Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The FBI never asked Clinton’s aides for all their computers and mobile devices.

Politico reports that the FBI never asked Clinton’s top aides for their computers and mobile devices as part of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. An unnamed source familiar with the investigation says, “No one was asked for devices by the FBI.”

Because the investigation didn’t have subpoena power, it could only ask for people to cooperate, or make immunity deals with them. The FBI did make an effort to get Clinton’s computers and mobile devices, and made immunity deals with Clinton lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson to get their computer laptops, but FBI requests didn’t go much beyond that.

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O'Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Bill O’Leary / Getty Images)

Bob Goodlatte (R), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, says, “The more we learn about the FBI’s initial investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server, the more questions we have about the thoroughness of the investigation and the administration’s conclusion to not prosecute her for mishandling classified information.”

Politico suggests that the FBI might not have asked for what Clinton’s aides possessed because of a focus on Clinton and her server and mobile devices. “It’s also possible the FBI or prosecutors elected not to demand all the Clinton aides’ computers and other electronics because doing so might have triggered a legal battle that could have slowed the probe.”

The issue about what Clinton’s aides may have possessed came to the fore after the FBI reopened the Clinton email investigation after emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin were discovered on a computer owned by her estranged husband Anthony Weiner. In an April 2016 FBI interview and then in a public deposition in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2016, Abedin said she gave her lawyers all devices she thought might contain State Department-related emails. However, it appears no government entity ever asked for any of her devices, so her lawyers never gave them up to anyone.

Abedin was asked for all her work-related emails from her time in the State Department in another FOIA lawsuit, but not the computers or devices the emails were stored on.

The same appears to be true for other top Clinton aides like Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Bryan Pagliano, and others, with the few exceptions noted above.(Politico, 11/1/2016)

The FBI has recovered 5,600 of Clinton’s deleted emails, but only about 10 percent of those will be released before the presidential election.

US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: public domain)

US District Judge James Boasberg orders the State Department to finish publicly releasing about 1,000 pages of  Clinton’s emails recovered by the FBI by November 4, 2016, just four days before the US presidential election. When Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails in December 2014, that totaled 30,000 emails, so if the same ratio holds, that would mean between 500 and 600 emails. Due to an on-going Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Judicial Watch, the State Department will release 350 pages of emails by October 7, 350 pages by October 21, and another 350 by November 4. After that, it will produce 500 pages a month.

In late July 2016, the FBI gave the State Department 15,000 emails that had been recovered by the FBI out of Clinton’s 31,000 deleted. For the first time, it  is revealed that about 9,400 of these have been deemed purely personal by the department, which means they will not ever be publicly released. That means there are about 5,600 work-related emails to be reviewed and released. But roughly half of those may be largely duplicates of emails that have already been released. For instance, Clinton was often send emails to aides she wanted printed out for later reading, and would merely comment “Please print,” or she would forward an email to an aide without comment.

It is estimated only about 10 percent of the Clinton work-related emails recovered by the FBI will be made public before the election. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, complains, “The public deserves to know what is in those emails, well before November 8, and the State Department should not continue dragging its feet on producing them.” (The New York Times, 9/23/2016)

A judge gives the State Department a tongue-lashing over its slow response to FOIA requests.

US District Court Judge Richard Leon criticizes the State Department over what he calls “foot-dragging” regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

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US DC District Court Judge Richard Leon (Credit: public domain)

Leon warns Justice Department lawyers, “You have a client that, to say the least, is not impressing the judges on this court, myself included. … It is in your client’s interest to start being more obviously cooperative. The State Department is at risk of being perceived as obstreperous. [They] need to get with the program.”

The hearing is due to a FOIA lawsuit trying to force the release of documents on whether Clinton and her aides were trained to handle classified information. The State Department propose a deadline of October 17, 2016 to produce about 450 unclassified documents relating to the issue sought by the Daily Caller.

However, Leon orders the department to process and release of the records by October 10, 2016. (Politico, 09/19/16)

 

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.

A Congressperson serves the FBI a subpoena for all the unredacted interviews from the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

Jason Herring (Credit: CSpan)

Jason Herring (Credit: CSpan)

FBI acting legislative affairs officer Jason Herring testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

He is asked by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), chair of the committee, to promise to hand over all of the FBI interview summaries, known as 302s, in unredacted form.

Herring says he can’t do that, and suggests that Chaffetz should file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, just like any private citizen can.

Committee member Representative Trey Gowdy (R) later complains, “Since when did Congress have to go through FOIA to obtain 302s?”

Chaffetz serves the FBI a subpoena during a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee hearing on September 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

Chaffetz serves the FBI a subpoena during a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee hearing on September 9, 2016. (Credit: ABC News)

Chaffetz replies to Henning, “You don’t get to decide what I get to see. I get to see it all.” Then he brings out a subpoena. He sends it to the witness table where Henning is sitting, and says, “I’ve signed this subpoena. We want all the 302s… and you are hereby served.”

In fact, Chaffetz’s committee has some of the 302s already, but all “personally identifiable information” has been redacted from them. The committee wants to know more about the role of Paul Combetta in deleting and the wiping all of Clinton’s emails from her personal server, but since Combetta is a Platte River Networks (PRN) employee and not a government employee, much information about what he did has been redacted.

Representative Carolyn Maloney (Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Representative Carolyn Maloney (Credit: Andrew Burton / Getty Images)

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D), a member of the committee, claims the obstacle to Chaffetz seeing the redactions actually is the House Intelligence Committee, not the FBI. Chaffetz has asked House Intelligence chair Representative Devin Nunes (R) for access to the unredacted versions, but no vote on that request has been taken or scheduled yet.

However, Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also complains about how the FBI is not letting his committee see unredacted documents from the investigation. “The FBI is trying to have it both ways. At the same time it talks about unprecedented transparency, it’s placing unprecedented hurdles in the way of Congressional oversight of unclassified law enforcement matters. It turned over documents, but with strings attached. … The Senate should not allow its controls on classified material to be manipulated to hide embarrassing material from public scrutiny, even when that material is unclassified.” (Politico, 9/12/2016)

Two other Congressional committees formally asked the Justice Department on September 9, 2016 for the full FBI interviews of Combetta and other PRN employees. (US Congress, 9/9/2016)

The State Department is ordered to review nearly 15,000 Clinton emails for public release, but it is unclear how many of these are previously unreleased work-related emails.

During the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, the FBI found some of Clinton’s over 31,000 deleted emails from when she was secretary of state. At the conclusion of the investigation in July 2016, FBI Director James Comey said the FBI “discovered several thousand work-related emails,” but is it uncertain exactly how many of these emails were found, either work-related or personal. The FBI has given the State Department a CD containing the found emails, and the department has said it will publicly release all the work-related ones.

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US District Judge James Boasberg (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Review)

In a court hearing presided by US District Judge James Boasberg on this day, it is revealed that the CD contains around 14,900 emails. Boasberg orders the State Department to review the emails for public release in response to various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits by Judicial Watch. However, it is still unclear if any of these are duplicates of the 30,000 Clinton emails already publicly released. Furthermore, it is unknown how many of the found deleted emails are personal and how many are work-related (aside from Comey’s vague “several thousand” emails comment).

In addtion, the FBI has given the State Department seven other CDs: one contains classified documents related to Clinton, another contains emails returned by Clinton, and the other five contain materials from other people that was retrieved by the FBI.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner says, “We can confirm that the FBI material includes tens of thousands of non-record (meaning personal) and record materials that will have to be carefully appraised at State. State has not yet had the opportunity to complete a review of the documents to determine whether they are agency records or if they are duplicative of documents State has already produced through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Regarding the CD of Clinton emails, Toner says, “We still don’t have a full sense of how many of the 14,900 are new. Granted, that’s a healthy number there, so there’s likely to be quite a few.”

Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus comments, “The process for reviewing these emails needs to be expedited, public disclosure should begin before early voting starts, and the emails in question should be released in full before Election Day.” (Politico, 8/22/2016) (The Washington Post, 8/22/2016)

On September 23, 2016, it will be revealed that 5,600 of the 14,900 recovered emails are deemed work-related.

A judge rules that Clinton can respond to a deposition with written answers instead of being questioned in person.

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

Judge Emmet Sullivan, District Court for the District of Columbia, (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

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)

The State Department will release all of Clinton’s work-related emails recovered by the FBI.

In late 2014, Clinton sorted her emails into what she and her lawyers deemed work-related and personal, and then deleted over 31,000 of the “personal” emails. In the FBI investigation into her emails that concluded in July 2016, it was reported that “several thousand” of the personal emails were recovered or found through other people having copies, and many of these actually were work-related.

In a court filing, the State Department reveals that it is planning to release all of the emails it decides are work-related. The emails will be given to Judicial Watch, who have a number of on-going Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits related to Clinton’s emails. However, it is unknown just how many emails were recovered and how many of those are work-related. It also is unknown how soon they will be released. Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus urges the department to release the emails before the November 2016 presidential election. (The Hill, 8/16/2016)

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)

More details of Clinton’s twenty-two “top secret” emails are revealed; nine were written by Clinton and most of the rest were written by her aide Jake Sullivan.

As part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, the State Department reveals more information about seven chains of 22 “top secret” emails involving Clinton. (Curiously, FBI Director James Comey mentioned on July 5, 2016 that there actually were eight “top secret” email chains, but the eighth chain is not mentioned by the department.)

The contents of the emails remain totally classified, but previous media reports indicate that most of them discussed approval for covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, and some of them may have identified CIA operatives working undercover.

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A sample of the Vaughn Index form submitted by the State Department, in response to the Vice News Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. (Credit: public domain)

For the first time, the department reveals which years the emails were sent and who sent and received them. All the emails were from 2011 or 2012 – the State Department began to have a say in approving CIA drone strikes in 2011. Nine of the emails were written by Clinton, and the other thirteen were written by her aide Jake Sullivan. Two were also cc’d by Sullivan to her chief of staff Cheryl Mills and/or Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

The State Department disclosure comes in the form of a “Vaughn Index,” which is a document used by government departments in FOIA lawsuits to justify the withholding of information under various FOIA exemptions. Vaughn Indexes contain at least some information about the withheld text, to justify keeping it redacted, but this one does not. Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, says that according to government regulations, “State’s document does not fulfill the requirements for a Vaughn index.” (Vice News, 7/22/2016) (The Hill, 7/22/2016)