Clinton Emails With Classified Info Sat in Gmail Account Two Weeks Before Comey Exonerated Her

By Petr Svab

Hundreds of Hillary Clinton’s emails that included classified information from her tenure as State Secretary sat in a private Gmail account for over two years and were still there about two weeks before then-FBI Director James Comey cleared Clinton of criminal responsibility for mishandling the country’s secrets in a 2016 statement.

The Gmail account came under scrutiny of Republican lawmakers because its name——mirrored that of a Chinese company, Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Machinery CO., Ltd. The similarity raised concerns that a foreign actor had gained access to Clinton’s emails.

Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta, who managed Clinton’s email server between 2013 and 2015, said he made up the name of the email address and used it in Feb. 2014 to transfer an archive of Clinton’s emails to a new server. The emails seem to have covered a period from about 2009 to mid-2013—including most, if not all, of Clinton’s time at the State Department.

But Combetta apparently failed to delete all of the emails from the Gmail account after the transfer.

“The FBI determined that 820 of Clinton’s emails, dated between October 25, 2010, and December 31, 2010, remained in the … email account,” stated a June 2018 report on the Clinton investigation by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz.

It wasn’t until June 20, 2016—about two weeks before Comey’s July 5 statement—that the FBI sought a search warrant “to view the content of these emails and search for other emails relevant to the investigation,” the report said, also stating that “the FBI was able to confirm that classified information continued to reside in … the account belonging to Combetta.”

Who Had Access?

Gmail is a free email service provided by Google. Google is scanning the contents of users’ mailboxes to personalize its services, according to a 2017 Variety report. That opens the possibility that Google had scanned the entire content of Clinton’s email archive.

Horowitz had promised Congress a year ago that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would look into what the FBI did to investigate the Gmail account matter. Horowitz reported back in an April 9 letter (pdf) to Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) with the department’s findings.

The IG “did not identify any information obtained by the FBI during the … investigation reflecting that Combetta’s … email account was associated with a Chinese company or the Chinese government,” the letter said.

“In addition, based on the evidence the DOJ OlG reviewed, the FBI did not find evidence during its … investigation that Combetta (or anyone else) forwarded classified emails from the … email account to a foreign or domestic entity.”

The letter does not address whether the FBI probed who and when accessed the Gmail account.

The FBI was likely to have access to that information, since it had obtained a court order to get “business records concerning the Combetta … email account,” the letter said.

The IG reviewed those records and determined that Combetta set up the account in 2012.

Given the sensitivity of Clinton’s emails, apparent amid the Benghazi scandal at the time, it’s unclear why Combetta would choose to use a Gmail account to transfer the emails, why he didn’t set up a new account for the purpose, and why he failed for years to delete all of the emails from the account.

He declined to be interviewed by the IG.

Paul Combetta, Platte River Networks
Paul Combetta, Platte River Networks, on Capitol Hill on Sept. 13, 2016, prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Examining Preservation of State Department Records. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Second Archive

The way Combetta obtained the email archive in the first place could raise more questions still.

He took over the management of Clinton’s emails in mid-2013 from Bryan Pagliano, former IT director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and later State Department employee.

It was Pagliano who infamously set up the private email server in the basement of Clinton’s house in Chappaqua, New York.

Combetta set up a new server at a facility in Secaucus, New Jersey, and around June 30, 2013, transferred all of the email accounts from the old server to the new one.

“At around the time of the transition to the PRN server in the spring of 2013, Clinton’s former aide, Monica Hanley, created two archives of Clinton’s emails from the Pagliano Server, one on a thumb drive (Archive Thumb Drive) and one on a laptop computer (Archive Laptop),” the 2018 IG report states.

“In early 2014, Hanley mailed the Archive Laptop to Combetta to transfer Clinton’s archived emails to the PRN server. She further directed him to ‘wipe’ the Archive Laptop and mail it to Clinton’s office assistant at the Clinton Foundation after he completed the transfer.”

It’s not clear what compelled Hanley to ask Combetta to transfer the emails to the PRN server half a year after all of the emails had already been successfully migrated to it.

Lost Laptop, Lost Thumb Drive

The laptop was an Apple MacBook, Combetta told the FBI in a Sept. 15, 2015 interview. It’s possible that Hanley archived the emails in the Apple file format, which would have been incompatible with the Microsoft Exchange system on the PRN server. There are generally two ways to solve such an incompatibility. One is to purchase a software that converts the archive’s format from Apple to Exchange. The other is to use a “dummy” account, such as Gmail. The emails are first copied from the Apple device to the Gmail account and then copied back into an Exchange mailbox.

Combetta told the FBI he used a “dummy” email to transfer the emails, then deleted the emails from the laptop, and mailed the laptop to Clinton’s office assistant.

He said he didn’t “wipe” the laptop, however, which leaves the possibility that the emails could still be recovered from the laptop’s harddrive.

“Email records obtained by the FBI showed that Clinton’s office assistant sent emails to Combetta in both March and April 2014 asking when she should expect to receive the ‘wiped laptop;’ however, Clinton’s office assistant told the FBI that she did not recall ever receiving it,” the IG report states.

“An analyst told us and FBI records show that the team sought and obtained records from multiple mail carriers in an effort to locate the Archive Laptop. Based on these records, the FBI was able to confirm that the laptop was delivered to Paul Combetta on February 24, 2014; however, the FBI found no records showing that Combetta mailed the Archive Laptop to Clinton’s office assistant as requested.”

The laptop is apparently still missing.

That still leaves the thumb drive though.

The FBI “attempted to obtain” it from Hanley, “but she stated she could not recall what happened to it.”

The thumb drive, it seems, is still missing today.

The IG and FBI did not respond to requests for comment.

From The Epoch Times