Justin Cooper

April 23, 2019 – FBI official, Bill Priestap, admits Hillary Clinton’s emails were found in Obama White House

Bill Priestap (Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

Judicial Watch announced today that a senior FBI official admitted, in writing and under oath, that the agency found Clinton email records in the Obama White House, specifically, the Executive Office of the President. The FBI also admitted nearly 49,000 Clinton server emails were reviewed as result of a search warrant for her material on the laptop of Anthony Weiner.

E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, made the disclosure to Judicial Watch as part of court-ordered discovery into the Clinton email issue.

Priestap was asked by Judicial Watch to identify representatives of Hillary Clinton, her former staff, and government agencies from which “email repositories were obtained.” Priestap responded with the following non-exhaustive list:

  • Bryan Pagliano
  • Cheryl Mills
  • Executive Office of the President [Emphasis added]
  • Heather Samuelson
  • Jacob Sullivan
  • Justin Cooper
  • United States Department of State
  • United States Secret Service
  • Williams & Connolly LLP

Priestap also testifies that 48,982 emails were reviewed as a result of a warrant for Clinton email account information from the laptop of Anthony Weiner, who had been married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

A complete copy of Priestap’s interrogatory responses is available here. Priestap, is serving as assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division and helped oversee both the Clinton email and the 2016 presidential campaign investigations. Priestap testified in a separate lawsuit that Clinton was the subject of a grand jury investigation related to her BlackBerry email accounts.

“This astonishing confirmation, made under oath by the FBI, shows that the Obama FBI had to go to President Obama’s White House office to find emails that Hillary Clinton tried to destroy or hide from the American people.” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “No wonder Hillary Clinton has thus far skated – Barack Obama is implicated in her email scheme.”

Priestap was ordered to answer the written questions by United States District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth when he ruled in January that Judicial Watch’s discovery could begin in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. This action came in Judicial Watch’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit for:

Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency. (Read more: Judicial Watch, 4/23/2019)

January 15, 2019 – Federal Court orders discovery on Clinton Email, Benghazi scandal

Judge Royce Lamberth (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/Legal Times)

“Judicial Watch announced today that United States District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that discovery can begin in Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides will now be deposed under oath. Senior officials — including Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap — will now have to answer Judicial Watch’s written questions under oath. The court rejected the DOJ and State Department’s objections to Judicial Watch’s court-ordered discovery plan. (The court, in ordering a discovery plan last month, ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”)

Judicial Watch’s discovery will seek answers to:

  • Whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system;
  • whether the State Department’s efforts to settle this case beginning in late 2014 amounted to bad faith; and
  • whether the State Department adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.

Discovery is scheduled to be completed within 120 days. The court will hold a post-discovery hearing to determine if Judicial Watch may also depose additional witnesses, including Clinton and her former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills.

Judge Lamberth ordered written responses under oath to Judicial Watch’s questions from Obama administration senior officials Rice, Rhodes and Sullivan, and former FBI official Priestap. Rice and Rhodes will answer interrogatories under oath on the Benghazi scandal. Rejecting the State and Justice Department objections to discovery on the infamous Benghazi talking points, Judge Lamberth reiterated:

Yet Rice’s talking points and State’s understanding of the attack play an unavoidably central role in this case: information about the points’ development and content, as well as their discussion and dissemination before and after Rice’s appearances could reveal unsearched, relevant records; State’s role in the points’ content and development could shed light on Clinton’s motives for shielding her emails from FOIA requesters or on State’s reluctance to search her emails.

Judicial Watch also may serve interrogatories on Monica Hanley, a former staff member in the State Department’s Office of the Secretary, and on Lauren Jiloty, Clinton’s former special assistant.

Eric Boswell (Credit: public domain)

According to Lamberth’s order, regarding whether Clinton’s private email use while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA, Judicial Watch may depose:

  1. Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.… Boswell’s March 2009 memo to Mills … discusses security risks Clinton’s Blackberry use posed more generally. And Boswell personally discussed the memo with Clinton. So, he plainly has relevant information about that conversation and about his general knowledge of Clinton’s email use. Judicial Watch may depose Boswell.
  2. Justin Cooper. the Clinton Foundation employee who created the clintonemail.com server. In its proposal, Judicial Watch noted Cooper’s prior congressional testimony “appears to contradict portions of the testimony provided by Huma Abedin in the case before Judge Sullivan.” … Cooper repeatedly told Congress that Abedin helped set-up the Clintons’ private server, e.g., Examining Preservation of State Department Federal Records: [before a Congressional hearing] Abedin testified under oath she did not know about the server until six years later.… Judicial Watch may depose Cooper.
  3. Clarence Finney, the former deputy director of State’s Executive Secretariat staff…. [T]his case’s questions hinge on what specific State employees knew and when they knew it. As the principal advisor and records management expert responsible for controlling Clinton’s official correspondence and records, Finney’s knowledge is particularly relevant. And especially given the concerns about government misconduct that prompted this discovery, Judicial Watch’s ability to take his direct testimony and ask follow-up questions is critical.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 1/15/2019)

“Less than 20 people” had access to Clinton’s private server.

Cooper shakes hands with Representative Chaffetz after the hearing. (Credit: public domain)

Cooper shakes hands with Representative Chaffetz after the hearing. (Credit: CSpan)

Justin Cooper worked with Bryan Pagliano to manage Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state. When Cooper testifies before a Congressional committee on this day, he is asked by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), “[H]ow many people had access to the server?”

He replies, “There were two people who had some administrative rights, myself and Mr. Pagliano. I can’t off the top of my head tell you exactly how many users there were over the lifetime of the server, but it was less than 20 people.”

He also mentions, “The only remote access login to the server was for myself and Mr. Pagliano.”

At other points in his testimony, he says that most of the users were members of former President Bill Clinton’s staff and/or Clinton Foundation employees. Cooper doesn’t have a security clearance and its probable that most of the others with access to the server don’t have security clearances either. (US Congress, 9/13/2016)

In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey claimed that Clinton gave between three and nine people without a security clearance access to the server, but he may be defining “access” in a different manner than Cooper.

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 appears before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee on September 13, 2016 (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Justin Cooper appears before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee on September 13, 2016. (Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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)

Two former managers of Clinton’s private server plead the Fifth before a Congressional hearing; one other fails to appear at all.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a public hearing related to the management of Clinton’s private server. Four people associated with the management of Clinton’s private server had been served by Congressional subpoenas on September 8, 2016 to force them to testimony:

Paul Combetta (left) Bill Thornton (center) Justin Cooper (right) (Credit: CSpan)

Paul Combetta (left) Bill Thornton (center) Justin Cooper (right) (Credit: CSpan)

  • Bryan Pagliano, a former State Department employee who managed Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state. He defies the subpoena by failing to appear at all.
  • Justin Cooper, a former Bill Clinton aide who helped Pagliano manage the server. He does answer questions for nearly two hours at the hearing.
  • Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks (PRN) employee, which managed the server from June 2013 until at least late 2015. He deleted and then wiped all of Clinton’s emails from her server. He fails to answer any questions and pleads the Fifth instead.
  • Bill Thornton, another PRN employee who managed the server with Combetta. He also to answer any questions and pleads the Fifth instead.

Pagliano’s lawyers have complained the hearing is politically biased and he will continue to refuse to participate. He has also failed to cooperate with another Congressional committee in 2015, a State Department inspector general’s investigation, and a deposition in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R) says of Pagliano’s refusal to appear: “He made the decision not to be here and there are consequences for that. … We’ll look at the full range of options. If anybody is under any illusion I’m going to let go of this and let it sail off into the sunset they are very ill-advised.” However, he doesn’t specify what the penalties might be. (The Associated Press, 9/13/2016) (US Congress, 9/13/2016)

Austin McChord, the CEO of Datto, Inc., was also scheduled to appear, but there is no mention of him. Presumably, he is rescheduled for another hearing.

Pagliano indicates he will plead the Fifth again, despite a subpoena to testify before Congress.

Lawyers for Bryan Pagliano, the State Department employee who managed Clinton’s server when she was secretary of state, indicate he will plead the Fifth Amendment yet again. He was given a subpoena to speak before a Congressional hearing the next day, on September 13, 2016.

Pagliano refused to speak before a Congressional inquiry in September 2015, refused to take questions for a State Department inspector general’s report published in May 2016, pled the Fifth when he was deposed in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2016, and only took part in the FBI’s Clinton investigation after agreeing to an immunity deal.

Mark MacDougall (Credit: Akin Gump)

Mark MacDougall (Credit: Akin Gump)

Pagliano’s five lawyer team, led by Mark MacDougall, claim: “Any effort to require Mr. Pagliano to publicly appear this week and again assert his Fifth Amendment rights before a committee of the same Congress, inquiring about the same matter as the Benghazi Committee, furthers no legislative purpose and is a transparent effort to publicly harass and humiliate our client for unvarnished political purposes.”

Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide who helped Pagliano manage the server, reportedly has indicated that he will answer questions in the hearing. (The Washington Post, 9/12/2016)

The next day, Pagliano will fail to appear before the Congressional hearing at all.

Congressional committees order five people involved with the management of Clinton’s private server to speak in a public hearing.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R), the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, orders two Platte River Networks (PRN) employees and three others to testify before a Congressional hearing, on September 13, 2016. PRN is the company that managed Clinton’s private server. The following people are ordered to appear:

Those subpoenaed to appear before the House Oversight committee are from left to right: Paul Combetta, Bryan Pagliano, Justin Cooper and Alex McChord and Bill Thornton. (Credits: public domain)

  • Paul Combetta. He is a PRN employee. On September 8, 2016, the New York Times revealed that Combetta deleted and wiped Clinton’s emails from her private server, and he also got an immunity deal from the Justice Department as part of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. Congressional committees issued subpoenas for PRN interviews on August 22, 2016, after asking without coersion since September 2015.
  • Bill Thornton. He also is a PRN employee. The FBI’s final report indicated  two PRN employees worked on Clinton’s server, so it seems probable he is the other one.
  • Bryan Pagliano. He managed Clinton’s server until PRN took over. He was previously subpoenaed by the House Committee on Benghazi, but he pleaded the Fifth. However, he cooperated with the FBI after also getting an immunity deal.
  • Justin Cooper. He is a member of Bill Clinton’s staff and helped Pagliano manage the server.
  • Austin McChord. He is CEO of Datto, Inc. PRN subcontracted Datto to make back-up copies of the server. (The Wall Street Journal, 9/9/2016) (US Congress, 9/9/2016)

Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin denied they knew about the existence of Clinton’s private server, despite evidence otherwise.

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report, released on this day, mentions: “Clinton’s immediate aides, to include [Cheryl] Mills, [Huma] Abedin, [Jake] Sullivan, and [redacted] told the FBI they were unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at [the State Department] or when it became public knowledge. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

Huma Abedin (left) (Credit: Melissa Golden / Redux) Cheryl Mills (right) (Credit: Stephen Crowley / New York Times)

However, emails from when Clinton was secretary of state indicate otherwise, at least for Mills and Abedin:

  • Abedin had an email account on Clinton’s server that she often used. On February 27, 2010, she sent an email to Justin Cooper, a Bill Clinton aide helping to manage the server, “HRC [Clinton] email coming back—is server okay?” Cooper replied, “UR [You are] funny. We are on the same server.” These emails were sent to Mills as well.
  • On January 9, 2011, Cooper sent Abedin an email mentioning that he “had to shut down the server” due to a hacking attack.. He sent her another email later in the day, saying he had to shut it down again.
  • On August 30, 2011, State Department Executive Secretary Stephen Mull emailed Mills, Abedin, and two others, informing them that he was trying to give Clinton a State Department-issued Blackberry “to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning… possibly because of [sic] her personal email server is down.” Abedin sent an email in reply, and a discussion in person apparently followed.
  • The FBI’s final report also indicates that Abedin was instrumental in the creation of the server. “At the recommendation of Huma Abedin… in or around fall 2008, [Cooper] contacted Bryan Pagliano… to build the new server system and to assist Cooper with the administration of the new server system.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)

FBI Director James Comey says Clinton gave access to between three and nine people without the proper security clearance, but doesn’t see that as a prosecutable offense.

In a Congressional hearing, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R) asks Comey, “So there are hundreds of classified documents on [Clinton’s private] servers, how many people without a security clearance had access to that server?”

Comey replies, “I don’t know the exact number as I sit here, it’s probably more than two, less than ten.” He also says, “Yes, there’s no doubt that uncleared people had access to the server because even after [Bryan] Pagliano there were others who maintained the server who were private sector folks.” [This is a likely reference to Justin Cooper and possibly others, such as Oscar Flores, Jon Davidson, and Doug Band.]

Additionally, he reveals that Clinton’s three lawyers who sorted her emails and deleted over 31,000 of them — David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson — did not have the “security clearances needed.”

He is asked by Chaffetz, “Does that concern you?”

Comey replies, “Oh yes, sure.”

Chaffetz asks, “Is there any consequence to an attorney rifling through Secretary Clinton’s, Hillary Clinton’s, e-mails without a security clearance?”

Comey responds, “Well, not necessarily criminal consequences, but there’s a great deal of concern about an uncleared person not subject to the requirements we talked [about] potentially having access [to classified information].”

Chaffetz then asks, “What’s the consequence? They don’t work for the government, we can’t fire them, so is there no criminal prosecution of those attorneys. Should they lose their bar license? What’s the consequence to this?”

Comey replies that he doesn’t have proof “they acted with criminal intent or active with some mal-intent…”

Chaffetz complains, “So there’s no intent? It doesn’t matter if these people have security clearances?” He suggests they and Clinton should be prosecuted for this violation.

160707ServerMontage

Eight people and two businesses were given unauthorized access to Clinton’s private server where top secret information was held. From top left to right they are David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, Platte River Networks, Heather Samuelson and Bryan Pagliano. From bottom left to right they are Douglas Band, Jon Davidson, Datto, Inc., Justin Cooper and Oscar Flores. (Credits have been given to each photo, in the timeline.)

Then he adds, “I asked you at the very beginning, does Hillary Clinton, is there a reasonable expectation that Hillary Clinton would send and receive if not day — hourly if not daily, classified information. That’s reasonable to think that the secretary of state would get classified information every moment. She’s not the head of Fish and Wildlife, so the idea that she would turn over her emails, her system, her server to, what it sounds like, up to ten people without security clearances and there’s no consequence. So why not do it again?”

After more back and forth, he asks, How can [it be] there’s no intent there? Does she not understand that these people don’t have security clearances?”

Comey replies, “Surely she understands at least some of them don’t have security clearances.”

Chaffetz then says, “So she understands they don’t have security clearances and it’s reasonable to think she’s going to be [emailing] classified information. Is that not intent to provide a non-cleared person access to classified information?”

Comey says, “I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume… that someone who is maintaining your server is reading your emails. In fact, I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s a separate thing, which is when she is engaging counsel to comply with the State Department’s request, are her lawyers then exposed [to] information that may be on there that’s classified, so…”

Comey goes on to suggest that there’s no proof that any of her three lawyers read any of Clinton’s classified emails while sorting them. “I don’t know whether they read them at the time.” Then, although he admits that Clinton gave non-cleared people access to classified information, he again argues that proving intent is necessary, and concludes, “I don’t see the evidence there to make a case that she was acting with criminal intent in her engagement with her lawyers.”

Chaffetz comments, “I read criminal intent as the idea that you allow somebody without a security clearance access to classified information. Everybody knows that, Director, everybody knows that.” (CNN, 7/7/2016)

Clinton’s comments about the security of her classified reading rooms contradict other evidence and testimony.

SCIF rooms are made of metal before the final plaster is put on the walls. (Credit: diaa.com)

At the beginning of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the State Department outfitted Clinton’s houses in Whitehaven, Washington, DC, and Chappaqua. New York, with a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) so she could read highly classified documents. According to the FBI’s notes of Clinton’s July 2, 2016 FBI interview, Clinton claims, “Both SCIFs had a combination lock that only Clinton knew the combination to. … It was Clinton’s practice to lock the SCIF every time it was vacated.”

However, according to the FBI interview of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, “the SCIF door at the Whitehaven residence was not always locked, and Abedin, Hanley, and [redacted] had access to the SCIF.” Additionally, “Investigation determined the Chappaqua SCIF was not always secured, and Abedin, [Clinton aide Monica] Hanley, and [redacted] had routine access to the SCIF.”

Furthermore, the FBI will later report, “According to Abedin, [Bill Clinton aide Justin] Cooper, and [redacted], there were personally-owned desktop computers in the SCIFs in Whitehaven and Chappaqua. Conversely, Clinton stated to the FBI she did not have a computer of any kind in the SCIFs in her residences.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/2/2016)