6 takeaways from the FBI’s Clinton investigation document dump

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 84th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Chris Bergin/Reuters

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 84th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Chris Bergin/Reuters


WASHINGTON — The FBI on Friday took the unusual step of releasing to the public documents related to its yearlong investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. The documents include a summary of her July interview with FBI agents as well as a detailed chronology of steps that investigators took in deciding whether criminal charges were warranted.

Here are some of the highlights from the documents:

IT ALL STARTED WHEN …

Clinton told the FBI that she directed her aides in early 2009 to create a private email account and that, “as a matter of convenience,” it was moved onto a system maintained by her husband’s staff.

She said she was aware that a private email server was located in the basement of her Chappaqua, New York, home but had no knowledge of the “hardware, software and security protocols used to construct and operate the server.”

According to the FBI investigation, Clinton contacted Colin Powell in January 2009 to ask about his use of a BlackBerry when he was secretary of state. He warned her if she used a BlackBerry to “do business,” her emails could become official public records. “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”

She also said she didn’t recall receiving guidance from the State Department on email policies and said she didn’t explicitly request permission regarding a private email account or server — but said no one at the State Department expressed any confusion.

CLASSIFICATION CONFUSION

Clinton told the FBI that she didn’t pay attention to particular levels of classified information, though she said she treated all classified information the same.

At one point in the interview, she was presented with a 2012 email that included a “c” marking next to one of the paragraphs. Though the marking was meant to connote that the material in that paragraph was “confidential,” Clinton said she wasn’t sure and thought perhaps the “c” referenced the paragraphs being marked in alphabetical order, according to the FBI interview.

Either way, Clinton said she treated the content of the email as a “condolence call” and questioned the classification level.

‘NONPAPER’ FAX

Some of the FBI questioning concerned a 2011 exchange in which Clinton directed one of her advisers, Jake Sullivan, to transmit a set of talking points and turn it “into nonpaper w/no identifying heading and send nonsecure.”

Clinton told investigators that she thought “nonpaper” was a document with no official heading that cannot be attributed to the U.S. government. She said she thought the practice went back “200 years.”

When presented with the email, she said she believed she was asking Sullivan to remove the State Department letterhead and to provide unclassified talking points. But she said she had no intention of removing classification markings, and she said she couldn’t recall actually receiving a “nonpaper” fax in that instance.

FOIA OBLIGATIONS

Clinton said she never deleted or asked anyone to delete any of the emails to avoid complying with requests from the State Department, the FBI or under the Freedom of Information Act, which makes government agencies subject to public records requests. She said she never had any conversations about using the email server as a way to get around her legal obligations under FOIA or the Federal Records Act, which imposes requirements for maintaining government documents.

EMAIL RETENTION

According to Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton decided in December 2014 that she no longer needed access to any of her emails older than 60 days. Mills then instructed an unidentified person to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com email address to reflect the change.

But according to the unidentified person, he didn’t make these changes until the following March, when the existence of Clinton’s email server was revealed.

The unidentified person said that sometime between March 25 and March 31 he realized that he did not make the email retention policy changes to Clinton’s email account that Mills had requested in December 2014.

In a follow-up email with the FBI on May 3, 2016, the unidentified person indicated “he believed he had an ‘oh s(asterisk)(asterisk)t’ moment and sometime between March 25-31, 2015, deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from the PRN server and used BleachBit to delete the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.”

FOREIGN INTRUSIONS

The FBI said it did not find conclusive evidence that Clinton’s email server had been compromised by foreign hackers. But investigators said their forensic analysis was limited by the FBI’s inability to recover all server equipment and by the lack of complete server log data.

FBI Director James Comey has also said foreign government hackers were so sophisticated — and the server would be such a high-value target — that it was unlikely they would leave evidence of a break-in.

Bryan Pagliano, the tech expert who set up the server and spoke to the FBI under immunity, told the FBI there were no successful security breaches, but said he was aware of many failed login attempts — which he described as “brute force attacks.” Investigators also found multiple instances of phishing emails sent to Clinton’s account.

Clinton told agents there were never so many suspicious emails to cause concerns.

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