- ‘How is this not classified?’ aide asked of e-mail from Obama
- Aide Mills said she didn’t ask for e-mails to be deleted
The FBI released 189 pages of interview summaries from its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail system Friday, as Republicans escalated their criticism of the agency for failing to pursue charge against the former secretary of state and her staff.
The documents show that a Clinton aide who maintained the e-mail server while she was in office told the FBI that someone raised concern with him over whether the system created “a federal records retention issue.” The aide, Bryan Pagliano, said the person, whose name was redacted in the FBI documents, asked him in late 2009 or early 2010 to alert top Clinton staff about the matter.
The summaries of interviews with former State Department officials and computer technicians were posted on a Federal Bureau of Investigation website hours after Republicans disclosed that the agency had given immunity -- which Democrats said was limited -- to Cheryl Mills, who was Clinton’s chief of staff, and two other former State Department aides.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said “the FBI was handing out immunity agreements like candy” and that he has “lost confidence” in its investigation. While Clinton has said her use of a private e-mail for work-related business was a mistake, the issue is likely to come up Monday in the first debate between Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Instead of commenting on the latest Republican criticism, the FBI released the cache of interview summaries from its inquiry, although with many passages heavily redacted. In July, FBI Director James Comey said Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in handling sensitive government information on her private e-mail server but that prosecution wasn’t warranted.
A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, Brian Fallon, said in a statement that the interviews "further demonstrate why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case."
According to the FBI interview reports, Pagliano relayed the concerns about public document preservation to Mills. In response, Mills told him that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used private e-mail, Pagliano told the FBI.
In a separate conversation, someone also told Pagliano, "he wouldn’t be surprised if classified information was being transmitted" over Clinton’s private server, according to the FBI reports. It’s unclear whether that person was the same one who raised the document retention issue. The report doesn’t say how Pagliano responded to that comment.
Pagliano was granted immunity by the Justice Department. On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee voted to recommend he be found in contempt of Congress after twice ignoring a subpoena.
Also among the newly disclosed details, according to the FBI: The name of the sender on an e-mail to Clinton in 2012 was “believed to be a pseudonym” for President Barack Obama. When the FBI told that to a top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, during its investigation, she responded, “How is this not classified?” The documents don’t say whether the message went to Clinton’s private e-mail.
According to the FBI summary of its interview with Abedin, who is now vice chairwoman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, Obama’s e-mail system allowed him to receive messages only from approved senders. The White House had to be notified when Clinton changed her private e-mail address so that her messages could get through, Abedin told the FBI.
The message that the FBI said may have come from Obama under a pseudonym had the simple subject line: “Re: Congratulations.”
In her interview, Abedin talked about the phasing out of Clinton’s personal @clintonemail.com address after she stepped down as secretary of state in early 2013.
“Abedin did not know if the system administrator had archived the mailboxes before the system was taken down,” and her own messages with it, according to the FBI document. She recalled talking to another Clinton aide, Monica Hanley, about archiving Clinton’s messages and said she believed those messages had been placed on a laptop computer so that her former boss could refer to them while working on a book.
Mills, the former chief of staff, told the FBI that Clinton, who used a BlackBerry smartphone, didn’t know how to use computers.
Mills was asked about an e-mail dated Aug. 30, 2011 that discussed creating an official State Department e-mail account that could "mask" Clinton’s identity. Mills told the FBI she assumed "masking her identity" referred to giving Clinton a pseudonym so her account wasn’t obvious to outside parties.
Mills also was asked in her FBI interview about the process for reviewing what e-mails should be handed over to the State Department as work-related in 2014. Mills said she worked with attorneys David Kendall and Heather Samuelson, who spent several months filtering e-mails to find .gov e-mail addresses, relevant keywords and the names of government officials. Comey later said the FBI found “several thousand” work-related e-mails that weren’t turned over to the State Department.
Mills also was asked about an archive of Clinton’s e-mails that was destroyed after her use of the system became public and a congressional committee ordered the preservation of all documents.
Mills said she wasn’t aware that Platte River Networks, which maintained Clinton’s private server after she left office, deleted any of Clinton’s e-mails in March 2015 and didn’t ask it to do so.
The FBI has previously said that a Platte River employee told interviewers that he had an “oh s--t” moment and took it on himself to destroy the archive when he remembered an earlier request by Clinton aides to purge e-mails after 60 days.
The newly released notes on the FBI’s interview disclosed that the technician referred to that request in December 2014 as the “Hilary cover-up operation.”
While the technician told the FBI that comment was a joke, Jason Miller, a communications adviser to Trump’s campaign, issued a statement saying it “suggests there was a concerted effort to systematically destroy potentially incrimination information.”
Paul Combetta, a Platte River computer specialist, was granted immunity by the FBI and he has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before a congressional committee.
The Clinton and Trump campaigns focused on the day’s disclosure of the FBI’s immunity grants. They show that “this was without a doubt a criminal scheme,” Miller said in a statement.
“House Republicans are trying to make something out of nothing by rummaging through the files of a Justice Department investigation that was closed months ago without any charges whatsoever, and leaking selective details three days before the first presidential debate,” Fallon, the Clinton spokesman, said in an e-mail. “As the case file makes clear, these aides were considered nothing more than witnesses and they cooperated in full with the Justice Department inquiry.”