National Security

Oversight chairman asks FBI to investigate Clinton role in deleted email archive

Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Tuesday asked a federal prosecutor to investigate whether Hillary Clinton or her aides were involved in the deletion of a cache of archived emails from her personal email server.

{mosads}The request stems from revelations in an FBI report released Friday detailing its investigation in Clinton’s use of the server while secretary of State.

According to the FBI’s notes, a technician deleted an archive of emails from the server in March 2015 — a few weeks after The New York Times publicly revealed Clinton’s exclusive use of the server during her time in office and after the House Benghazi Committee had issued a subpoena for records relating to the attack on the Libyan outpost.

“In light of this information, the Department should investigate and determine whether Secretary Clinton or her employees and contractors violated statutes that prohibit destruction of records, obstruction of congressional inquiries, and concealment or cover up of evidence material to a congressional investigation,” Chaffetz wrote to Channing Phillips, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

The Clinton campaign accused the Oversight chairman of trafficking in a “conspiracy theory.” 

“This is yet another example of the Congressman abusing his office by wasting further taxpayer resources on partisan attacks,” spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. “This conspiracy theory is already debunked by the Justice Department’s review.”

The deleted archive is separate from the 30,000 emails Clinton’s legal team deemed personal and erased prior to turning over an additional 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department in 2014. 

The FBI investigation focused on whether Clinton mishandled classified information through her use of the server. Director James B. Comey ultimately did not recommend charges against her, outraging Republicans.

But the agency took an unusual step in releasing dozens of pages summarizing its findings on Friday, citing the need for transparency. Critics of the Democratic presidential candidate immediately leapt on previously-unknown details in the report.

According to the FBI’s notes, longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills instructed technology vendor Platte River Networks to delete a set of archived emails in December of 2014. Mills told investigators Clinton had decided she no longer needed access to emails older than 60 days.

But the technician apparently forgot the request and didn’t immediately comply. According to the FBI report, between March 25 and March 31 of 2015, the technician “believed he had an ‘oh s–t’ moment and… deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from [Platte River Networks] server and used BleachBit to delete the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.”

BleachBit is a software designed to prevent the recovery of deleted files.

At that time, the Benghazi panel had already issued both a subpoena and an order that records relating to the 2012 attack be preserved. 

Clinton and Mills told the FBI that they had no knowledge of the technician’s deletion of the emails. The technician, according to the report “was aware of the existence of the [Benghazi committee] preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on the [Platte River Networks] server.”

Chaffetz on Tuesday also issued a letter to Platte River Networks, warning the Denver-based firm that the unidentified technician may also have violated the same federal statutes.

In a timeline of events pulled from the FBI report, Chaffetz noted a conference call between Clinton’s lawyers and the engineer who maintained the server. The call took place less than a week prior to the deletion of the email archive, and the engineer refused to answer questions about the contents, according to the FBI.

“The sequence of events leading up to the destruction of Secretary Clinton’s emails… raises questions about whether Secretary Clinton, acting through her attorneys, instructed [Platte River Networks] to destroy records relevant to the then-ongoing congressional investigations,” Chaffetz wrote.

He demanded more information on the 2015 deletion and the interaction with Clinton’s legal team.

Chaffetz, along with House Judicial Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), has also issued a formal referral to Phillips asking him to investigate whether Clinton perjured herself during her marathon testimony before the Benghazi panel.

The Clinton campaign has heralded the Friday report as proof that she should not have been charged. 

“While her use of a single email account was clearly a mistake and she has taken responsibility for it, these materials make clear why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case,” Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon said in a statement.

In response to questions about the 30,000 emails deleted by Clinton’s lawyers, Comey told the Oversight Committee in July that “we did not find evidence to indicate that they did the eraser to conceal things of any sort.”

–Updated 11:28 a.m.

Tags Bob Goodlatte Hillary Clinton Jason Chaffetz

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