COORDINATION WITH STATE DEPARTMENT, “FRIENDLIES” AT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, “OFF-THE-RECORD” RESPONSES
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 6, 2016) — In an email released by WikiLeaks dated June 24, 2015, Clinton lead press secretary Brian Fallon informed colleagues, including campaign spokesman Nick Merrill, as to the State Department’s expected next moves pursuant to a congressional investigation of Clinton’s use of a private computer server while she served as Secretary of State from 2009 to February 1, 2013.
On March 2, 2015, The New York Times broke the story of Clinton’s use of a “personal email account,” which circumvented normal security protocols and FOIA requests due to its non-“.gov” domain. “Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act,” The Times’s Michael S. Schmidt reported.
Clinton was found by an FBI investigation to have transmitted classified and top-secret information over the insecure system. Recently, FBI sources have appeared to confirm that Clinton’s server could have been breached multiple times.
References to “Sid” in the Fallon email are to Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, who nine days previously had turned over to the Select Committee on Benghazi 15 emails which Clinton had not surrendered in the 55,000 pages which she claimed contained all of her official communications while she was Secretary of State.
Although not employed by the government, Blumenthal reportedly provided Clinton with information he believed could be important to her diplomatically contained in recent State Department releases of Clinton’s emails by court order.
On March 7, 2016, The Daily Caller reported that 23 emails Blumenthal sent to Clinton during her tenure contained classified information. As a non-governmental employee, Blumenthal did not have the proper clearance to view the material.
At the time, Blumenthal was employed at the Clinton Foundation, which has been the focus of an FBI probe for approximately a year, earning $10,000 a month.
On March 28, 2015, CNN reported that Clinton had deleted approximately “32,000” emails from the private server alleged to have been “personal” in nature. Later, it was disclosed that Clinton used “BleachBit,” which reportedly leaves no trace of the information so purged.
CNN quoted Merrill as having written in an email at the time, “Representatives of Secretary Clinton’s office have been in touch with the committee and the State Department to make clear that she would like her emails made public as soon as possible and that she’s ready and willing to come and appear herself for a hearing open to the American public.”
On June 15, 2015, nine days before Fallon sent his email, The New York Times reported that the discrepancy between Blumenthal’s disclosures and Clinton’s “raised new questions about whether she deleted work-related emails from the private account she used exclusively while in office.”
In the email, Fallon addressed himself to “All” and began with “In preparation for the possibility that the State Department may acknowledge as soon as today that there were 16 Sid emails missing from the 55k pages of material produced by HRC, I wanted to circulate the below draft plan for responding to the inquiries that Nick will get. Thanks.”
He then posed a hypothetical question which might be asked given the differences in the Blumenthal and Clinton disclosures.
Q: The State Department says that at least 16 of the emails that Sid Blumenthal turned over to the Benghazi Select Committee were not included in the 55,000 pages of materials produced by Hillary Clinton. Doesn’t this prove that Hillary Clinton deleted certain emails at some point before producing them to the Department?
Fallon then wrote in apparent instruction to Merrill:
ON-THE-RECORD RESPONSE FROM SPOKESMAN NICK MERRILL:
“Hillary Clinton has turned over 55,000 pages of materials to the State Department, including all emails in her possession from Mr. Blumenthal.”
ADDITIONAL POINTS ON BACKGROUND FROM CLINTON AIDE:
Not only did Clinton turn over all emails that she has from Blumenthal, she actually turned over more than a dozen emails that were not included in what Mr. Blumenthal handed over to the House committee. We do not have a record of other correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Blumenthal beyond that which was turned over to the State Department. In terms of the documents provided by Mr. Blumenthal to the House committee, we do not recognize many of those materials and cannot speak to their origin.
Fallon then presented the following:
OFF RECORD, if pressed on whether we are essentially admitting the possibility that she deleted some emails:
Look, we do not know what these materials are, or where they came from. Just take a look at them: many of the documents are not even formatted as emails.
For all we know, it could be that, in the course of reproducing his emails after his account was hacked, Sid misremembered which memos he actually forwarded to her and which he did not.
And hey, even if Sid is right and some of these documents were at some point sent to Clinton, this is unremarkable anyway for two key reasons:
One, she would have been under no obligation to preserve them since Blumenthal wasn’t a government employee.
Two, there is nothing in any of these emails that is remotely new or interesting. Indeed, none of these 16 emails are qualtitatively different than the dozens of others that Hillary already produced to the State Department. So it is completely ridiculous to suggest that there might have been any nefarious basis for her to want to delete any of Sid’s correspondence.
Approximately two hours later, Merrill responded to Fallon:
Just spoke to State a little more about this. A few updates.
1. The plan at the moment is for them to do this tomorrow, first thing in the morning.
2. What that means specifically is that they are going to turn over all the Blumenthal emails to the Committee that they hav along with some other HRC emails that include a slightly broader set of search terms than the original batch. That of course includes the emails Sid turned over that HRC didn’t, which will make clear to them that she didn’t have them in the first place, deleted them, or didn’t turn them over. It also includes emails that HRC had that Sid didn’t, as Brian noted.
3. They do not plan to release anything publicly, so no posting online or anything public-facing, just to the committee. That said, they are considering placing a story with a friendly at the AP (Matt Lee or Bradley Klapper), that would lay this out before the majority on the committee has a chance to realize what they have and distort it.
On that last piece, we think it would make sense to work with State and the AP to deploy the below. So assuming everyone is in agreement we’ll proceed. It would be good to frame this a little, and frankly to have it break tomorrow when we’ll likely be close to or in the midst of a SCOTUS decision taking over the news hyenas.
Will keep everyone posted if anything changes, including the timing.
A response to Nick came that evening from 2008 Clinton campaign staffer and attorney Heather Samuelson, who was given a “side” immunity agreement by the FBI during its probe of the private server with the understanding that if she told the truth, her laptop would be destroyed.
On October 29, The Daily Caller reported that the laptops of Samuelson and former State Department Chief Counsel Cheryl Mills, under whom Samuelson worked to sift through Clinton’s emails, were preserved. According to a Daily Caller source in Washington, DC, “agents involved in the case refused to destroy the laptops.”
Samuelson’s reply is as follows:
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Date: 2015-06-24 18:07
Subject: Re: Proposed response to upcoming State Dept disclosure on Sid emails
Thanks for update Nick
Brian — I will call you on this. Recommend removing section re Sid not being a federal employee.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.