FBI’s Clinton email investigaton final report
Justin Cooper was an administrator of Clinton’s private server and yet had no security clearance; Clinton apparently wasn’t asked about this.
Justin Cooper worked with Bryan Pagliano to manage Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state. But while Pagliano was a State Department employee, Cooper was an aide to former President Bill Clinton as well as a Clinton Foundation employee. When Cooper testifies before a Congressional committee on this day, he is asked by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R) if he had a security clearance while he was helping to manage the server.
He replies, “No, I did not have a security clearance.”
He mentions that he worked in the White House from 2000 to 2001, but he is not asked if he had a security clearance in those years. However, he mentions that he wasn’t involved in handling classified information at that time.
Chaffetz also asks him, “You had access to the server the entire time you were working for the Clintons?”
He answers, “Yes I had access to the server.”
He also mentions that both he and Pagliano had remote access, which means they could have accessed Clinton’s emails over the Internet at any time. (US Congress, 9/13/2016)
Curiously, the FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report, released earlier in September 2016, doesn’t mention Cooper’s lack of a security clearance. Nor is it mentioned in the summary of Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview, which is made public in early September 2016 as well, if Clinton knew Cooper had no security clearance when she hired him and continued to pay him for managing the server. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
Senator Grassley accuses the FBI of manipulating which information about the Clinton email investigation becomes public in order to hide certain events.
Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks in the Senate about difficulties he is having with the FBI’s selective release of information regarding the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.
He points out that the FBI has taken the unusual step of releasing the FBI’s final report and Clinton interview summary. “However, its summary is misleading or inaccurate in some key details and leaves out other important facts altogether.”
He says there are dozens of completely unclassified witness reports, but even some Congressional staffers can’t see them “because the FBI improperly bundled [them] with a small amount of classified information, and told the Senate to treat it all as if it were classified.”
He says the normal procedure is for documents to have the classified portions marked. Then the unclassified portions can be released. But in defiance of regulations and a clear executive order on how such material should be handled, “the FBI has ‘instructed’ the Senate office that handles classified information not to separate the unclassified information.”
He points in particular to recently revealed news that Paul Combetta, an employee of the company (Platte River Networks) that managed Clinton’s private server from June 2013 onwards, deleted and wiped all of Clinton’s emails from the server in March 2015. Grassley claims “there is key information related to that issue that is still being kept secret, even though it is unclassified. If I honor the FBI’s ‘instruction’ not to disclose the unclassified information it provided to Congress, I cannot explain why.”
He also says, “Inaccuracies are spreading because of the FBI’s selective release. For example, the FBI’s recently released summary memo may be contradicted by other unclassified interview summaries that are being kept locked away from the public.”
The FBI gave an immunity deal to the computer employee who deleted and wiped Clinton’s emails.
The New York Times reveals that the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee mentioned in a recently released FBI report who deleted and then wiped Clinton’s emails from her private server in March 2015 is named Paul Combetta. Furthermore, at some unknown point during the investigation, the FBI gave him an immunity deal. This is “according to a law enforcement official and others briefed on the investigation.”
It was reported in March 2016 that Clinton computer technician Bryan Pagliano got an immunity deal, but Combetta’s deal stayed secret. Even the FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report, released on September 2, 2016, makes no mention of it. The report also redacted every mention of Combetta’s name, but the Times says “the law enforcement official and others familiar with the case identified the employee as Mr. Combetta.”
Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon says the deletions by Combetta have already been “thoroughly examined by the FBI prior to its decision to close out this case.”
However, many questions remain, including why Combetta got immunity and when. He was interviewed by the FBI twice, and his answers in his second interview sometimes directly contradict his answers in his first interview, meaning he had to have lied to the FBI at least once, which is a felony. In his second interview also admitted to deleting Clinton’s emails despite being aware of a Congressional order to preserve her emails, which would suggest an admission of additional crimes.
Fallon also comments, “As the FBI’s report notes, neither Hillary Clinton nor her attorneys had knowledge of the Platte River Network employee’s actions. It appears he acted on his own and against guidance given by both Clinton’s and Platte River’s attorneys to retain all data in compliance with a congressional preservation request.”
The House Oversight Committee has asked PRN employees, including Combetta, to appear at a committee hearing on September 13, 2016, about how the email deletions and other matters. (The New York Times, 9/8/2016)
FBI Director Comey defends the timing of the release of the FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report.
On September 6, 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan complains how the report was release on the Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend.
The next day, FBI Director James Comey writes a letter to FBI staff that is immediately published in full by CNN. In it, he asserts that the review process allowing the report’s public release was finished on a Friday morning, September 2, 2016, so he published it later that same day.
He goes on to say, “I almost ordered the material held until [the next] Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us. We don’t play games. So we released it Friday. We are continuing to process more material and will release batches of documents as they are ready, no matter the day of the week.” (CNN, 9/7/2016) (CNN, 9/7/2016)
FBI Director James Comey writes a letter to FBI employees defending the FBI’s actions in its Clinton email investigation.
The letter is released to CNN on the same day, and publicly published in full. Addressing his decision not to recommend the indictment of Clinton, Comey writes, “At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case.”
CNN also reports that over the past several weeks, “Comey has met with groups of former FBI agents as part of his routine visits to field offices around the country. In at least one recent such meeting, according to people familiar with the meeting, former agents were sharply critical of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe and particularly the decision to not recommend charges against Clinton. Comey gave the meeting participants a similar answer about the case not being a cliff-hanger.” (CNN, 9/7/2016)
A later CNN article will identify the particularly contentious meeting as taking place in Kansas City. (CNN, 11/2/2016)
In the letter, Comey also defends his decision to release the FBI’s final report on the investigation (with significant redactions). That was a highly unusual move, because that usually only happens after an indictment or conviction. He makes a particular point to defend the timing of the report’s release, as it came out on a Friday afternoon just before the three-day Labor Day weekend.
Representative Chaffetz warns the person who managed Clinton’s server could face charges, and he also is puzzled by an assertion of attorney-client privilege.
Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, writes a letter to Platte River Networks (PRN), the computer company that managed Clinton’s private server since June 2013. Chaffetz warns that one PRN employee, Paul Combetta, could face federal charges for deleting and wiping Clinton’s emails from her server in March 2015. That’s because the House Benghazi Committee had issued a formal order to preserve such records earlier in the month, and Combetta confessed in a later FBI interview that he knew about the order before he made the deletions.
In the letter, Chaffetz says a recent FBI report about the deletions “raises questions to whether [Combetta] violated federal statutes that prohibit destruction of evidence and obstruction of a Congressional investigation.”
Additionally, Combetta took part in conference calls with Clinton’s lawyers just days before and after the deletions, but the FBI was unable to determine what was said in those communications, possibly due to an assertion of attorney-client privilege. In the letter, Chaffetz wants an explanation from PRN how Combetta could refuse to talk to the FBI about the conference calls if the only lawyers involved were Clinton’s. (Salon, 9/6/2016)
House Speaker Paul Ryan criticizes the FBI for the timing of the release of their Clinton email investigation final report.
Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, complains how the report was released on the Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend. “It’s like the most buried time you could ever put out a story. I’m surprised. I can’t believe that they would do what is such a patently political move. It makes them look like political operators versus law enforcement officers.” (CNN, 9/6/2016)
One day later, FBI Director James Comey responds with a statement defending the timing of the release.
Clinton often told an aide to forward Blumenthal’s emails to the White House and others, but the FBI was unable to prove this actually happened.
In the FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report released on this day, the FBI discusses the at least 179 “intelligence memos” Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal emailed to Clinton. Media reports indicate that some memos were accurate and some were totally inaccurate, but none of them were vetted by any US government official, because Blumenthal was and is a private citizen with no security clearance sending the emails directly to Clinton.
According to the FBI report, “Clinton often forwarded the memos to [her aide Jake] Sullivan, asking him to remove information identifying Blumenthal as the originator and to pass the information to other State employees to solicit their input. According to emails between Clinton and Sullivan, Clinton discussed passing the information to the White House, other [US government] agencies, and foreign governments.”
However, the report also mentions that the FBI was unable to determine if any of the memos were actually sent to such recipients, because the State Department didn’t give the FBI any of Sullivan’s emails sent to anyone other than Clinton. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016) (Department of State, 2/29/16)
The FBI reveals more about the Clinton emails that are clearly marked classified.
In the FBI Clinton email investigation’s final report, released on this day, more is revealed about the three Clinton email chains containing at least one paragraph with the “(C)” marking. This indicates the presence of information classified at the “confidential” level.
The report adds that there actually were eight emails in the three email chains. “The emails contained no additional markings, such as a header or footer, indicating that they were classified.”
At least one email from two of the email chains have been publicly released. One was sent to Clinton by her aide Monica Hanley on April 8, 2012, regarding a phone call between Clinton and Malawi president Joyce Banda. The second email was sent to Clinton by Hanley on August 2, 2012, regarding a phone call between Clinton and United Nations/Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan. The FBI report indicates both email chains are currently unclassified.
The third email chain is more mysterious. The FBI report doesn’t mention when it was sent, or by whom, of what its contents are. However, the State Department “confirmed through the FOIA review process that [this chain] contains information which is currently classified at the ‘confidential ‘level.” This email has not been found in the over 30,000 work-related emails Clinton gave to the State Department, even though the “confidential” classification clearly indicates it is work-related.
Finally, the State Department hasn’t provided a determination if any of the three emails were classified at the time they were sent. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
The FBI concludes Clinton contributed to discussions in 11 email chains, including four at the above top secret level.
A FBI report released on this day will mention: “The FBI investigation determined Clinton contributed to discussions in four email chains classified as ‘confidential’, three email chains classified as ‘secret’/NOFORN, and four email chains classified as ‘top secret’/ SAP.” (“SAP” stands for “Special Access Programs.”)
However, FBI classification is wildly different from State Department classification when it comes to “confidential” emails, with the FBI deeming 36 email chains of around 100 emails or less classified at that level, compared to the State Department deeming 2,028 individual emails classified at that level.
Furthermore, the FBI puts emails where Clinton asked aides to print out emails as different from replies that added to discussions. The FBI identified 67 times where Clinton forwarded emails for printing at either the “confidential” or “secret” levels. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)
By contrast, a March 2016 Washington Post analysis concluded that 104 of all the emails deemed classified were written by Clinton. Presumably, they used the State Department definition of which ones were classified (since it was the only one publicly available at the time), and they were measuring individual emails instead of email chains. Furthermore, the Post noted that at least some of Clinton’s comments were deemed classified in three-fourths of these 104 emails, so presumably these were not emails where she just asked fo print-outs. (The Washington Post, 3/5/2016)