Following Ted Cruz’s endorsement of Donald Trump and president Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, aka the “Sept 11” bill allowing victims to sue Saudi Arabia in US court, the trifecta of Friday afternoon data dumps was completed by the FBI, when the agency released 189 pages of notes from its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, just three days before she squares off against Donald Trump in the first presidential debate.
The notes are from FBI’s interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials; and Marcel Lazar, also known as the Romanian hacker “Guccifer.” A summary of the interviews had been released in the overall FBI report. Politically, Friday’s release helps keep the issue relevant before Trump and Hillary hit the debate stage on Monday in what is set to be the most watched presidential debate in history with some 100 million expected to watch. The release also came hours after news that top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills had obtained a limited immunity deal from the FBI in order to cooperate with its investigation.
Much of the released information had already been made public. One notable exchange from the FBI’s June 7, 2016 interview with “Guccifer” supposedly confirms FBI Director Comey’s claim that Lazar falsely asserted to Fox News that he’d accessed Clinton’s server. “Lazar began by stating that he had never claimed to hack the Clinton server. [An FBI agent] then advised that Fox News had recently published an article which reported that Lazar had claimed to have to Clinton server. Lazar then stated that he recalled the interview with Fox News, and that he had lied to them about hacking the Clinton server.” It remains unclear why he would have lied.
Among the other FBI interviewees whose reports were made public Friday included Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s policy planning director; Bryan Pagliano, a former Clinton technology aide; Monica Hanley, a veteran Clinton aide who worked for her in the Senate and at State; and Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s longtime confidant.
In other interviews released Friday evening, Clinton aides seemed generally unconcerned about her use of a private email server and said she adhered to standard security measures – arguments they have made extensively in public. As CNN reported, one IT worker took a somewhat cavalier attitude, joking in one interview that a new 60-day retention policy was a “Hillary coverup operation” – which sparked the Trump campaign’s anger.
“The fact an IT staffer maintaining Clinton’s secret server called a new retention policy designed to delete emails after 60 days a ‘Hillary coverup operation’ suggests there was a concerted effort to systematically destroy potentially incriminating information,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. “It’s no wonder that at least five individuals tied to the email scandal, including Clinton’s top State Department aide and attorney Cheryl Mills, secured immunity deals from the Obama Justice Department to avoid prosecution.”
But perhaps the most interesting finding emerged from the “Miscellaneous” section in the Huma Abedin interview, in which it was revealed that none other than president Barack Obama had used a pseudonym in his communication with Hillary. In an April 5, 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin was presented an email exchange between Clinton and Obama, dated June 28, 2012 with the subject “Re: Congratulations”, Clinton’s aide did not recognize the name of the sender.
“Once informed that the sender’s name is believed to be pseudonym used by the president, Abedin exclaimed: ‘How is this not classified?'” the report says. “Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email.”
According to Politico, the State Department has refused to make public that and other emails Clinton exchanged with Obama. Lawyers have cited the “presidential communications privilege,” a variation of executive privilege, in order to withhold the messages under the Freedom of Information Act. It is therefore unknown what the president’s “alternative” email account was, or who hosted it.
Another curious discovery is the admission the Huma Abedin may have forward most if not all of her internal emails to her Yahoo email account “if she needed to print an email or document.” In light of the recent revelation that half a billion Yahoo user accounts have been hacked definitively as of 2014 – and perhaps sooner – a quick scan through the dark web may reveal countless state department emails floating around in the hacked cloud, some perhaps originating from the president himself.
But going back to Obama’s use of a psudonym to communicate with Hillary, this is especially notable because in a March 2015 interview with CBS, just after the NYT reported of Hillary’s use of a private email server, the president said he had only learned about this from the press: in retrospect he may have known all along.
CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante asked Mr. Obama when he learned about her private email system after his Saturday appearance in Selma, Alabama. “The same time everybody else learned it through news reports,” the president told Plante. “The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, which is why my emails, the BlackBerry I carry around, all those records are available and archived,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed.”
The president apparently had no problem that hillary would also delete some 15,000 emails despite a retention order, over which over 5,000 were work related.
At the time Hillary Clinton tweeted that “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.” The president reiterated his support of these actions. Only later would it emerge that she deleted thousands of work-related and potentially confidential emails as part of the following infamous BleachBit purge.
As CBS quoted Obama then, “despite widespread criticism from Republicans who believe Clinton acted inappropriately, the president continued to defend his former Cabinet member’s record. “Let me just say that Hillary Clinton is and has been an outstanding public servant. She was a great secretary of state for me,” Mr. Obama said.
As it now emerges that Obama himself may have “stretched the truth” in saying he did not know about Hillary’s email server, one can see why Obama thought Hillary was an outstanding public servant.
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The full notes from Huma Abedin’s interview with the FBI are below: