If you haven't read our item from yesterday detailing the strong and developing case -- discovered and fleshed out by Twitter and Reddit users -- that Hillary Clinton's server technician sought to strip her email address off "a bunch" of archived emails one day after a Republican-led House panel secured an agreement to review her records, click through and give it a quick spin. In a tweet storm about the story, I boiled down the dubious timing to this simple juxtaposition:
1. 7/23/14 Gowdy committee confirms deal to get HRC records— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 20, 2016
2. 7/24/14 HRC tech asks reddit how to strip VIP's email address from archives
One of the most common questions and attempts at pushback I received came from people questioning whether it could really be confirmed whether Paul Combetta, who received immunity from the FBI and repeatedly pleaded the fifth at a House Oversight hearing last week, was reddit user "stonetear." Is that proven beyond a shadow of a doubt at this point? No. Beyond a reasonable doubt? I believe so. I linked to a few pieces of evidence to this effect in my original post. For more dot-connecting, read this analysis at Vice:
...A number of breadcrumbs point in Combetta's direction. The nickname Stonetear appears in several places online. A website publicizing a help file for the video game Betrayal at Krondor states that Paul Combetta’s email is stonetear@gmail[.]com; in a 2011 forum post, user Stonetear signs with the name of "Paul"; and in a 2002 Slashdot post, Stonetear says he’s “contracted to a state government.” Moreover, Stonetear@gmail [.]com has a Google Account profile picture that looks a lot like Combetta. And a seemingly abandoned Etsy profile registered under Stonetear displays the name Paul Combetta. The date of the Reddit post about obscuring an email address, July 24, 2014, predates the public discovery of Clinton’s private email servers, which was first reported by The New York Times in March of 2015. Stonetear’s Reddit thread mysteriously disappeared on Monday, after it was found and picked up by other subreddits...
The fact that the Reddit post "predates the public discovery of Clinton's private email servers" is not exculpatory. As we addressed yesterday, that July date was immediately preceded by Trey Gowdy's Benghazi committee locking down an agreement with the State Department to get access to Clinton's email records. Team Clinton would have known this, even if the public was still in the dark. When the New York Times' March 2015 story finally broke this controversy wide open, FBI notes indicate that Combetta had an "oh sh*t!" moment, realizing that he never followed through on an auto-deletion scheme he'd been instructed to carry out by top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills the previous December, when he'd posted another reddit 'how to' request for crowdsourced assistance. Still not convinced it's him? Watch the first two minutes or so of this YouTube video tracking even more proof of Combetta's virtual identity:
Beyond all of the strands of investigatory string leading back to his doorstep, the fact that "stonetear" launched a feverish attempt to memory-hole his previous posts after he was flagged by tweeters and redditors offers pretty clear corroboration both that it's him, and that he realizes the incriminating nature of the exposed material. Once it becomes more or less inarguable that "stonetear" and Paul Combetta are one in the same, a number of important questions arise, seven of which I asked yesterday. The media has, for the most part, been slow on the uptake here, perhaps because of the somewhat complicated nature of the story, and perhaps because they're reluctant to run with scoops broken by average people, many of whom are anonymous themselves. While it's true that illustrating this web of information and clearly explaining what it could mean isn't simple, especially on television, it certainly can be done. House Republicans could help that process along by making some hay out of this (see update), and calling Combetta back to the committee -- even if it means more stonewalling. Rush Limbaugh picked up on our post yesterday and devoted several minutes of his radio program to discussing it:
If this is true, they've done a much greater investigation job than the FBI did. What they believe they've discovered is posts from an IT specialist who was looking for advice on how to delete and remove content of very VIP emails. Apparently, somebody working IT for Hillary went to Reddit and asked Redditors if any of them knew how to do this! "Do you know how to strip/remove content from very VIP emails?" This request was made on July 24, 2014. You know what happened? You know what happened the day before? On July 23, 2014, a congressional committee chaired by Trey Gowdy confirmed a deal to get Hillary Clinton's records and emails. This is where the agreement was made that she would go through all 60,000 of 'em...So the very day after the Gowdy committee confirms it's going to get her records, a Hillary IT tech asks Reddit how to strip VIP email and email addresses from the archives of what she's gonna send. And this is considered to be a smoking gun. Guy Benson put these two dates together and tweeted it out. He's the political editor at Townhall.com. So this isn't gonna go away. This email -- everybody thinks we've seen the end of it. No, no. A lot of people on the left think we've seen the end of it but this continues to be a drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.
If more media outlets pick up on what's happening, and provide the visuals to explain the significance of this discovery to a wider audience, he's right: This saga is far from over. But if it's dismissed as a weird 'internet thing' that's too confusing to bother with (I suspect young people familiar with reddit could easily grasp what's going on here), it could get buried. Conservative media should help advance this ball, and GOP members on Jason Chaffetz's committee might want to start turning up the heat. After all, this guy just refused to answer of any of their questions, then appears to have turned around and tried to destroy more evidence, this time of his own volition.
UPDATE - There we go:
The House Oversight Committee is reviewing a Reddit post that alleges an IT specialist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private server sought advice on how to alter the contents of “VERY VIP” emails, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). Meadows is the chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee. “The Reddit post issue and its connection to Paul Combetta is currently being reviewed by OGR staff and evaluations are being made as to the authenticity of the post,” Meadows told The Hill. Reddit users appear to have uncovered a two-year-old post from an account believed to belong to Combetta, an engineer with Platte River Networks. The Denver, Colo.-based firm managed Clinton’s private server.
Drip, drip, drip.