Hillary Clinton signed the legal filing Monday “under penalty of perjury.” | AP photo
By Josh Gerstein
Hillary Clinton submitted formal answers under penalty of perjury on Thursday about her use of a private email server, saying 20 times that she did not recall the requested information or related discussions, while also asserting that no one ever warned her that the practice could run afoul of laws on preserving federal records.
“Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall being advised, cautioned, or warned, she does not recall that it was ever suggested to her, and she does not recall participating in any communication, conversation, or meeting in which it was discussed that her use of a clintonemail.com e-mail account to conduct official State Department business conflicted with or violated federal record keeping laws,” lawyers for Clinton wrote.
Clinton also said she could not recall ever being warned about any hacking or attempted hacking of her private account or server.
Clinton signed the legal filing Monday “under penalty of perjury.” The submission was ordered by a federal judge in connection with a Freedom of Information Action lawsuit filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch.
Lawyers for the group asked for a live deposition where they could question Clinton in person, but U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan instead ordered Clinton to answer written questions.
Clinton’s answers generally track with her public statements on the issue and with FBI reports about what she said during an interview conducted in July.
Clinton “decided to use a clintonemail.com account for the purpose of convenience,” her lawyers said. Asked what other reasons she may have had for doing so, she gave no ground.
“Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall considering factors other than convenience in deciding to use a personal e-mail account to conduct official State Department business,” the attorneys said.
Republicans have charged that Clinton used the private set-up in order to evade Freedom of Information Act requests, but the Democratic presidential nominee and former secretary of state said she doesn’t recall that issue ever coming up when she was at the State Department.
“Secretary Clinton does not recall whether she had a specific expectation that the State Department would receive FOIA requests for or concerning her e-mail. She understood that, because her practice was to e-mail State Department staff on their state.gov accounts, her email was being captured in the State Department’s recordkeeping systems….Secretary Clinton understood that e-mail she sent or received in the course of conducting official State Department business was subject to FOIA,” the lawyers wrote.
Whatever Clinton’s expectations, the State Department was not automatically archiving all emails sent to official accounts. State’s inspector general concluded that the method Clinton relied on was “not an appropriate method of preserving emails that constitute Federal records.”
Asked about a November 2010 discussion of Clinton getting an official email account or State Department BlackBerry, Clinton said the issue at the time wasn’t triggered by anything related to her email, but by problems getting informed about phone calls in a timely way. She acknowledged, however, that she did not want State Department officials seeing her personal messages.
“When Secretary Clinton wrote, ‘This is not a good system,’ she was referring to the way in which the State Department would notify her of telephone calls. Secretary Clinton does not recall what precisely she meant by the words ‘address’ or ‘device,'” the attorneys wrote.
“To the best of her recollection, she meant that she was willing to use a State Department e-mail account or device if it would resolve the problems with receiving telephone calls, so long as her personal e-mails with family and friends would not be accessible to the State Department. Following this e-mail exchange, the State Department changed the way in which it notified Secretary Clinton of telephone calls, resolving the problem that triggered this e-mail,” the lawyers added.
One of the questions put to Clinton sought to explore her public statement that “it was recommended” to her to use a private email account while she was secretary. Clinton’s official answer indicated she was referring to comments former Secretary of State Colin Powell made to her as she was taking office.
“Secretary Clinton states that former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised her in 2009 about his use of a personal e-mail account to conduct official State Department business,” Clinton’s lawyers wrote.
Clinton declined to provide any answer to two of the 25 questions Judicial Watch asked. Her lawyers said she was declining to answer a question about the dangers of using a BlackBerry not approved for classified information because the query went beyond the topics approved by the judge.
The former secretary also passed on a question about why she testified that 90 to 95 percent of her emails were in State Department systems. Her lawyers said the answer called for information protected by attorney-client privilege.
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said there were no new revelations in the answers and criticized Judicial Watch for pressing the FOIA lawsuit. “Secretary Clinton has answered these same questions in multiple settings for over a year, and her answers here are entirely consistent with what she has said many times before,” Fallon said. “Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons since the 1990s, and this frivolous lawsuit is just its latest failed attempt to hurt her campaign for the Presidency.”
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FBI chief James Comey’s truthfulness, integrity now questioned
Congressional leaders investigating the FBI’s suspiciously inept investigation of ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails are turning their attention to FBI chief James Comey’s truthfulness. Did he mislead them? Did he perjure himself?
Two days after clearing Clinton of criminal wrongdoing, Comey went to Capitol Hill and explained his reasons for coming to that stunning conclusion. Testifying under oath, he claimed to be an open book: “I think transparency matters tremendously.”
But he not only held back critical details about his investigation, he repeatedly misrepresented his actions and findings.
In his July 7 testimony, Comey assured Congress that he examined all the evidence of Clinton’s lawyers and aides deleting her emails, and concluded they weren’t trying to hide anything. “We did not find evidence to indicate that they did the erasure to conceal things of any sort,” he swore. “We didn’t find evidence of evil intent to obstruct justice there.”
“In his statements before Congress, Director Comey repeatedly assured us that the FBI investigated whether charges of obstruction of justice and intentional destruction of records were merited,” the chairmen of three House committees and a Senate committee complained last week in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “The facts of this investigation call those assertions into question.”
Congress has now obtained letters detailing unprecedented immunity agreements and side deals with multiple witnesses in the case — including one in which Comey agreed to prevent his investigators from reviewing any emails from Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills to Clinton’s server administrator Paul Combetta generated in late 2014 and early 2015. The off-limits correspondence, the chairmen point out, could reveal information “directing the destruction or concealment of federal records.”
Astonishingly, before Comey agreed to the June side deal with Mills’ attorney, he “already knew of the conference calls between Secretary Clinton’s attorneys and Mr. Combetta, his use of BleachBit, and the resulting deletions, further casting doubt on why the FBI would enter into such a limited evidentiary scope of review.”
In other words, Comey never really investigated Clinton and her aides for obstruction of justice, as he claimed. Lacking access to key evidence, he couldn’t have explored the possibility, though the circumstances were beyond suspicious.
“The sequence of events leading up to the destruction of Secretary Clinton’s emails — the conference call, the work ticket, the use of BleachBit, and [Combetta’s] subsequent refusal to discuss the conference call with the FBI — raises questions about whether Secretary Clinton, acting through her attorneys [including Mills], instructed [Combetta] to destroy records relevant to the then-ongoing congressional investigations,” noted House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz.
In his July testimony, Comey said it was unclear if anyone had helped Clinton’s lawyers delete emails — yet he had to have known that Combetta, in his final interview under his immunity deal, had admitted destroying evidence under subpoena.
Comey also swore his team asked Clinton if she knew her lawyers had wiped clean the devices containing her email archives, when it seems clear from the summary of her interview that agents did not ask her that question.
“Did you ask that question?” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asked.
“Yes,” Comey replied.
In 4½ hours of testimony, Comey never once mentioned that he’d agreed to give Mills, Combetta and three other key subjects of his investigation immunity from prosecution. Also belying his pronouncements of “transparency,” he failed to reveal the unusual side deals that severely limited the scope of his probe.
Congressional investigators only learned about the deals weeks later, and still have not obtained all of the documents.
Lynch and Comey have redacted parts of the side-deal letters, including the names of all Justice Department and FBI personnel. They have also restricted access to the letters to certain members of Congress, while prohibiting even those members from removing them from the secure viewing room where they are kept. They’re also barred from taking notes.
“These onerous restrictions are not consistent with the high degree of transparency you and director Comey promised to Congress,” the chairmen complained.
Though Comey has turned over some 250 pages of investigative-case summaries and witness-interview summaries known as FBI 302s, he’s still withholding summaries of interviews with some 30 other witnesses.
It’s more evidence that Comey hasn’t been straight with the public about this probe, and raises serious questions about his integrity.
Congress must treat Comey as a hostile witness and investigate the investigator.
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