GOP follows Reddit clues in Clinton search

GOP follows Reddit clues in Clinton search
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Republicans are seizing on an archived Reddit post to raise new questions about whether Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE's emails were destroyed despite being under a congressional subpoena. 

Two House committees have pulled alleged information uncovered by users of Reddit, the so-called “front page of the internet,” into investigations about Clinton’s use of a personal email server at the State Department.

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The Oversight Committee, which is investigating the deletion of email archives on the server, is looking into the allegations in the Reddit post. 

Meanwhile, the Science Committee, which is investigating the security of Clinton’s server, has threatened to subpoena the alleged author of the post if he does not submit to a transcribed interview by Friday.

At issue is whether an employee of the Denver, Colo.-based tech firm that managed Clinton’s server sought advice on how to digitally alter the address lines of emails thought to be from the former secretary of State — the day after the State Department had agreed to provide certain Clinton emails to the Benghazi Committee.

“If true, these details raise new questions as to whether Platte River Networks purposefully defied legal document retention requirements. Further, it is unclear if the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of these facts at the time of their investigation,” Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) wrote in a letter sent Monday.

Some Reddit users claim to have uncovered a two-year-old post from an account believed to belong to Paul Combetta, an engineer with the Colorado firm, Platte River Networks.

The message has been deleted, but can be read in archives of the page saved by other users.

“I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email. ... Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out,” reads the post, by a user named stonetear.

“Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”

According to those archives, the post was sent on July 24, 2014. On July 23, the Benghazi Committee had reached an agreement with the State Department on the production of related records, according to the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of the server. 

The evidence linking stonetear to Combetta is circumstantial but compelling, Reddit users insist.

They point to the fact that an account on the online marketplace Etsy for a Paul Combetta has the username stonetear and the inactive website combetta.com is registered to the email address stonetear@gmail.com.

A Science Committee aide said Tuesday said that it has pieced together the various pieces of information identified by Reddit users that clearly suggests that stonetear is, in fact, Combetta.

An attorney for Platte River Networks, Kenneth Eichner, is declining to comment on the matter.

After reports about the message emerged Monday, the user stonetear appeared to actively delete his posts on the site.

“Any suspicion of destruction of evidence is a serious matter and we are taking steps to ensure the posts are preserved for proper review,” Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzLawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay Top Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report MORE (R-Utah) said Tuesday.

Absent a confirmation from Combetta, conclusively linking the engineer to the Reddit post will likely involve the cooperation of Reddit itself. The company maintains basic subscriber information, including IP logs, according to the company’s public policy for handling law enforcement requests.

According to the policy, Reddit can maintain deleted records — like a user’s account — for 90 days if it receives an official preservation order. Otherwise, the information will be subject to Reddit’s “normal retention or destruction schedules.”

Combetta has become a central figure in the ongoing congressional probes into Clinton’s use of the server.

He appeared under subpoena in an Oversight hearing last week on the alleged destruction of evidence, but both he and colleague Bill Thornton exercised their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

The move outraged committee Republicans, who have asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether deletions from the server constitute illegal destruction of records.

That request stems from revelations from the 58-page report issued by the FBI summarizing its investigation into Clinton’s use of the server.

According to the FBI’s report, an unnamed Platte River Networks technician deleted an archive of emails from the server in March 2015, after the House Select Committee on Benghazi had issued a subpoena for records relating to the 2012 attack on the Libyan outpost.

According to the FBI’s notes, longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills instructed Platte River Networks to delete a set of archived emails in December 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 comply until March of 2015, when he told the FBI he “had an 'oh shit' moment.” 

Reporting from The New York Times has since identified Combetta as that technician, citing an anonymous law enforcement official and others familiar with the FBI probe.

Clinton and Mills told the FBI 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."

The Oversight Committee has held a number of hearings into the matter, in several cases issuing subpoenas to force witnesses to appear.

Democrats have slammed the investigation as a partisan attack designed to damage Clinton’s presidential run.

The committee has scheduled another hearing on the “preservation of State Department records” for Thursday.