benghazi emails
“Judicial Watch announced today that John Hackett, the former Director for Information Programs and Services (IPS), which handles records management at the State Department, testified under oath that he had raised concerns that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s staff had “culled out 30,000” of the secretary’s “personal” emails without following strict National Archives standards. The full deposition transcript is available here.
John Hackett, as part of a series of court-ordered depositions and questions under oath of senior Obama-era State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, also revealed that he believed there was interference with the formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review process related to the classification of Clinton’s Benghazi-related emails.
Hackett served first as deputy director then as director for Information Programs and Services, which handles the FOIA request program and the retirement of and declassification of documents at the State Department. He was at the department from April 2013 to March 2016.
In March 2015, Clinton told reporters that she and her staff had deleted more than 30,000 emails “because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy.” ABC News reported: “However, after a year-long investigation, the FBI recovered more than 17,000 emails that had been deleted or otherwise not turned over to the State Department, and many of them were work-related, the FBI has said.”
(Heather Samuelson, the Clinton lawyer who deleted the Clinton emails, separately testified to Judicial Watch that she received immunity from the Justice Department.)
Hackett answered during the deposition that he recalled a conversation that he had when he was at the State Department about requesting rules or parameters from Secretary Clinton or her attorneys that they used to segregate her personal and official work emails.
Hackett: I recall it wasn’t much of a conversation. I — I was — I mean, I have to say, it was emphatic to the Under Secretary of Management — and I didn’t speak in tones like that very often to him — you know, that we needed these — you know, the guidelines.
Judicial Watch: And when you said, the Under Secretary, are you referring to Patrick Kennedy [then-Under Secretary of State for Management]?
Hackett: I think I might have raised it to Rich Visek, the Acting Office of Legal Advisor, or Peggy — or Margaret Grafeld [an executive-level State Department FOIA official] raised it to Rich, as well.
Judicial Watch: Why did you feel so strongly that this was necessary, that they provide this information?
Hackett: Well, we heard that there were 50,000 or 60,000 emails, and that they had – “they” being the Secretary’s team — had culled out 30,000 of these. And which is — so we wanted to know what criteria they used. The standard from the National Archives is very strict. If there was — if there were mixed records, that would be considered a federal record. If it was mixed personal and mentioned a discussion, that would be — under the narrow National Archives rules, it would be considered a federal record.
(…) Hackett testified that his initial concern over Secretary Clinton’s email use arose in June 2013 when he said he viewed a photograph on the WTOP website of Clinton “sitting on a plane with a BlackBerry. “And that got me thinking that, well, what — what was that BlackBerry? Was it a government BlackBerry? And if so, where were the emails relating to that BlackBerry?” Hackett said.
Hackett testified he went to then-IPS Director Sheryl Walter “after seeing that photograph and suggested that we had to be careful about what sort of responses we made relating to Hillary Clinton’s emails, when it — if there was a No Record Located response that was being given out. In fact, I advised Sheryl that we should stop giving No Record Located responses until we come to — kind of come, you know — find out what that BlackBerry meant, come to ground about what was known about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked how Walter responded, Hackett said “My recollection is, she agreed with me.”
“The other thing that we did, or I did at that time, was, we wanted to find out what this BlackBerry meant,” Hackett testified. “So we tasked — my recollection is, we verbally tasked Tasha Thian, the department’s Records Manager at that time, to look into the BlackBerry. And I believe Tasha contacted Clarence Finney in the Secretary’s office to ask him what he knew about the former Secretary’s emailing habits.”
Asked what Thian found out, Hackett responded: “I don’t recall exactly what she found out, but she didn’t find out much. Tasha also contacted the part of the State Department that’s part of the intelligence community, and Intelligence and Research Bureau, to ask to see if there were any classified emails on — in the classified systems that the Secretary might have produced. And I do recall that I think Tasha came back with the answer that they did not have any.”
Hackett went on to say that “There was a lot of confusion about exactly what that BlackBerry, you know, meant at that time. you had a concern as to how the department was responding to FOIA requests that related to Secretary Clinton’s emails after you saw the photograph of the Secretary holding a BlackBerry. … My recollection is — and I had only been there two months — that someone had told me that, — and I can’t remember — that she did not have an email account, a government email account. So there was obviously a contradiction here when, you know, there’s that photograph. So we were just trying to find out what was the ground truth. So that’s why I had a concern about issuing responses that said no records had been located.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 7/02/2019)
May 06, 2019 – Former Asst. Sec. of State for Diplomatic Security testifies under oath that he warned Hillary Clinton twice about unsecure BlackBerrys and personal emails
Judicial Watch released the deposition transcript of Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, in which he reveals that Hillary Clinton was warned twice against using unsecure BlackBerrys and personal emails to transmit classified material. A full transcript of the deposition is available here.
Boswell, who was responsible for securing classified and national security information, stated that Clinton and her staff were “wedded to their BlackBerrys.” Additionally, he stated that he and other former State Department employees “were surprised” that Clinton used clintonemail.com to conduct official government business.
In his deposition, Ambassador Boswell stated:
- Hillary Clinton and other Senior State Department officials were warned in 2009 that “any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving emails and exploiting calendars.”
- Clinton was warned again in 2011 that “We also urge Department users to minimize the use of personal web email for business, as some compromised home systems have been reconfigured by these actors to automatically forward copies of all composed emails to an undisclosed recipient.”
- Clinton assured him that she “gets it” when he informed her about dangers of Blackberries.
- Clinton and her staff were “wedded to their blackberries” and wanted to continue using them in secure areas even after warning because it was a “convenience issue” to them.
- He and other former State Department employees “were surprised” to learn that Clinton used clintonemail.com to conduct official government business. Boswell claimed that they were not aware of such activity while still employed by the government.
Boswell was deposed as part of the discovery granted to Judicial Watch by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured, non-government email system (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). (Read more: Judicial Watch, 5/29/2019)
February 28, 2019 – Judge orders release of Christopher Steele deposition
“A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ordered the release of depositions given by former British spy Christopher Steele and a longtime associate of late Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain in a lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed regarding Steele’s anti-Trump dossier.
U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro overruled requests by Steele and David Kramer, the former McCain associate, to keep depositions they gave in the BuzzFeed lawsuit under seal. Ungaro dismissed a lawsuit filed against BuzzFeed on Dec. 19, 2018, by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian businessman accused in the dossier of using his companies to hack into DNC computers.
The depositions by Steele and Kramer, a former Department of State official, are likely to shed light on how the dossier was compiled and disseminated to U.S. government officials and the press. Ungaro ordered the documents’ release for March 14.
Kramer, a former State Department official, provided the dossier to a BuzzFeed reporter Dec. 28, 2016, several weeks after meeting with Steele in London.
Steele was hired in June 2016 by opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. He produced 17 separate memos dated between June 20, 2016, and Dec. 13, 2016, alleging a vast conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Kremlin to influence the election.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 2/28/2019)
January 10, 2019 – Judicial Watch to depose former top officials involved in the Clinton email scandal
Judicial Watch announced today that it submitted a court-ordered discovery plan for the depositions of several top former government officials involved in the Clinton email scandal, including Obama administration senior officials Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap.
Judicial Watch “intends to update the Court regarding the depositions of Hillary Clinton and Cheryl Mills at the conclusion of the 16-week discovery period, unless the Court believes such notice is not necessary.” The plan for discovery is the latest development in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit filed after the U.S. Department of State failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)). Read the discovery plan here:
August 30, 2018 – An internal Fusion GPS report undercuts Clinton/Steele dossier allegation against Russian executive
“In an effort to bolster the Steele dossier, Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the infamous report, tapped one of its contractors to investigate a Russian businessman accused of hacking Democrats’ computer systems.
But that contractor, a Russia expert named Edward Baumgartner, came back with something that was perhaps disappointing to Fusion GPS. According to an internal Fusion GPS report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Baumgartner’s Russian sources painted the Russian, Aleksej Gubarev, in largely positive terms. Unlikely, the sources claimed, had Gubarev taken part in the hacking operation, as former British spy Christopher Steele claimed in his dossier.
“Our interviews of people familiar with Gubarev paint a picture of a relatively well-known person in the IT sector with an entirely positive reputation as a successful self-made entrepreneur,” reads the five-page report, which was provided as evidence in a lawsuit that Gubarev filed against BuzzFeed News.
“Our sources were uncertain about Gubarev’s alleged ties to the hacking and collection of compromising material on Trump. Their lack of certainty is entirely understandable given the highly secretive nature of intelligence work, on the one hand, and the technical difficulty of establishing someone’s potential ties to hacking.”
A lawyer for Gubarev pressed Fusion GPS co-founder Peter Fritsch about the Baumgartner report during an Aug. 30, 2018, deposition. Fritsch confirmed Baumgartner, a Fusion GPS contractor who speaks Russian, filed the report, which is labeled “PRIVILEGED & CONFIDENTIAL.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 3/15/2019)
August 28, 2018 – Inconsistencies of Ohr’s Involvement
“Ohr often struggled to explain why he got involved as an intermediary between the FBI and Steele and Simpson in the first place:
Q: “You got the world’s premier law enforcement agency investigating a fact pattern. Chris Steele already has a handler, already is in contact with the FBI; and you allow the person hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on a Presidential candidate to talk to you directly and use you as a conduit. We’re just trying to figure out why you let that happen?”
Ohr: “I took the information. I thought the information might be important, and I wanted to get it to the FBI. It seemed the only way to do it.”
Q: “What information would Glenn Simpson have that the Bureau couldn’t get or already have?”
Ohr: “I don’t know exactly what the FBI had access to, and I know Glenn Simpson was also gathering information. So more information is better. The FBI is in a position to decide whether the information is useful or credible.”
Toward the beginning of Ohr’s interview, he was questioned in regard to precisely who he had brought Steele’s information to within the FBI:
Q: “Who at the FBI did you pass it on to?”
Ohr: “Well, at that point I had—I believe I met with Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and some people from the Department’s—Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and I gave them the information that I had received.”
And a notable point was made:
Q: “Can you see how it might be troubling? You just called the names of two people, neither of whom I think are with the Bureau, one who was mentioned unfavorably in an IG report, both of whom had, at least from my standpoint, an unprecedented amount of animus or bias towards one of the candidates, and you are getting information from someone hired by the DNC and funneling it to the lead agent on the Russia investigation. Can you possibly see how that might be troubling to people?”
Ohr also admitted that his actions represented an unusual pattern of behavior for him:
Q: “Are there other cases where you recall taking information from fact witnesses and passing it on to the Bureau?”
Ohr: “I don’t recall specific instances, but whenever I—over the years, as I’ve talked with people who are, you know, experts or have information one way or another on transnational organized crime, including Russian organized crime, I take their information, and if it looked like it—if there’s anything there, I would pass it to the FBI.”
Q: “I’ve been out of it for about 8 years, so you help me if I’m wrong, but a stick, or thumb drive, would be physical evidence for which a chain would exist if it were ever needed in court? And you made yourself part of the chain?”
Q: “Can you think of other instances in your career since 1991 where you made yourself part of a chain of custody?”
Ohr: “Not—I don’t remember getting any other sticks or anything like that, so—”
Q: “And you can’t think of a single case where you inserted yourself into a chain of custody other than this one?”
Ohr: “That’s right.”
Q: “I guess my colleagues are wondering why. Why this one?”
July 13, 2018 – Lisa Page admits Obama DOJ ordered stand-down on Clinton email prosecution
“Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page admitted under questioning from Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe last summer that “the FBI was ordered by the Obama DOJ not to consider charging Hillary Clinton for gross negligence in the handling of classified information,” the congressman alleged in a social media post late Tuesday, citing a newly unearthed transcript of Page’s closed-door testimony.
Page and since-fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who were romantically involved, exchanged numerous anti-Trump text messages in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, and Republicans have long accused the bureau of political bias. But Page’s testimony was perhaps the most salient evidence yet that the Justice Department improperly interfered with the FBI’s supposedly independent conclusions on Clinton’s criminal culpability, Ratcliffe alleged.
“So let me if I can, I know I’m testing your memory,” Ratcliffe began as he questioned Page under oath, according to a transcript excerpt he posted on Twitter. “But when you say advice you got from the Department, you’re making it sound like it was the Department that told you: You’re not going to charge gross negligence because we’re the prosecutors and we’re telling you we’re not going to —”
Page interrupted: “That is correct,” as Ratcliffe finished his sentence, ” — bring a case based on that.” (Read more: Fox News, 3/13/2019)
A judge rules that Clinton can respond to a deposition with written answers instead of being questioned in person.
Judicial Watch has been seeking to have Clinton deposed as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit involving her emails. However, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rules: “Judicial Watch’s argument that a deposition is preferable in this case because of the ability to ask follow-up questions is not persuasive. Given the extensive public record related to the clintonemail.com system, a record which Judicial Watch has acknowledged
Judicial Watch will be able to anticipate many follow-up questions. For those follow-up questions that Judicial Watch is unable to anticipate, it can move this Court for permission to serve additional interrogatories.”
Sullivan notes that due to legal precedents applicable to current and former Cabinet officials, he should only require Clinton to appear at a deposition if “exceptional circumstances” justify it.
Sullivan says he is still intent on finding out why Clinton’s private server was set up and whether there were other reasons beyond Clinton’s public claim of “convenience.” He also says it is important that she at least answer questions in writing about this because depositions of Clinton’s staff had shown that “her closest aides at the State Department do not have personal knowledge of her purpose in using the [server].”
Politico notes, “Technically, it is still possible one of several other judges considering similar cases could issue such an order [for Clinton to be deposed in person], but the clock may run out soon on efforts to force such an appearance in advance of the November [presidential] election.”
Judicial Watch also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel.
Sullivan rejects the deposition of Finney, despite the fact that Finney’s job was to organize responses to FOIA requests. However, he does order the future deposition of Bentel. It has been reported that Bentel blocked other department employees from raising questions about Clinton’s use of her server. (Politico, 8/19/2016)
Cheryl Mills answers additional questions she failed to answer in her deposition.
Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department, was deposed in May 2016 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch. At that time, she refused to answer some questions, citing attorney-client privilege. Judge Emmet Sullivan worked out a compromise to have Mills answer some questions in writing to prevent further litigation, and Mills’ written answers are made public by Judicial Watch on this day.
This written testimony shows that shortly after the hacker known as Guccifer broke into the email account of Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal and publicy revealed Clinton’s private email address in March 2013, Mills was worried about the potential impact this coud have on Clinton’s private email server. Mills discussed this with Clinton’s computer techician Bryan Pagliano. Clinton’s email address was changed, but it is still unknown if any other security measures were taken. (Politico, 8/10/2016)
Clinton’s lawyer insists Clinton’s use of a private server was allowed by policy, despite clear evidence it wasn’t.
Clinton’s longtime personal lawyer David Kendall appears in court regarding Clinton’s email controversy for the first time since the issue became public in March 2015. He is opposing a request to have Clinton deposed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch.
The judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, has said publicly that Clinton violated government policy by doing official business on the private server. The State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, also concluded the same in a May 2016 report. Kendall nonetheless maintains that Clinton’s behavior “was clearly permitted and allowed” by policy. However, he admits that her server was never specifically approved by anyone at the State Department. He also argues that the reason Clinton set up and used a private email server for all her emails was “a matter of convenience.”
Sullivan doesn’t immediately decide whether Clinton should be deposed or not. However, Judicial Watch has also asked for the depositions of former State Department officials Clarence Finney and John Bentel, and Sullivan does definitively state that at least Bentel “should be deposed.” (Politico, 07/18/2016)