10 Questions That Hillary And The State Dept. Still Need To Answer About The Email Scandal

(YouTube/Screengrab/Sidewire App)

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

The Hillary Clinton email scandal is more than a year old, and many questions still remain unanswered.

There are the big, general questions such as why, exactly, Clinton chose to use a private email system to conduct her State Department business. And why the State Department didn’t do more to prevent the former secretary of state from using the system once officials found out about it.

But there are also questions about specific pieces of the email scandal puzzle that have largely gone unasked, such as whether and when Clinton deleted any of her work-related emails or who was involved in hiring the IT technician who managed her email system.

Here is a list of 10 questions that are in desperate need of an answer.

When did Sec. of State John Kerry find out about Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account and server? 

While he was in the Senate, Kerry emailed with Clinton discussing geopolitical issues. One of those messages has even been classified as “Secret.”

But even though Kerry replaced Clinton as secretary of state when she left office in Feb. 2013, the State Department did not formally request her emails until Oct. 2014.

It is unclear why Kerry failed to make that request sooner given that he knew Clinton used an off-the-books email account to send and receive information.

Did Clinton delete any emails from her email account while in office? 

Clinton has acknowledged that she deleted more than 30,000 “personal” emails from her account. That was done after a group of her aides separated out Clinton’s work-related emails, she’s claimed. Clinton has said that she did not delete any work-related emails during this time span, but she has not said — and has not been asked — if she deleted work-related emails while she was in office.

The FBI, which has control of Clinton’s private email server, will seemingly have a record of what emails were deleted from the device.

Did Clinton delete any emails after being contacted by the State Department?

The State Department first reportedly contacted Clinton’s aides about Clinton’s emails in the summer of 2014. The agency made a formal request that October, and Clinton put her aides to work on sorting her emails into work-related and personal records.

Last August, Clinton declared under oath that she had “directed that all my emails on in my custody that were or potentially were federal records be provided to the Department of State.”

“On information and belief, this has been done.”

But that statement leaves open the possibility that Clinton, a trained lawyer, deleted emails after the State Department contacted her team but before it made a formal request.

Where are the BlackBerries Clinton used while in office?

Clinton used a personal BlackBerry — and not one issued by the State Department — while in office. The FBI currently has possession of other hardware from Clinton’s email system, including her server. But it is not known if the FBI also took custody of the BlackBerries Clinton used while in office (her emails show that she switched BlackBerries while in office).

Clinton’s top State Department aides — Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin — turned their Department-issued BlackBerries back over to the State Department when they left office. But Clinton’s BlackBerry was not issued by the State Department, and so she would not have been required to give it to the agency.

What was the State Department’s response when it found out Clinton was using a private email server? 

Top State Department officials outside of Clinton’s inner circle reportedly did not know about Clinton’s private server until 2011, according to recent reports. The first documented exchange showing a State Department official referring to the server came in Aug. 2011. That’s when Stephen Mull, State’s then-executive secretary, acknowledged the server in an email to Clinton’s aides and to Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management.

Were State Department officials concerned by Clinton’s use of the server? Officials and IT workers most likely recognized the security threats posed by Clinton’s use of a rogue email system. What was their reaction?

Fox News reported last week that the agency’s IT team reportedly attempted to set up a special cyber security briefing for Clinton in 2011. Clinton skipped the session, however.

Who provided Bryan Pagliano’s resume to State Department official Patrick Kennedy? 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is asking this same question.

Pagliano, who had worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, was hired as a political appointee in May 2009 by the State Department as an information technology specialist. In that role, he managed Clinton’s secret email system. But his hiring puzzled some within the agency’s IT department, as none of the officials in that sector could recall a political appointee working there.

Patrick Kennedy, who is perhaps the State Department’s most powerful career official, served as Pagliano’s direct supervisor. He also reportedly gave Pagliano’s resume to the State Department’s IT team.

Even though Kennedy was the recipient of Stephen Mull’s Aug. 2011 email referring to Clinton’s server, he has said that he did not know that Clinton was using the hardware. But a request from Clinton or her team that Kennedy hire Pagliano had to raise questions for the career diplomat.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, has also asked Kennedy whether he was told that he must hire Pagliano or whether the IT technician was merely suggested for the role.

Did Clinton use her personal BlackBerry during trips overseas? 

If Clinton did, she likely exposed herself to being hacked, a cyber security expert recently told The Daily Caller. A recent Daily Caller investigation revealed that Clinton sent dozens of emails while she was on trips to Russia and China.

In Nov. 2014, months before the email scandal broke open, Clinton claimed that she and her aides would leave their communications devices and computers on the State Department airplane when they entered Russia and China.

Did Clinton continue to use her personal BlackBerry in the State Department’s executive suites? 

State Department officials were barred from using BlackBerries in the agency’s executive suites, emails show. Weeks into her tenure, Clinton sought to get around that prohibition by asking the National Security Agency (NSA) for a super-secure BlackBerry similar to one that was built for President Obama. The request was rejected, however.

Clinton began using her home-brew email system a month later. What is unclear is whether Clinton flouted the prohibition on using her BlackBerry while at her office. She relied on the device as her only means of sending and receiving emails.

Has Clinton paid the legal fees or covered any other expenses for individuals and companies involved in the email scandal? 

Grassley has also asked this question, though it is unclear if he has received an answer.

Paying for legal and PR expenses — if it happened — suggests the possibility that Clinton sought to control her aides and others involved in the email scandal during interviews with Congress and law enforcement.

In October, a website called Complete Colorado published an invoice from Platte River Networks, the Denver-based company that Clinton hired after leaving office to manage her server. The company maintained the server at a New Jersey data center until the FBI seized it last summer.

The invoice indicated that Platte River Networks was billing Clinton for legal and public relations services related to its work during the email scandal fallout. Andy Boian, the CEO of dovetail solutions, the company that handles PR for Platte River, has declined comment to TheDC. Clinton’s accounting firm, Marcum LLP., which was billed by Platte River, also declined comment.

It is also unclear who is paying legal expenses for the handful of Clinton aides who have been or soon will be interviewed by the FBI.

One of those is Pagliano, who received immunity from the FBI in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation. The network technician hired an attorney with the exclusive Beltway law firm Akin Gump.

Akin Gump has longstanding ties with the Clintons.

On Friday, Politico reported that the top four Clinton aides implicated in the email scandal — Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Philippe Reines and Heather Samuelson — are using the same attorney, Beth Wilkinson.

It is unclear who is covering their legal fees.

Like Pagliano, a second former State Department IT official, John Bentel, has also refused to cooperate with congressional investigators. Grassley believes that Bentel knew about Clinton’s server when he worked at State.

He has hired Randy Turk, an attorney at Baker Botts, another prestigious law firm. Turk has connections to other Clinton scandals. In the 1990s he represented Craig Livingstone, a former Bill Clinton campaign operative who worked in the Clinton White House as director of personnel security. Republicans accused him of improperly obtaining hundreds of FBI files of Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration officials.

The Clintons set up a legal defense fund for Livingstone, who resigned his position but was cleared of wrongdoing. The fund raised nearly $10,000.

Why didn’t Clinton seek formal approval of her private email set up from State’s IT department and bureau of diplomatic security, instead of playing in legal gray areas?

[dcquiz] This is the ultimate remaining question. Clinton’s decision not to inform the agency she led about her communications system is suspicious, at the very least. It suggests that she wanted to hide or avoid something. Did she want to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests? Some have suggested that was the case.

Was the system set up because the NSA denied her request for a souped-up BlackBerry? Clinton has claimed that she used a personal email account because she wanted to use one device to send and receive emails. But if that is the case, why did Clinton opt to use a personal account to conduct all business rather than obtaining a email account to do the same?

Follow Chuck on Twitter