This development got a bit lost amid yesterday's coverage of the weekend terrorist attacks, but it merits a long, hard look. "Smoking gun" may be a slight exaggeration, but the circumstantial case here looks pretty strong. Bravo to the Internet sleuths who ferreted out this virtual paper trail, which leads back to a techie who was granted immunity by US officials in the course of their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal. Phil Kerpen flagged this on Twitter, then Ace of Spades kept digging. And, as usual, Allahpundit's write-up offers a balanced and clearly-written summary of a complicated story. First, the basic evidence:
That (since deleted) advice-seeking reddit post came from a user who has been reasonably confirmed to be Paul Combetta, the Clinton aide -- and "oh sh*t!" guy -- who was tasked with using BleachBit to permanently wipe Hillary's email archive. Ace thinks this indicates Combetta was instructed to strip Hillary's (his 'VERY VIP' client) addresses off of "a bunch of archived email" so that her team could withhold and delete politically problematic messages she'd sent and received: "What it sounds like was that he was trying to change the email address of who sent the emails so that he could say 'we have no emails from Hillary Clinton or Jake Sullivan, etc., responsive to your request,' Ace writes. That is totally plausible. Another theory from AP: "If there were emails where it was obvious and inarguable that the information contained in them was classified, Hillary might want her address off of those emails so that she could claim she never saw them and thus wasn’t guilty of mishandling classified info personally." Two strong potential motives.
Questions: (1) Might there be a benign reason why Hillary's server technician would have been asked to purge Hillary's email address from an untold number of archived emails? Her defenders might argue that those were the "personal" ones (a bucket into which the FBI says her team wrongfully dumped thousands of work-related correspondences), but that doesn't make much sense. There'd be no cause for scrubbing Hillary's address from mundane yoga or wedding-related emails. Those could have been safely withheld as unofficial private business, and virtually nobody would have objected. It really does stand to reason that if Combetta was asked to erase Hillary's address from emails, it would be because those emails were feared to be incriminating in some way. (2) Who ordered Combetta to take the action for which he solicited reddit's help? (3) Was he given a reason why he was being told to execute this action? Remember, someone from Combetta's company wrote of the server in 2015, "[I'm] starting to think this whole thing really is covering up some shaddy [sic] sh*t." (4) And, importantly, which emails was he told to strip?
These are serious questions based on new information, but good luck extracting any answers from this guy. The FBI gave him what appears to be blanket immunity in exchange for his cooperation in a probe that ultimately resulted in no recommendation of criminal charges, largely because James Comey said there was no compelling evidence of criminal intent. That conclusion has already been exposed as deeply flawed, but (5) doesn't the reddit post embedded above provide another strand of intent? Combetta repeatedly invoked his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination at a Congressional hearing last week. It's a pretty sweet deal: He does some extremely suspicious dirty work for Mrs. Clinton, the feds give him a pass during their investigation, then he shows up and stonewalls Congress, fully assured that he doesn't have to divulge a single piece of information because they can't touch him.
US News & World Report adds this piece to the puzzle: That 'help me strip an email address' reddit post went live on July 24, 2014. That's literally the day after the House Benghazi Committee "reached an agreement with the State Department on the production of records, according to an FBI report." In other words, one day after the State Department finally knew it would be forced to comply with a Congressional subpoena, Hillary's tech guy was asking the Internet for tips on how to wipe a major VIP's identifying address off of "a bunch" of emails. (6) Was the FBI aware of this particular instruction their witness received the day after it became clear that Clinton's records were going to be made public? And how's this for coincidental timing?
Stonetear posted to reddit on Dec. 10, 2014: "Hello- I have a client who wants to push out a 60 day email retention policy for certain users. However, they also want these users to have a 'Save Folder' in their Exchange folder list where the users can drop items that they want to hang onto longer than the 60 day window. All email in any other folder in the mailbox should purge anything older than 60 days (should not apply to calendar or contact items of course). How would I go about this? Some combination of retention and managed folder policy?" The FBI report says that Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton aide and attorney, requested in December 2014 that the email retention policy be shortened to 60 days. The FBI report says Mills 'instructed [redacted] to modify the email retention policy on Clinton's clintonemail.com e-mail account" but that "according to [redacted] he did not make these changes to Clinton's clintonemail.com account until March 2015."
This represents more corroboration, as yet another email scandal date coincides with "stonetear" publicly soliciting advice on how to pull off precisely the sort of action Combetta was, or would have been, asked to carry out on Clinton's behalf. It seems as though he dropped the ball on the December 2014 job, culminating in his aforementioned March 2015 "oh sh*t" moment...which came shortly after the New York Times first reported about the server's existence. The timing all aligns, and taken together, it's really damning. I'll leave you with this, via conservative researcher Morgen Richmond, followed by my final question:
This is an ongoing act of obstruction. Tech from Platte River deleted all remaining evidence on Reddit *TODAY* pic.twitter.com/Td4s6wkRZJ— Morgen (@morgenr) September 19, 2016
Sure enough, just as "stonetear's" identity started getting publicly linked to Hillary Clinton's email scandal, that user started removing his old posts -- although some enterprising folks made sure to archive as much of it as possible first. Thus, (7) if this man is actively destroying new and relevant potential evidence about his previous destruction of evidence (requested at pivotal moments by unnamed superiors), would that action abrogate his deal with federal investigators?