A congressional committee is threatening to subpoena the tech firm that managed Hillary Clinton’s server after it was revealed on Monday that one of that company’s technicians sought advice on the website Reddit on how to strip the former secretary of state’s email address from her emails.
“Yesterday, new information emerged regarding the role of a key Platte River Networks employee in managing Secretary Clinton’s private email server,” Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote to Platte River Networks (PRN) attorney Kenneth Eichner.
On Monday, The Daily Caller and other outlets reported that PRN technician Paul Combetta appears to have published a post on Reddit on July 24, 2014 asking other users for advice on how to remove a “VIP’s” email address. (RELATED: Computer Technician Who Worked For Hillary Asked Reddit How To ‘Strip’ Email Addresses)
“I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email that I have both in a live Exchange mailbox, as well as a PST file,” Reddit user “stonetear” wrote on the site.
“Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out.”
Combetta uses an email address with the handle “stonetear.” Other posts on the Reddit account and other social media platforms strongly suggest that he was the user seeking the email advice.
The posts were published at a crucial point on the Clinton email scandal timeline. Just the day before the “stonetear” inquiry, the House Select Committee on Benghazi had reached an agreement with the State Department regarding the hand-over of Clinton’s work-related emails.
State Department emails released from that same month showed that Clinton lawyer Cheryl Mills had been in touch with the State Department about turning over the emails. The FBI’s report on the Clinton email investigation also shows that in July 2014, Combetta forwarded backups of Clinton’s emails to Mills and another Clinton lawyer, Heather Samuelson.
Smith, a Republican, says that Combetta’s Reddit post “raise new questions as to whether Platte River Networks purposefully defied legal document retention requirements.”
“Further, it is unclear if the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of these facts at the time of their investigation. By speaking with Platte River Networks employees, including Paul Combetta, the Committee will be able to provide clarity to these outstanding questions directly related to its investigation.”
Smith had asked PRN on July 12 for permission to interview seven company employees as part of his investigation. The company has not responded to the request. Last week, Combetta and another PRN technician who worked on Clinton’s server invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during a House Oversight hearing.
Combetta’s involvement in the Clinton email scandal was revealed just two weeks ago by The New York Times. The paper reported that Combetta is the technician whose name is redacted in the FBI’s report on the investigation. According to the investigative document, Combetta lied to the FBI about his decision to use the software program BleachBit to delete backups of Clinton’s emails.
The deletion occurred weeks after Clinton’s personal email and server use was revealed. Congress had also subpoenaed her records.
Combetta had been in contact with Clinton’s lawyers prior to the deletion and spoke to them just after. His attorney advised him not to discuss those conversations with the FBI. Despite Combetta’s recalcitrance, the Justice Department granted him immunity.
Smith also says that he is “concerned” that Combetta appears to have deleted his Reddit posts just after the posts were reported.
“This raises significant concerns that materials directly related to the Committee’s investigation and responsive to its outstanding requests are being actively destroyed in an attempt to conceal relevant information from coming to light,” Smith writes.
Smith is giving PRN until Friday to respond with a list of dates for interviews with company employees.
“If you fail to provide dates certain for each of the requested transcribed interviews, the Committee will consider issuing subpoenas for depositions,” he writes.
Reached for comment, Andy Boian, the CEO of dovetail solutions, PRN’s public relations firm, declined to comment on the latest developments.
“I am not able to comment yet, but I will,” Boian told TheDC.
This post has been updated with comments from PRN’s public relations team.