Emails Show Tension Between Firms Handling Hillary’s Private Server

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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The computer technology company that Hillary Clinton hired to manage her email system initially planned last year to comply with a congressional request for records but ultimately — and for unexplained reasons — reversed course and decided against doing so, newly released emails show.

The documents were released on Monday by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. The committee is one of several investigating Clinton’s private email system.

One batch of emails was exchanged between lawyers for two tech firms, Platte River Networks (PRN) and Datto, Inc. Clinton hired PRN in 2013 to manage the private email system which housed her State Department emails. The company, in turn, contracted with Datto to help backup the server.

The emails show that the two firms parted ways last October regarding whether to comply with a Senate Homeland Security request for documents related to Clinton’s server.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the committee, requested a variety of documents regarding Clinton’s server, including emails, invoices, and work tickets exchanged between PRN and Datto.

Kenneth Eichner, a lawyer for PRN, emailed Datto’s lawyer, Steven Cash, on Oct. 6, 2015, saying PRN had “no objection” to complying with the request.

But PRN decided days later to reverse course on the Senate request. In an Oct. 15 email, Eichner summarized a phone call he had had with Cash, Datto’s lawyer, saying that “I do object to any Platte River Network materials being sent to Homeland Security & Gov’t Affairs Committee.”

It is unclear what prompted the change of heart.

PRN declined to cooperate with several other congressional requests, emails show. Eichner rejected a Jan. 15 request for records submitted by Smith’s House Science Committee and another submitted in July.

Other documents released by Smith’s Committee on Monday shed more light on the tech firms’ internal deliberations regarding Clinton’s server.

One Aug. 6, 2015, email shows that PRN’s CEO, Treve Suazo, was alarmed after finding out that Datto, Inc. was backing up Clinton’s emails to its off-site cloud serve. Clinton, through her staff, reportedly instructed PRN not to back up her emails.

“This is a problem,” Suazo wrote to Leif McKinley, a sales executive with Datto.

“This data should not be stored in the Datto Cloud, but because the backup data exists, we cannot delete it, so the first step is for us to have it moved to the Private Cloud,” Suazo continued.

Another email shows that the ongoing investigation was distracting PRN executives from other business concerns.

“I apologize but I am buried with this Clinton fiasco as you are well aware of,” PRN executive David DeCamillis wrote in an email, declining an invitation to a marketing event.

The emails also show exchanges involved Paul Combetta, a PRN technician who was granted immunity by the Justice Department in exchange for his cooperation with the Clinton email probe.

According to an FBI report on that investigation, Combetta lied to investigators about his decision to delete backups of Clinton’s emails from PRN’s servers. He made the decision after talking to Clinton staffers in late-March 2015, weeks after the email system was revealed by news reports.

In a statement released along with the emails, Smith accused PRN and another company called SECNAP of falsely claiming that they did not have records in response to a subpoena for records regarding Clinton’s email setup.

“It is clear that the server maintained by Platte River contained official government business and even sensitive state secrets,” Smith said in a statement.

“Alarmingly, Platte River and SECNAP denied having any documents related to information technology security precautions on former Secretary Clinton’s server or network. This type of blatant denial and willful misinterpretation of the subpoenas will not be tolerated. I’m hopeful for the sake of our nation’s officials that email server security will be taken seriously and that these two companies will comply with legally issued subpoenas.”

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