Who’s who in Clinton’s email saga – Politico
On Monday , Hillary Clinton’s friends, aides, interrogators and anyone else wrapped up in the ongoing drama surrounding her email practices as secretary of state will be poring over the largest release yet of messages from the first four years of the Obama administration.
Her decision to use a private server, and whether that decision violated any State Department rules, has become the most intricate Clinton controversy since the long-running 1990s Whitewater land scandal, and the cast of characters in the drama continues to proliferate. Fueled by political rivals on the campaign trail and Republicans in Congress, the dispute has led to lawsuits, inspector generals’ investigations, an FBI inquiry and now has federal judges and committee chairs on Capitol Hill demanding answers about who knew what, when.
That clamor is only expected to grow with more than 6,000 pages of emails set to be posted on the agency’s web site Monday, in accordance with a judge’s order requiring monthly releases under the Freedom of Information Act.
The list of those drawn into the saga includes some of Clinton’s top aides at the State Department, now playing roles in her Democratic campaign for the presidency. They were among the ones who forwarded sensitive messages to Clinton that have raised national security questions. A few bit players merely helped her set up or store material from the private email system, operated out of her New York home. Fanning the flames are a growing list of officials questioning Clinton’s conduct and demanding more information.
In recent months, Clinton dismissed the email controversy as politically-spawned and aimed at hurting her reputation. Last Wednesday, she seemed to shift her tone, saying that she took responsibility for her use of a private account and that “it clearly wasn’t the best choice.” On Friday, she called the situation “complicated.”
Many of the players in the email imbroglio would surely agree:
Clinton’s former deputy chief at State, now vice chairwoman of Hillary for America, has been pinned in some press reports as the person who approached former President Bill Clinton’s staff in 2009 to explore using his personal home-based email server for Clinton’s new State Department gig.
Abedin also had her own email account on Clinton’s server, as a trusted top aide who has worked for Clinton since interning in the first lady’s office. Although State employees are supposed to use government email accounts for “day-to-day” official communication, Clinton stated in a recent court filing that Abedin used the Clinton account for work purposes in addition to personal use.
Abedin routinely forwarded emails to Clinton’s server, including at least one from April 2011 that the intelligence community argues should have been classified because it contained the whereabouts and an escape plan for the now-deceased Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
On Friday, Abedin became the first Clinton aide publicly attacked by a Republican presidential candidate over the email mess. At a campaign rally in Massachusetts, GOP hopeful Donald Trump invoked Abedin’s marriage to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned from Congress in a sexting scandal in 2011.
“Huma is one of the people it all went through…So now — think of it — Huma is getting classified secrets. She is married to Anthony Weiner, who is a perv,” Trump said during a campaign rally in Norwood, Massachusetts. “Now these are confidential documents and guess what happens to Anthony Weiner. A month ago he went to work for a public relations firm….Do you think there is even a 5 percent chance she is not telling Anthony Weiner — now of a public relations firm — what the hell is coming across?”
A Clinton spokesman dismissed Trump’s claims, which he repeated in Tennessee on Saturday, as “disgraceful.”
“Lots of married men worked at State, why is Huma the one who would pass on secrets to spouse?” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri wrote on Twitter.
Abedin is also under scrutiny by Senate Republicans who are questioning her former status as a special government employee who did private sector consulting jobs while working for the State Department. Abedin worked for the Clinton Foundation, which has been criticized for taking gifts from foreign donors while Clinton served as lead diplomat, and another consulting firm called Teneo headed by a former Bill Clinton aide.
Abedin’s attorneys have said her dual role was approved by supervisors, she worked during the period the State IG contends she was on leave, and she has cooperated with State’s efforts to reconstruct its records.
Sullivan, another former State deputy now working as the Clinton campaign policy director, forwarded Clinton emails that some now argue were or should have been classified. He sent to Clinton’s unsecured server, for example, an email chain about arrests possibly linked to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, raising concerns at the FBI and within the intelligence community.
Classified intelligence is considered at risk on an unsecured email account although State and intelligence community appear to disagree about whether or not the message was or should have been classified.
As Clinton’s top policy man, Sullivan — as well as Abedin and Cheryl Mills — are also key points-of-interest for House Republicans on the Benghazi panel, who are examining whether Clinton’s broader actions at the State Department, and broader U.S. Libya policy, could have in some way led to Islamic radicals over-running the compound and killing Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.
Because of the probe, State has requested that Sullivan, Abedin, Mills and a handful of other top brass, turn over any official records they have in their inboxes at home. Sullivan and several of the others are in the process of doing so, or recently finished their productions, according to letters submitted to the court by their lawyers.
Clinton’s former chief of staff has come up in federal court cases questioning Clinton’s email use. Mills, like Abedin, also had a special government employee status at two stages while working at State.
A judge recently asked Mills and Abedin to certify under penalty of perjury that they had turned over all their documents to the State Department. Neither, however, did so, although Mills’ attorney said in a letter several weeks ago that Mills has produced all federal records to State and Abedin’s lawyers said Abedin was on track to complete that process by last Friday.
Mills — who in the 1990s served as Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel — said through her lawyer in early August that she planned to erase all her emails after turning over copies of work messages to the State Department. A federal judge, however, ordered her not to — and her legal team recanted that plan.
Mills, who also served on the Clinton Foundation board, was reported to have urged Clinton not to run for president. She thought Clinton would be plagued by scandal-related allegations that would be too painful to endure and not worth the fight.
A former special assistant to Secretary Clinton, Davis happened to be the person who sent Clinton one of the first emails that raised red flags to the FBI, according to a Fox News report.
Davis on April 10, 2011 sent Sullivan, Abedin and other top State officials the “Stevens Update” about a security crisis in Libya. It detailed how Ambassador Christopher Steven was hiding out in a hotel due to security concerns — and the plans to help him escape. (Abedin then forwarded the email to Clinton.)
“The situation in Ajdabiyah has worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departure form Benghazi,” the email read. “The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc.)… He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure.”
The email also discussed snipers and Muammar Qadhafi forces on the move toward the city.
While Davis labeled the information SBU, “sensitive but unclassified,” others in the intelligence community argue it was — or should have been — classified. Questions remain about how the classification came about and why sensitive information about safety precautions would be shared over email.
Davis still works as a State Department counsel. He declined to comment through an agency spokesman.
As Under Secretary for Management, Patrick Kennedy oversees building operations, human resources as well as budget and administration issues. Several Hill sources want to know if he approved Clinton’s plan to use private email and why he did not step in to stop it. The State Department has refused to say who, if anyone, gave a green-light to Clinton’s use of a private email for work, which went against State’s own directive to use official, not personal, email to ensure security of information and record keeping.
Kennedy has been criticized by Hill Republicans for r efusing to give the intelligence community inspector general, whose letters to Congress first publicized the concerns about classified information on Clinton’s emails, full rights to examine the former secretary’s communications.
Kennedy — who also heads-up diplomatic security and is a lifelong bureaucrat, not a political person — c ame under scrutiny in 2013 during the first Benghazi hearings. Republicans in part blamed him for failing to recognize the deteriorating security situation in Libya. He declined to comment through an agency spokesman.
Clinton’s former communications adviser at State has also come under scrutiny for using personal emails like this boss, recently handing over 20 boxes of email print-outs to his former agency.
Reines’ turned over the emails at the request of State, which has come under fire by Republicans and the courts for not keeping a complete record of official emails.
Gawker filed a Freedom of Information Act request for some of Reines’ communications with a wide array of new outlets but the the agency said it had no responsive records. Now, the courts are getting involved, forcing both Reines’ and State’s hands.
Reines’ legal team said his boxes contain mostly newspaper clippings, since he received Clinton and foreign policy-related clips every days.
Reines has said that he rarely used private email for work and that when he received work-related messages on his private account he forwarded them to his official one.
A partner at the prominent D.C. law firm Williams & Connolly, Clinton’s attorney David Kendall is coming under fire from Hill Republicans who question his security clearance and how he stored Clinton’s server and a thumb drive back-up of all her work-related emails.
Although Kendall’s thumb drive has been turned over to the FBI, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has asked him for proof that he safeguarded the information that is now found to have classified documents.
“It appears the FBI has determined that your clearance is not sufficient to allow you to maintain custody of the emails,” the Iowa Republican wrote in a letter sent to Kendall recently. “It appears that in addition to not having an adequate security clearance, you did not have the appropriate tools in place to secure the thumb drives. It is imperative to confirm when, how, and why you, and any of your associates, received a security clearance in connection with your representation of Ms. Clinton and whether it was active while you had custody of Secretary Clinton’s emails.”
Kendall confirmed last week that he and one of his law partners had clearances to help Clinton prepare to testify before the House Benghazi committee. Kendall said the issuance of those clearances was unrelated to the Clinton emails stored in his office. He said that none of those were determined to be classified until May and that he has followed the State Department’s instructions about their handling. He turned over the thumb drive to the Justice Department earlier this month.
Gowdy, a conservative Republican from South Carolina, heads the House Benghazi committee whose probe triggered the email controversy. Committee investigators spotted references to Clinton’s private account in Benghazi-related emails the State Department produced earlier this year. However, the panel’s jurisdiction is limited to the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks and security-related decisions before. Gowdy, a former prosecutor, has said numerous times he’s not interested in expanding his charter to probe the emails scandal.
Still, Gowdy and other Benghazi committee members will have the chance to ask Clinton about her email arrangements when she appears before the panel on Oct. 22.
Democrats and the Clinton campaign are already charging that the panel is on a political witch hunt and shifted its focus to the email issue because Gowdy has found nothing of significance to tar Clinton with responsibility for the Benghazi attack..
A veteran federal prosecutor appointed by President Obama to serve as State Department inspector general, Linick began a review in April of “the use of personal communications hardware and software by five Secretaries of State and their immediate staffs.” In June, his office expanded that review to look at the process State is using to release Clinton’s emails under FOIA. Secretary of State John Kerry has also asked Linick to look more broadly at how State meets its “preservation and transparency obligations.”
Linick’s staff also investigated an alleged salary over-payment made to Abedin, an issue referred back to the State Department for action.
I. Charles McCullough III
McCullough, a former FBI agent and Treasury investigator, came into the Clinton email matter at Linick’s request and initiated the so-called security referral to the FBI. McCullough said that at least one Clinton account email already released by the State Department had classified information and that a sampling of 40 emails turned up four that should have been classified. Two of those should have been marked top secret, McCullough said.
McCullough’s office said they sought to do a broader review, but Kennedy determined they did not have jurisdiction. State Department officials have said Linick’s office has full access to all State records and McCullough is free to oversee the intelligence agency screeners that State is now involving in the FOIA review process.
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman has written letters to pursue a slew of email-related issues: possible political interference in State’s FOIA process, what clearances Kendall had, how copies of Clinton’s emails were secured at Kendall’s office, and Abedin’s work arrangements.
The Iowa Republican has complained that he got few answers. Earlier this month, he announced plans to place holds on 21 State Department nominees until the agency responded to his questions.
The Wisconsin Republican joined the fray as Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman. He has asked questions about whether Kendall had proper clearances to handle classified materials and the security of Clinton’s emails. He’s also focsued on Platte River Network, a Denver-based tech company that managed Clinton’s server for a time.
The U.S. District Court judge caused a stir earlier this month with his comment that the email mess was of Clinton’s making. “We wouldn’t be here if the employee had followed government policy,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, is overseeing a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about Abedin’s employment arrangements.
This U.S. District Court judge, who oversees a Freedom of Information lawsuit brought by Vice News, has essentially guaranteed that the painful email story will drag out for Clinton. The State Department initially proposed to release all the Clinton emails next January in a single batch. After lawyers for Vice objected and asked for releases every two weeks, Contreras — an appointee of President Barack Obama — ordered monthly releases and set goals for the percentage to be released each month.