Clinton's Private Server, Part 2: How to Play Stupid in A Few Easy Steps

Clinton's Private Server, Part 2: How to Play Stupid in A Few Easy Steps
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

For background, see part 1 of this series.

Prior to the public’s discovery of the private server’s existence, Cheryl Mills and Clinton lawyers worked to identify work-related emails on the server that had to be archived and preserved by the State Department.  In December 2014 Mills instructed Platte River Networks to change the server’s retention period to 60 days which caused the deletion of the infamous 31,830 older emails to be immediately deleted from the server.  However, the technician assigned to the task failed to carry it out.  

After the existence of the private server became known on March 2, 2015, the Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena for records.  A week later, Mills sent the technician at Platte River Networks a message mentioning the Committee’s request and it was then that he had an “oh shit” moment (his words) realizing that the personal emails requested to be deleted months earlier were not carried out.  He used a free utility- BleachBit- to delete the emails sometime between March 25 and March 31, 2015.  

The timeline is important here to show the possible wrongfulness of the entire scenario.  First, Clinton uses a private server to conduct State Department business then leaves it to aides to sift through over 60,000 emails and weed out personal emails of which they deem about 30,000 are work-related and another 31,000 personal.  On March 4, 2015 Congress subpoenaed the additional emails and on March 9th Mills notified someone at Platte River Networks about the request.  Then 16-22 days later he remembers to delete what he thought were personal emails older than 60 days.  The whole scenario is incredulous and either being carried out by the most inept collection of people ever assembled, or there was something else to it and any presidential opponent- Trump or otherwise- would have been guilty of political malpractice not to make an issue of it in a campaign.

Even after the story broke, Clinton insisted that nothing ever classified crossed the server, but an initial review of 40 documents by the State Department revealed that at least four- or 10%- contained classified or confidential information.  In emails not marked “classified,” there were paragraphs marked “C” for confidential.  Digging deeper, it was later revealed after a review of 110 emails, more than 60 contained classified or confidential information meaning that greater than 50% of the emails were “classified” or “confidential.”  Clinton wrote 104 of 2,063 emails that should have been classified or confidential.  This played into her coy act feigning ignorance of what the letter “c” meant on documents.  By time the FBI was done, it was determined that 2,093 emails were confidential, 65 “secret,” and 22 “Top Secret.”

The FBI eventually learned that Clinton used her private server extensively while outside the United States, sometimes during visits to “unfriendly” countries like China and Russia. The problem is aggravated by being in a foreign country since emails act like regular mail.  Once sent, it first has to traverse through that country’s Internet nodes.  Although there is software to detect and thwart attempted hacking, being in the country where the email originates allows potential hackers easier access since they can tap those nodes.

When the Justice Department completed their investigation, the State Department continued their investigation in July 2016.  They concluded that there were a total of 588 security violations.  That review identified 38 State Department employees who violated internal policies for mishandling classified information.  In 497 of the 588 cases, they could not establish culpability.

Some of the confusion could have been avoided thus avoiding the conspiracy theory aspect of the story if officials had been more truthful and forthcoming as revelations trickled out.  For example, in an interview on 60 Minutes, President Obama said he learned about Clinton’s use of a private server and email when the rest of the country found out by reading the newspapers.  However, a reporter, John Cook of Gawker, said he informed press secretary Josh Earnest of the private email address while investigating another item and questioned whether it was appropriate.  In response, Earnest said that Obama did know about the private email, but never thought it was an issue.  It was also learned well after the fact that Cheryl Mills and Huba Abedin expressed worry because some of the emails on the private address and server were sent to the President, and it is known that Obama sent

at least one email to Clinton while she was attending a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Although there was no classified information in that email- it was a congratulatory note- Obama obviously knew about the use of private email well before the rest of the country found out. 

David Axelrod, a close adviser to Obama, told MSNBC he was unaware Clinton used a private email address and server and that if he did know, he would have expressed his concerns, yet there are two email chains between Clinton and Axelrod using her private email address dated in 2009.

There are also questions of where the server existed with the popular notion being it was in the basement of her home in Chappaqua, New York.  One independent analysis tracing the IP address came to a different conclusion.  That analysis was done by Vincent Troia of Night Lion Security.  It is true that the server was registered to her address in Chappaqua, but that does not necessarily mean it was physically present there.  After the story broke, Clinton told reporters that it was being safeguarded by the Secret Service, which may have been true, while it was in New Jersey enroute to Platte River Network in Denver.  At the time, she also said that it was private and would not be turned over to the State Department.  Troia determined after tracing the IP address through analyzing the metadata the server was located in Manhattan and suspected the New York headquarters of the Clinton Foundation.  Instead, it was maintained at a government building in the city.

It was a logical guess since it was later learned that Clinton as Secretary of State, her aides, many others, and the Clinton Foundation used the server through the use of the email domains.  One tranche of emails establish a link between the State Department and Clinton Foundation.  Before joining the 2016 presidential campaign, Dennis Cheng worked at the Clinton Foundation and before that at the State Department.  The emails showed that Cheng regularly shared Clinton Foundation donor information using the private email address with Huma Abedin.  In one exchange, he told Abedin to prepare Clinton for an upcoming Foundation dinner attended by businessmen.  This illustrated how seamlessly people moved between the State Department and the Foundation and led to accusations that Foundation donors were granted greater access to the Department.

Next: The private server- so much wrong

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