FBI documents released over the Labor Day weekend confirm that Hillary Clinton’s team has been caught in the act of both destroying evidence and lying to Congress. None of the 13 mobile devices Hillary used were made available to the FBI, and we now have clear evidence that her team destroyed as many as 13 cell phones and other devices used by the Secretary of State. The time line suggests this all happened AFTER Clinton was sent a formal letter by the FBI called a letter to produce evidence on behalf of the Benghazi committee. Clinton’s State Department agreed to produce records to the committee. The FBI report picks up the story from there:
[The State Department under the direction of the FBI] sent a formal request to former Secretaries of State on October 28, 2014, asking them to produce e-mails related to their government work. After tState requested that Clinton provide her e-mails, Clinton asked her attorneys, David Kendall and [Cheryl] Mills, to oversee the process of providing Clinton’s work-related emails to State.Heather Samuelson, an attorney working with Mills, undertook a review to identify work-related e-mails, while Kendall and Mills oversaw the process.Ultimately, on December 5, 2014, Williams & Connolly [Kendall’s firm] provided approximately 55,000 pages of e-mails to the State in response to State’s request for Clinton to produce all e-mail in her possession that constituted a federal record from her tenure as Secretary of State. State ultimately reviewed the 55,000 pages of e-mail to meet its production obligations related to [Freedom of Information Act] lawsuits and requests. Clinton told the FBI she directed her legal team to provide any work-related or arguably work-related emails to State; however she did not participate in the development of the specific process to be used or in discussions of the locations of where her e-mails might exist. Clinton was not consulted on specific e-mails in order to determine if they were work-related.In December 2014 after the emails were sent to the State Department; Mills ordered people whose identity was not revealed by the FBI to delete Clinton email archives from their computers. Also in December 2014, according to what Mills told the FBI, “Clinton decided she no longer needed access to any of her e-mails older than 60 days.” Mills then ordered an unidentified tech staffer to “modify the e-mail retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com e-mail account to reflect this change.” So that was it: the Clinton team produced what it said were all her work-related emails to the State Department and then ordered its tech people to destroy everything, and then put a new policy in place in which no emails would be saved for more than 60 days.
Then everything changed.
On March 2, 2015, the New York Times reported the existence of the secret Clinton email system. The next day, Gowdy’s Benghazi Committee sent a letter to Kendall’s law firm “requesting the preservation and production of all documents and media” relating to Clinton’s emails. The day after that, On March 4,2015 the full Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena ordering Clinton to “produce all records in unredacted form” on the following:
For the time period of January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012, any and all documents and communications in your possession, and/or sent from or received by the email email@example.com“>firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com,”>firstname.lastname@example.org,
or any other email address or communications device used by you or another on your behalf, referring or relating to:
(a) Libya (including but not limited to Benghazi and Tripoli);
(b) weapons located or found in, imported or brought into, and/or exported or removed from Libya;
(c) the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 and September 12, 2012, or;
(d) statements pertaining to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 or September 12, 2012.
Remember that at that time the Benghazi Committee had not received a single Clinton email related to Benghazi.
Shortly after the New York Times report, according to the FBI, Mills asked Platte River Networks, the company that was handling the Clinton server, to do an inventory of what was on the servers. (Mills had, of course, ordered the old emails destroyed and a new retention policy put in place back in December 2014.) On March 25, 2014, the Platte River Networks people took part in a conference call with Bill Clinton’s staff. At that point, an intense round of deleting began.
Sometime between March 25 and March 31, according to the FBI, a tech worker not identified in the report had what he called an “oh shit” moment. He realized that he had not done what Mills had ordered back in December 2014. In his first interview with the FBI, on Feb. 18, 2016, the unidentified staffer “indicated that he did not recall conducting deletions based upon this realization.” But then, in a follow-up interview on May 3, 2016, the staffer “indicated he believed he had an ‘oh shit’ moment and sometime between March 25-31, 2015 deleted the Clinton archive mailbox.” The staffer used the now-notorious BleachBit to do the work, and manually deleted a backup as well. If Hillary Clinton had nothing to hide; why would she use a product like BleachBit? Why not just delete the emails? She did not want the Congess to know what happened in Benghazi and she didn’t want the voting public to know what shes been up to as Secretary of State.
But the story is a little more complicated than that. The FBI found that on March 9, 2015, Mills sent the Platte River Networks staff, including the unidentified worker, an email, in the words of the FBI, “referencing the preservation request from the Committee on Benghazi.” In his first interview with the FBI, the staffer told agents that “he did not recall seeing the preservation request referenced in the March 9, 2015 e-mail.” But then, in the May 3 follow-up interview, the staffer “indicated that, at the time he made the deletions in March 2015, he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s e-mail date on the [Platte River Networks] server.” The staffer also told the FBI he did not consult any colleagues, company legal counsel or anyone else “regarding the meaning of the preservation request.” This staffer is probably going to be the fall guy for Obstruction of Justice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is indited. It’s always the little guy who gets the jail time.
According to the FBI, the Platte River Networks staff had a conference call with Kendall and Mills on March 31. By then, the deleting was done. What did they talk about? The FBI report says Platte River’s attorney advised the staffer “not to comment on the conversation with Kendall based upon the assertion of attorney-client privilege.”
So what does the story mean? Does it mean an incompetent, or rogue, staffer deleted the emails on his own even though they were under subpoena — and then initially lied about it to the FBI? Or was there something else at work?
That’s where Gowdy’s somewhat vague statement comes in. “The public is entitled to all relative information, including the testimony of the witnesses at Platte River Networks, the entity which maintained the private server,” Gowdy said. “The public will find the timeline and witness responses and failures to respond instructive.”
Not to put words in Gowdy’s mouth — he was unavailable for comment this weekend, aides said — but the chairman appeared to suggest there was more to the story than appeared in the two documents released Friday by the FBI. Gowdy, who has said he has seen all the investigative documents the FBI sent Congress, hinted that the Platte River Networks witnesses told the FBI more than is in the incomplete documents now available to the public. What those witnesses said, and what they refused to say, along with a more complete timeline of events, would be “instructive,” Gowdy said.
But even with the fragments now public — the Clinton 302, the overview report, but none of the many other witness interviews — it seems fair to conclude that staff on the Clinton team destroyed material that was under subpoena. Whether that was unwitting, or whether it was something else, is not known, at least publicly.
There’s no doubt that Clinton intended to destroy her email archives after choosing which ones to send to the State Department. That’s what Mills’ December 2014 directive was apparently intended to do. Given that the Benghazi investigation was well under way and there had been multiple document requests and production agreements, the effect of Mills’ directive, had it been carried out at the time she sent it, would have been to destroy the evidence that had not been handed over to the State Department before anyone knew to ask for it. But apparently the Platte River Networks staffer’s carelessness led to the emails not being destroyed in December 2014, remaining in existence until March 2015, when their existence was publicly disclosed and another subpoena issued for them. Then they were destroyed.
It’s clear Clinton did not turn over all her work-related emails to the State Department on Dec. 5, 2014, as she claimed on many occasions. The FBI said it recovered “17,448 unique work-related and personal e-mails” that Clinton had not turned over. Of those, at least 30 were said to contain references to Benghazi and thus would have been responsive to the various congressional requests and subpoenas going back to Sept. 20, 2012.
Of course congressional investigators will want to know more about what happened. And of course Republicans will press the issue as the presidential election approaches. But there’s a simpler reason for the FBI to release more information: After all the investigating, and all the talking, the public still doesn’t know what happened.