Senate Judiciary Committee

August 15, 2019 – In Paul Combetta’s preparation to delete and then transfer the rest of Hillary Clinton’s emails, he first sent them to a dummy Gmail address with a name similar to a business in China

Paul Combetta (Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

(…) “Virtually every email which was sent to and received on the Clinton-email server was forwarded to “carterheavyindustries@gmail.com,” which raised a concern that a foreign actor gained access to Clinton’s emails after an intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) investigator searched Google for “Carter Heavy Industries” and came up with  a result for Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Co., Ltd, according to the documents (pdf).

(…) Frank Rucker, the ICIG investigator, and Jeanette McMillian, an ICIG attorney, told the FBI about the anomaly on Feb. 18, 2016, at a meeting which included Peter Strzok, who had just taken over as the section chief heading the investigation. Rucker told Congress that Strzok was “aloof and dismissive” and didn’t ask many questions.

(…) McMillian told Congress that her understanding of the Carter Heavy Industries email address was that it was a “drop box” to which the emails from the Clinton server were sent in real time.

“Even if you didn’t address an email to this address, the email went to it anyway,” McMillian said.

Rucker told Congress that it appeared that the Carter Heavy Industries email was inserted into Clinton’s server “based on his reading of the metadata.” Rucker was also concerned because he reviewed an email in which Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Abedin’s husband, Anthony Weiner, discuss how Weiner’s account was possibly hacked by a political opponent who ended up receiving copies of all of his emails.

The investigator told Congress that it appears that the Carter Heavy Industries email was inserted into the routing table of Clinton’s server, but that he could only be sure if he examined the server, which he did not have access to. There could be an alternative explanation to why the email address was in virtually every message, Rucker said.

McMillian and Rucker were interviewed by the Senate Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees on Dec. 4, 2018, in response to media reports that cited anonymous sources claiming that China gained access to Clinton’s emails. The committees released unclassified versions of those transcripts along with several sets of supporting documents on Aug. 14.

The documents include several emails from Clinton and her staffers with message metadata showing the Carter Heavy Industries email address as a recipient.

Inspector General’s Inquiry

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was aware of the ICIG’s referral to the FBI but did not address it in his 568-page report on the FBI and DOJ handling of the Clinton-email inquiry. Horowitz had promised Congress a year ago to look into and report on what the FBI did to investigate the matter. The newly released documents include the results of Horowitz’s inquiry in the form of an April 9, 2019, letter to senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

In the letter, Horowitz and Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson write that the Carter Heavy Industries email account was created by Platte River Networks employee Paul Combetta, who managed Clinton’s email server. Combetta allegedly created the Carter Heavy Industries email on Aug. 20, 2012. Combetta then used the email as “dummy email” in order to transfer messages archived on Clinton’s second private server to the Platte River Networks server in early 2014.

What Combetta did with the email account between 2012 and 2014 and who else had access to it before and after the transfer remains a mystery. Neither the DOJ nor the ICIG inspector generals provide any details on whether the FBI ever examined the matter.

Combetta’s use of this email account is addressed in Horowitz’s report, although it is referred to as a “dummy email” instead of revealing the actual address. Horowitz and Atkinson do not explain how Combetta came to pick the email address. Combetta’s lawyer told Horowitz that the Carter Heavy Industries email was a made-up name and that Combetta had no connection to Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Co., Ltd.

Combetta, through an attorney, refused to be interviewed by the DOJ inspector general about the matter, according to the letter. He also said he had no documents responsive to subpoena about the issue.

Horowitz wrote that his office did not find any evidence to contradict the claims of Combetta’s lawyer.

“Accordingly, other than the similarity discussed above between the dummy email address and the name of a Chinese company identified by the former ICIG analyst and former Inspector General McCullough during a Google search, the ICIG and the DOJ OIG are unaware of any information that links Combetta or the dummy email address that he created with the Chinese government or a Chinese-owned company,” Horowitz and Atkinson wrote.

(Read more: The Epoch Times, 8/15/2019)

(Timeline editor’s note: There is a question as to whether Carter Heavy Industry is actually a Chinese owned company due to a subtitle on their website stating they are a solely owned U.S. company, so it is most likely a branch of Carter operating in Shandong. Also of note, Shandong Carter’s real business email address is not a Gmail address.)

(A snippet from Shandong Carter Heavy Industry’s website specifying they are a U.S. company.)

August 14, 2019 – A Grassley/Graham/Johnson memo suggests the FBI failed to seek access to certain highly classified information potentially relevant to the Clinton email investigation

From left to right, Senators Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson (Credit: public domain)

(…) “Thanks to the relentless investigative work of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), we are learning that the Hillary Clinton email case may not really be settled.

A staff memo updating the two senators’ long-running probe discloses that the FBI — the version run in 2016 by the now-disgraced and fired James ComeyAndrew McCabe and Peter Strzok — failed to pursue access to “highly classified” evidence that could have resolved important questions.

The failure to look at the evidence back in 2016 occurred even though the agents believed access to the sensitive evidence was “necessary” to complete the investigation into Clinton’s improper transmission of classified emails — some top-secret — on her unsecure private email server, the memos show.

To make matters worse, the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) has known about that decision since at least 2018, thanks to the work of the DOJ’s internal watchdog, Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz, who provided DOJ leaders and Congress with a classified appendix explaining what happened.

But Johnson and Grassley have been unable to get answers for a year, even from Attorney General William Barr, about whether the FBI intends to look at the critical evidence it skipped back in 2016.

The Senate staff memo succinctly lays out just how egregious the FBI’s decision was in 2016.

The inspector general’s “appendix raised a number of serious questions because, as explained on page 154 of the unclassified DOJ IG report, the FBI decided not to seek access to certain highly classified information potentially relevant to the investigation despite members of the FBI case team referring to the review as a ‘necessary’ part of the investigation,” the Senate staff wrote.

“As a result of the findings in that appendix, Senator Grassley wrote a classified letter to DOJ on October 17, 2018, which remains unanswered. On January 15, 2019, at Mr. Barr’s nomination hearing, Senator Grassley asked Mr. Barr if he would answer the letter, if confirmed, to which he attested, ‘Yes, Senator.’ On April 16, 2019, Senators Grassley, Johnson, and Graham sent a letter to Attorney General Barr reiterating the need for a written response to that letter.”

The DOJ’s silence on the road that the FBI willfully chose not to take is all the more deafening given what we already know about the Clinton email case.” (Read more: The Hill, 8/22/2019)

April 10, 2019 – Bill Barr testifies he thinks Donald Trump’s campaign was spied on and sees a basis to investigate

Attorney General Bill Barr testifies he thinks Trump’s 2016 campaign was spied on. He later clarifies that he believes there is a basis to investigate whether unauthorized surveillance occurred but provided no further details.

March 7, 2019 – Lindsey Graham reboots FISA abuse investigation with expansive DOJ document request

Senate Judiciary Cmte. Chairman Lindsey Graham leaves the Senate after voting to confirm William Barr to be attorney general, on Feb. 14, 2019. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press)

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is resuming an investigation of potential surveillance abuse by the FBI with an expansive request for records related to the bureau’s vetting of the Steele dossier.

In a letter sent Thursday to Attorney General William Barr, Graham asked for all FBI and Justice Department documents related to investigators’ attempts to verify allegations made in the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by Democrats.

The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s report to obtain four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Republicans investigated whether the FBI misled the FISA court by relying on the dossier even though its allegations about Page were unverified. They also asserted the FBI failed to tell surveillance court judges that Steele was working on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign on an investigation of Donald Trump.

Graham also indicated in the letter that he is investigating the FBI’s decision to open up investigations of Trump campaign associates in 2016.

He said the Judiciary Committee is concerned vetting proper vetting procedures and the full presentation of facts to the FISA Court “may not have occurred with regard to the applications for FISA warrants for (and the opening of the underlying investigation on) Carter Page and other individuals associated with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 3/07/2019)

January 21, 2019 – Lindsey Graham to continue oversight of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications

Lindsey Graham (Credit: Fox News Sunday)

“New tensions are flaring on the Senate Judiciary Committee over plans by newly minted Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to dig into Obama-era scandals.

Graham, a close ally of President Trump’s, has outlined several areas he wants to probe now that he has the Judiciary Committee gavel.

They include the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications targeting former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

(…) Graham told reporters earlier this month that he would do a “deep dive into the FISA issue” as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And he told Fox News last month that he believed the FBI “phoned in” the Clinton probe and were “in the tank” for the Democratic presidential nominee.

“There’s a certain unevenness here about how you investigate campaigns,” Graham said, adding that he believed there was “100 percent” a double standard between how the bureau handled the investigation into Clinton compared to investigating the Trump campaign.

Graham also said late last year that he would “totally” investigate the FBI’s handling of its investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Clinton’s email. He added separately last month that he would “get to the bottom of” the FISA warrant applications against Page and that he wanted to have “an in-depth discussion” with former FBI Director James Comey.

Asked about his investigation plans and the criticism from Democrats, a spokeswoman for Graham pointed to a pair of tweets from the GOP senator on Friday where he doubled down.

Graham described as “stunning” a Fox News report that Justice Department official Bruce Ohr discussed his views on a controversial research opposition dossier on Trump with individuals now on special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“These purported revelations will NOT get a pass in Senate Judiciary Committee,” Graham added.” (Read more: The Hill, 1/21/2019)

January 2, 2019 – The exculpatory Russia evidence about Mike Flynn that US intel kept secret

Lt. General Michael Flynn (Credit: Olivier Doullery/Abaca Press)

“For nearly two years now, the intelligence community has kept secret evidence in the Russia collusion case that directly undercuts the portrayal of retired Army general and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn as a Russian stooge.

(…) Yes, the Pentagon did give a classified briefing to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in May 2017, but then it declined the senator’s impassioned plea three months later to make some of that briefing information public.

“It appears the public release of this information would not pose any ongoing risk to national security. Moreover, the declassification would be in the public interest, and is in the interest of fairness to Lt. Gen. Flynn,” Grassley wrote in August 2017.

Were the information Grassley requested made public, America would have learned this, according to my sources:

    • Before Flynn made his infamous December 2015 trip to Moscow — as a retired general and then-adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — he alerted his former employer, the DIA.
    • He then attended a “defensive” or “protective” briefing before he ever sat alongside Vladimir Putin at the Russia Today (RT) dinner, or before he talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
    • The briefing educated and sensitized Flynn to possible efforts by his Russian host to compromise the former high-ranking defense official and prepared him for conversations in which he could potentially extract intelligence for U.S. agencies such as the DIA.
    • When Flynn returned from Moscow, he spent time briefing intelligence officials on what he learned during the Moscow contacts. Between two and nine intelligence officials attended the various meetings with Flynn about the RT event, and the information was moderately useful, about what one would expect from a public event, according to my sources.

(Read more: The Hill, 1/02/2019)

August 30, 2018 – The State Department revokes Hillary Clinton’s security clearance at her request

Hillary Clinton (Credit: The Associated Press)

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security clearance has been revoked at her request, the State Department told lawmakers, according to a letter made public Friday.

Clinton’s clearance was withdrawn on Aug. 30, according to a letter from the State Department to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), which he released.

Five others associated with Clinton, including longtime aide Cheryl Mills, also had their clearances revoked on Sept. 20, according to the letter. The aides were known as “research assistants,” which allowed them to keep their clearances after their time at the department concluded.

The move comes almost a year after Grassley asked the department to investigate and review whether Clinton’s aides still had security clearance.” (Read more: Politico, 10/12/2018)

June 26, 2018 – Grassley Bill to better protect federal whistleblowers becomes law

Chuck Grassley (Credit: Getty Images)

“A bipartisan proposal to empower and protect whistleblowers across the federal bureaucracy was signed into law yesterday. The Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act permanently extends a program requiring each inspector general office to designate an official focused on whistleblower protection issues. The law was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

“It’s not always easy to figure out how to disclose waste, fraud or abuse in government when there are so many different rules governing different agencies. Empowering coordinators across the federal government will give whistleblowers a clear, confidential resource to make sure they are informed and equipped to lawfully carry out their patriotic duty to shine a light on inefficiencies or misconduct in government,” Grassley said. “This law represents an important step for keeping faith with the American people, but there is always more to do to protect whistleblowers.”

The Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act permanently extends the program requiring a dedicated official in each inspector general office focused on whistleblower protection issues. The bill changes the title of these officials from ombudsman to “Whistleblower Protection Coordinator” so that potential whistleblowers better understand the role of this position, and it authorizes them to more actively promote whistleblowing to employees in their agency. Under this new bill, the coordinators will be tasked with assisting inspectors general in productive communications with other stakeholders, like the Office of Special Counsel and congress. They will also be able to better help the inspectors general strengthen their own roles in investigating reprisal and whistleblower disclosures. The legislation also requires additional reporting to congress on actual steps taken to hold accountable those who retaliate against whistleblowers. (Senate Judiciary Committee, 6/26/2018)

October 16, 2017 – Grassley: Mueller team mischaracterizes Trump campaign emails in court filing

Mueller and team exit the Capitol in June, 2017. (Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

“The special counsel’s office fed “speculation and innuendo” about possible collusion with Russia by withholding key details from emails cited in a court filing in the case of former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, a top Republican senator alleged in a newly released letter.

“The public deserves to have the full context for the information the Special Counsel chooses to release. The glaring lack of it feeds speculation and innuendo that distorts the facts,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote to special counsel Robert Mueller on Oct. 16, 2017.

Grassley, who then chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, was responding to a “statement of offense” released in the case against Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser who entered a plea deal in the special counsel’s probe on Oct. 5, 2017.

Prosecutors quoted from several emails in a way that suggested top Trump campaign officials were eager to meet with Russians. But Grassley asserted that the full emails showed that campaign officials rebuffed the idea of meeting with Russians. The Iowa Republican took Mueller’s team to task for failing to correct news reports that cited the Papadopoulos court filings as evidence of possible collusion with Russia.

“It should be the goal of anyone interested in an accurate portrayal of the facts for the American people to correct the erroneous reporting,” he wrote in the letter, which was published Thursday by Fox News.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 4/05/2019)

June 11, 2017 – Lindsey Graham mentions the document proving Clinton-Lynch collusion: Comey “never mentioned it was a fake”

Lindsey Graham (Credit: Face the Nation/CBS)

“Sen. Lindsey Graham tells ‘Face The Nation‘ host John Dickerson that in his classified testimony, former FBI director James Comey never said that alleged documents proving collusion between the Clinton campaign and Barack Obama’s Justice Department was fake, and that Russia might still have copies.

The story has been floating around Washington that James Comey made the decision to go public with the FBI’s information about the Clinton email scandal because he was aware that the Russians might have a document implicating Attorney General Loretta Lynch in inappropriate communications with the Clinton campaign. It has since been argued by the Clinton campaign that this document is a forgery (meaning that Comey acted on a piece of Russian propaganda), but Sen. Graham makes the case in this interview that there is no evidence the document is a fake. He invites Comey to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain:

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I want to know, is it true what Comey said? Did you create an atmosphere there that people believed that you could not fairly render judgment on the president’s interactions with Comey? I want to hear from Loretta Lynch, did you say, “Please call it a matter, not an investigation?”

And I want Comey to come to our committee, because I know on two separate occasions, he has told members of the House and the Senate that the main reason he jumped into the election last year and took over the job of attorney general is because he believed there were emails between the Democratic National Committee and the Department of Justice that compromised the Department of Justice, and he thought the Russians were going to release these emails. That’s why he jumped in and took over Loretta Lynch’s job. I want to know, is that true?

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, now, though, that email, there’s been some reporting that that was a fake email, or doctored–

LINDSEY GRAHAM: When he told the House and Senate as late–as early as a month ago, he never mentioned it was fake. I don’t know if it’s fake or not. But the F.B.I. called me about this, John, and said that they wanted to brief me because I’ve got some of this wrong.

I saw the Washington Post story. I doubt if it’s fake. Maybe it is. But I don’t want to be briefed by myself. I want Democrats and Republicans on the judiciary to be briefed together. Our committee has been together and we’re going to stay together.”

(Read more: RealClearPolitics, 6/11/2017)

In May 2017, The Washington Post refers to the email  and writes:

“The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.

The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message.

In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it.”

(Read more: The Washington Post, 5/24/2017)