law

The White House stays out of the controversy about Comey’s decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation.

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

Josh Earnest (Credit: The Associated Press)

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest says the Obama Administration “will neither defend nor criticize what [FBI] Director [James] Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation.” He is referring to Comey’s October 28, 2016 letter informing Congress that the FBI is at least partially reopening its Clinton email investigation, just 11 days before the 2016 US presidential election. Earnest says the White House has no recommendations for Comey over what information to give to the public.

Additionally, President Obama “doesn’t believe that Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election. The president doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party. He’s in a tough spot.” (CBS News, 11/1/2016)

Earnest says the White House has no independent knowledge as to why Comey made the decision to inform Congress as he did. He adds that Obama believes Comey is a “man of integrity.”

Yet Earnest also says that government officials have powers which “are tempered by longstanding practice and norms that limit public discussion of facts that are collected in the context of those investigations. … The president believes that it’s important for those guidelines and norms to be followed.” (Reuters, 10/31/2016) (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

The FBI obtains a warrant for Huma Abedin’s recently discovered emails and immediately begins analyzing them.

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

When FBI Director James Comey informed Congress on October 28, 2016 that the Clinton email investigation was at least partially reopening due to newly discovered evidence, the agents who had been working on the investigation didn’t have the legal clearance to see the evidence. Possibly previously unknown emails sent to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were found on a computer belonging to her husband Anthony Weiner, due to an FBI investigation into his alleged sexual texting to an underaged girl.
Immediately after Comey sends the letter to Congress, the FBI and the Justice Department begin working on getting a search warrant from a judge so the FBI agents from the Clinton email investigation can read the emails. Two days later, on October 30, 2016, the warrant is obtained.

The FBI immediately begins working to analyze the emails and learn as much as possible about them before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, little more than a week away. One unnamed federal law enforcement official says, “The process has begun.”

The New York Times reports that although “agents had discovered hundreds of thousands of Ms. Abedin’s emails on her husband’s computer [out of an estimated 650,000 emails], but investigators expected to seize only a portion of the total. Agents will have probable cause to search only the messages related to the Clinton investigation. Some of Ms. Abedin’s emails passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private server, officials said, which means there is a high likelihood that the FBI has already read them.”

It is not clear what the scope of the search warrant is, for instance, if it only covers emails from the time Clinton was secretary of state, or if it includes emails from the years afterwards, which might show evidence of a cover-up.

The Times also reports that “senior Justice Department officials said they would make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, saying Mr. Comey’s letter — just days before the election — gave the matter an unprecedented urgency.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

The FBI seizes the electronic devices of Huma Abedin’s husband in a sex scandal case, which will lead to the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Anthony Weiner takes a selfie from his image in a mirror. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton and her former deputy chief of staff, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Congressperson who has been beset by two “sexting” scandals, in which it was publicly revealed he sent sexual text messages to other women. On August 28, 2016, the New York Post reported that Weiner had been caught in his third sexting scandal. The next day, Abedin announced she is separating from him and divorcing him. (The New York Post, 8/28/2016)

On September 21, 2016, the Daily Mail further revealed that the still unnamed woman he’d been sexting with in recent months in fact was only 15 years old. (The Daily Mail, 9/21/2016)

This raised the possibility that Weiner could face serious federal criminal charges, especially if the girl lives in a different state, which it turns out she does. (Rolling Stone, 9/22/2016)

As a result, after the Daily Mail article, top federal prosecutors in New York (where Weiner lives) and North Carolina (where the unnamed girl lives) fought over who would get to prosecute the case. The Justice Department gave the case to Preet Bharara, a US attorney in New York.

The New York Times will later report that also in late September 2016, “agents in the FBI’s New York field office understood that the Weiner investigation could possibly turn up additional emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s private server, according to a senior federal law enforcement official.”

On the same day Anthony Weiner's electronic devices were seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

On the same day Anthony Weiner’s electronic devices are seized, the Clinton campaign team are on their way to a rally in Akron, OH on October 3, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse / Getty Images)

Then, on October 3, 2016, the FBI seizes several electronic devices owned by Weiner, including a computer laptop, his iPhone, and his iPad. Several days later, FBI agents also confiscate a Wi-Fi router that could identify any other devices that he had used. This is also according to an unnamed US law enforcement official.

When FBI agents search the seized devices, they find thousands of emails sent to or from Abedin on the laptop, because apparently it was used by both Abedin and Weiner before they separated. According to unnamed “senior law enforcement officials,” some of the emails are sent between Abedin and other Clinton aides. However, only FBI agents and Justice Department prosecutors directly involved in the Weiner investigation can look at the evidence, and those who took part in the Clinton email investigation, closed in July 2016, do not have the legal authority, at least not yet.

FBI Director James Comey will learn about the emails in mid-October 2016. He will be brief October 27, 2016, and he will write a letter to Congress the next day announcing that he is reopening the Clinton email investigation at least long enough to determine the possible relevance of the emails to the Clinton case. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

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.

A former Justice Department official criticizes how the FBI permitted legally questionable behavior by Cheryl Mills during its Clinton email investigation.

Cheryl Mills was Clinton’s chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state, then she was hired to be one of Clinton’s lawyers in 2013, setting up a potential conflict of interest between her different roles. In April 2016, she was interviewed by the FBI, but refused to answer certain questions, claiming attorney-client privilege.

RonaldSievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert (Credit: public domain)

Ronald J. Sievert, a former assistant director at the Justice Department and member of the department’s National Security Working Group, said the FBI easily could have gone to court to challenge Mills’ privilege claim. But that didn’t happen.

Mills also was allowed to attend Clinton’s July 2016 FBI interview as one of Clinton’s lawyers, even though she directly participated in many of the matters being discussed by Clinton when Mills was in her chief of staff role.

Sievert comments, “There seems universal agreement among those of us who know the law that no regular US government employee could get away with this.” (The New York Post, 9/9/2016)

The Romanian hacker known as Guccifer is sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

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Marcel-Lehel Lazar aka Guccifer (Credit: NBC News)

Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel-Lehel Lazar, pled guilty in a US court to two charges earlier in the year, eliminating the need for a trial. He admitted to targeting over 100 Americans over a 14-month period. When he broke into the email account of Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal in March 2013, he publicly exposed Clinton’s private email address for the first time.

Guccifer has been cooperating with US officials, but federal prosecutors sought a maximum penalty of four and a half years anyway. US District Judge James Cacheris imposes sentence only three months short of that, saying a tough penalty is needed to deter future hacking. Furthermore, while Guccifer confessed, he showed no remorse.

He had already been sentenced to a seven year prison term for hacking in Romania, and was extradited to the US to face charges there. The Romanian government has asked that he be immediately returned to Romania to finish serving his time there. Then, in 2018, he would be sent back to the US to serve his US prison sentence. (The Washington Post, 9/1/2016)

The State Department says that around 30 Clinton emails discovered by the FBI could relate to Benghazi.

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US District Judge Amit Mehta (Credit: public domain)

US District Court Judge Amit Mehta is presiding over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit initiated by Judicial Watch regarding the public release of information relating to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The FBI recently gave the State Department almost 15,000 previously unknown Clinton emails, so Mehta wants to know if any of them relate to Benghazi.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby says, “Using broad search terms, we have identified approximately 30 documents potentially responsive to a Benghazi-related request. At this time, we have not confirmed that the documents are, in fact, responsive, or whether they are duplicates of materials already provided to the department by former Secretary Clinton in December 2014.” The department says it will need until the end of September 2016 to review the 30 or so emails and redact any classified information in them.

However, Mehta doesn’t understand why it would take the department so long to process so few emails. He orders the department to return in a week to try to justify the processing time.

Starting in mid-2014, Clinton was specifically asked for all her emails related to Benghazi, months before she was asked for all her work-related emails in general. The Benghazi-related emails were the first of her emails to be released, in early 2015.

Jason Miller, senior communications adviser for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, says, “Clinton swore before a federal court and told the American people she handed over all of her work-related emails. If Clinton did not consider emails about something as important as Benghazi to be work-related, one has to wonder what is contained in the other emails she attempted to wipe from her server.” (The Hill, 8/30/2016)

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)

Clinton’s lawyer insists Clinton’s use of a private server was allowed by policy, despite clear evidence it wasn’t.

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Judge Emmet Sullivan (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / National Law Journal

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)