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Analysis: Seven Email Scandal Revelations in the FBI's Holiday Weekend Document Dump

As Americans were checking out of the news cycle in advance of the holiday weekend on Friday afternoon, the FBI tore a page from the bipartisan political damage control playbook and dumped a trove of documents pertaining to the Bureau's investigation into the email scandal that has engulfed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. That criminal probe resulted in a strong rebuke from FBI Director James Comey -- who laid bare Mrs. Clinton's lies and cast her conduct as "extremely careless" and the "definition" of negligence. It did not, however, end in a criminal referral for prosecution, an outcome that has been heavily second-guessed and challenged on substance by experts, and that did not sit well with the American people. Friday's document release has only fueled criticism of the decision not to recommend charges against Clinton, as new revelations illustrate how reckless, dishonest, and ultimately calculating she and her team have been throughout the entire lifespan of this controversy. Her defenders have reflexively claimed that these papers produced no new information. This is patently untrue. Let's examine some of the most important freshly-discovered facts contained in the FBI's notes:


(1) Based on a clarified timeline, it appears clear that Mrs. Clinton's team began its work to permanently scrub and destroy her email archives -- elements of which were under Congressional subpoena at the time (read more here) -- after the New York Times first reported the existence of her improper and unsecure server. Mrs. Clinton tweeted in early March that she wanted the State Department to make all of her emails public. Weeks later, following what an aide described as the "oh sh*t" moment of the server's discovery, Team Hillary set about using BleachBit technology to purge vast numbers of emails -- thousands of which we now know were work-related, including dozens of highly classified chains:

(2) Mrs. Clinton's initial publicly-stated rationale for setting up her national security-endangering private server in the first place was that it facilitated the "convenience" of using a single mobile device.  This excuse was quickly debunked by both public records and Clinton's own public statements about using several such devices concurrently.  On Friday, the public learned that Hillary used at least 13 mobile devices during her tenure at State.  Why so many?  An astonishing detail:


She lost an unspecified number of these Blackberry phones. Ultimately, "the FBI was unable to acquire or forensically examine any of these 13 mobile devices,” according to the documents, although they managed to determine that when the whereabouts of her old devices did not "become unknown," one of her staffers would beat them with a hammer.  Hillary Clinton was personally warned by State Department security officials on two separate occasions that using non-secure, private mobile devices for official business posed a risk to state secrets.  Remember, she wasn't supposed to be sending or receiving any classified material on an unsecure system in the first place.  Despite these explicit admonitions, she continued her conduct anyway -- then misplaced an unknown number of these unauthorized devices, packed with sensitive intelligence, on multiple occasions.  Mind-boggling.

James Comey stated in his press conference and in Congressional testimony that it was very likely that outside actors were able to penetrate Clinton's unsecure server.  The Clinton campaign seized on his phrasing and framing in order to claim that the feds had produced no 'direct evidence' definitively proving that the server had been compromised.  This talking point was always a desperate, non-credible stretch.  Now it's dead:


An unknown individual using the encrypted privacy tool Tor to hide their tracks accessed an email account on a Clinton family server, the FBI revealed Friday. The incident appears to be the first confirmed intrusion into a piece of hardware associated with Hillary Clinton’s private email system, which originated with a server established for her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The FBI disclosed the event in its newly released report on the former secretary of state’s handling of classified information. According to the bureau’s review of server logs, someone accessed an email account on Jan. 5, 2013, using three IP addresses known to serve as Tor “exit nodes” — jumping-off points from the anonymity network to the public internet. The owner of the account, whose name is redacted in the report, said she was “not familiar with nor [had] she ever used Tor software.” Clinton left the State Department less than a month after the intrusion.

In all likelihood -- based on Comey's judgment, the reasoning of several top administration and intelligence officials, and the sophistication of our adversaries -- this breach was one of many.

(4) One potential method of recovering thousands of improperly-destroyed Clinton emails would involve accessing key hard drives that hadn't yet been wiped clean.  As Katie mentioned over the weekend, one such hard drive magically disappeared in the mail: "Someone whose name was redacted in the FBI report told the agency that he later deleted the e-mails from the laptop but didn’t wipe its hard drive. A computer technician can often recover such e-mails that have been deleted but not permanently erased from a laptop’s memory. The FBI sought the laptop as part of its investigation, but it’s whereabouts remain unknown, the bureau said: The last time the laptop was seen was when it was put in the mail," Bloomberg  reported:


(5) Among the many, many things Mrs. Clinton claimed she "could not recall" during her FBI interview -- at which several potential co-conspirators were shockingly permitted to be present, acting as her lawyers -- was whether she ever received mandatory training on the proper handling of classified materials and the archiving of public records under federal law.  But public documents show that she swore in a binding 2009 nondisclosure agreement that she had done so.  Recall that her nondisclosure forms also proved that she was aware that it was her duty to protect secrets regardless of whether or not they were formally "marked classified," undercutting yet another piece of Clinton email spin:

(6) Lying to the FBI is a crime.  Will this inconsistency be waved away as just another instance of Mrs. Clinton's inability to recall things accurately?  Were there privately-owned computers and devices (improperly) located inside the secure areas of her personal residences, or not?


(7) Last but not least, Mrs. Clinton told investigators that she didn't realize that "(C)" markings on some emails stood for "confidential" -- a classification designation that she had repeatedly claimed did not exist on any of the emails housed on her server (an irrelevant distinction, for reasons already established).  Her explanation for this alleged misunderstanding is an insultingly stupid howler:

This is a woman who has operated at the highest levels of government for decades, and she's serving up this nonsensical drivel? The 'alphabetical order' line is ludicrous on its face. Paragraphs of memos aren't listed alphabetically, and even if they were, where were parts (A), (B), (D), etc? Did FBI interviewers press her on this point at all?  Furthermore, Clinton also stated she "did not pay attention" to levels of classification in handling sensitive information, and asserted that it did not occur to her that discussions of drone strikes under a secret program operating in the sovereign territory of a nominal US ally might qualify as classified communications. Yes, really:


Clinton has been hailed by supporters as the most qualified human being ever to seek the office of the presidency. Yet her central defense at this stage of the email scandal, now that her endless parade of lies are collapsing, amounts to, "I had no idea how any of this was supposed to work." You see, she's just a clueless, doddering grandmother who couldn't grasp classification rules or records retention, and who just can't quite remember anything relevant about any of these details. Their best argument is that she's inept, naive, out-of-touch, and forgetful. Given her established intelligence, many years operating at the most elite levels of the federal government, and ever-shifting story, Occam's Razor offers a simpler explanation: She's a liar who has deliberately distorted the truth at every turn, in order to cover up and explain away her breathtakingly reckless email scheme -- which was originally designed and implemented to cater to her paranoid obsession with wielding self-serving control. I'll leave you with my discussion of Friday's developments on Fox News, during which Clinton supporter Alan Colmes adopted a sarcastic "nothing to see here" posture in response to the new information I summarized. Via Right Sightings:

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