Despite Lack Of FBI Evidence, Fox News Pushes Myth That Clinton Deleted Emails After Subpoena Request
Fox News is hyping congressional Republicans’ attempt to set up more hearings into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of private email, even after the FBI determined there was no basis for charges of wrongdoing. Citing the FBI's recently released report on its concluded investigation, Fox baselessly suggested there is proof that Clinton ordered the improper deletion of work-related emails after she was instructed by Congress to preserve them.
FBI Released Report And Notes On Clinton Interview And Email Investigation
FBI Report And Notes On Clinton “Contain No Major Revelations.” On Friday, September 2, the FBI released its internal report on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as well as notes on its hours-long interview with the Democratic presidential nominee in July. The report told of an employee at Platte River Networks (PRN), the private company contracted to manage Clinton’s server, having an “‘oh s---’ moment” in March 2015 after realizing he forgot to carry out a change in the email retention policy for unneeded Clinton emails, as instructed by Clinton staff in December 2014. The unnamed PRN employee proceeded to delete these emails sometime in late March 2015, despite Clinton staff conveying to PRN on March 9 that a March 4 subpoena from the House Committee on Benghazi required all emails to be newly preserved. From a September 2 Washington Post article:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staffers employed an informal and sometimes haphazard system for exchanging and storing sensitive information and were at times either unaware or unconcerned with State Department policy, documents from an FBI investigation into her private email server system show.
The documents reveal a myriad of new details about the email set-up and show that investigators found multiple attempts by hackers to access Clinton’s system — a series of personal devices and servers that the Democratic presidential candidate told investigators she used as a matter of convenience while she was secretary of state.
The materials, which include a summary of the FBI’s entire investigation as well as Clinton’s hours-long interview with agents in July, contain no major revelations. But they offer new details that Clinton’s political opponents will be able use in the months leading up to the November election. The summary shows that Clinton’s account to law enforcement was generally consistent with what she has said about her email situation publicly, but she repeatedly told agents she could not recall important details or specific emails she was questioned about.
Someone, apparently at Platte River, did delete Clinton emails in late March 2015 in what the person described as an “oh s---” moment, having been instructed months earlier to permanently destroy the emails of two Clinton aides and change how long emails were retained.
That person, whose name is redacted, had received a request from the House Committee on Benghazi to preserve emails on March 9. Clinton told investigators she was unaware of the deletions. Andy Boian, a spokesman for Platte River, declined to comment. [Washington Post, 9/2/16; Clinton E-Mail Investigation Report, U.S. Department Of Justice, Federal Bureau Of Investigation, July 2016]
Fox News Helps Accuse Clinton Of Ordering Deletion Of Emails After Subpoena
Fox’s Brit Hume Allowed Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz To Baselessly Suggest Clinton Staff Ordered The Improper Deletion Of Work-Related Emails. In a September 6 interview on Fox’s On The Record, host Brit Hume did not correct Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) after he falsely claimed that the FBI report showed there was a “work order to destroy the documents and then suddenly the documents are destroyed.” Citing a conference call between Clinton staff and PRN, the contents of which Chaffetz did not know, Chaffetz speculated that it was related to the destruction of those documents:
BRIT HUME (HOST): Congressman, you have asked federal investigators in the person of the U.S. attorney in Washington in this letter you've written to go into this. What's your point? What's the key, what's the heart of what you are asking for and why?
JASON CHAFFETZ: Well, shortly after Benghazi we put a letter in place saying please preserve all your emails.
HUME: You say we, you mean your committee?
CHAFFETZ: The oversight committee of which I was the chair of the subcommittee on September 20, 2012. Fast forward all the way to 2015 --
HUME: This is in the way of a letter asking that documents be preserved. It wasn’t a subpoena.
CHAFFETZ: It was not a subpoena. But then you go and look at what Trey Gowdy did as chairman of the Benghazi committee and go to March 3, 2015, he sent a preservation letter the next day on March 4, Chairman Gowdy puts out a subpoena. Then on March 10 of 2015, Hillary Clinton goes out in front of the press and says that she has preserved these things. But then you go to March 25, which is days later, after years of not producing these emails to Congress, on March 25 there is a conference call, and it’s between Platte River Networks, who is housing these emails.
HUME: These are the provider of the server, right?
CHAFFETZ: Yes. Where supposedly many of these emails, which are federal records; they are not Hillary Clinton's emails, they are federal records are now housed. And there is a conference call between the management and the engineer at Platte River Networks and the David Kendall, her lead attorney, and Cheryl Mills her former chief of staff and counsel. Less than a week later there is a work order to destroy the documents and then suddenly the documents are destroyed. Now we know from the FBI there were federal records in there.
HUME: Right. You know that. Do we know who asked that this be done?
CHAFFETZ: This is why our committee continues to investigate. We were shocked when Director Comey came before the committee and said that he did not look at anything that Hillary Clinton had said under oath. They are doing an investigation of Hillary Clinton and they don't look at what she said under oath? So we have a duty and responsibility to preserve these federal records and to make sure this never happens again and to hold people accountable. [Fox News, On The Record, 9/6/16]
Fox’s Megyn Kelly: “You Don’t Get a Subpoena And Then Start Destroying Documents. … That’s Not Okay.” Referencing the March 4 congressional subpoena on the September 6 edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly explained it meant Clinton “better not destroy anything between now and the time we get it, and she did.” Kelly added that even though the reported deletions were performed by PRN, it was “pursuant to her order is how it looks”:
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): But what may have happened here is important. You don't get a subpoena and then start destroying documents.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Well --
KELLY: That's not okay.
NAPOLITANO: OK. So that is what happened here. Congressman Chaffetz is correct in his timeline. The subpoena was issued, and then the documents were destroyed. Congressman Gowdy is correct. We're talking about two different committees. Chaffetz, Congressman Chaffetz, runs the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Gowdy, the House Benghazi Committee. Both put on notice Secretary Clinton, in fact Congressman Gowdy’s committee put Secretary Clinton on notice while she was still secretary of state.
KELLY: They’re like wait a minute, you have your own private server and you didn’t give us any of the documents from it in response to our earlier subpoenas? Well we want that. And you better not destroy anything between now and the time we get it, and she did.
NAPOLITANO: Correct. Now we found out that it was destroyed. Now here's the very, very troubling news. We learned this on Friday. We learned this from the FBI. The FBI knew that servers were wiped clean, that blackberries were smashed and destroyed, and that a laptop was lost in the U.S. mail. The FBI ought to have pursued Mrs. Clinton and the people around her for obstruction of justice, and it did not do so. That is exceptionally distressing. The case against her for failure to secure state secrets is overwhelming. Now the case against somebody -- we don't know who -- for obstruction of justice is overwhelming, and, Megyn, the FBI has done nothing. Someone, somewhere -- it must be the White House -- has restrained the FBI from doing its job.
KELLY: You look at the evidence, right, before this Platte River Networks. They were the ones who deleted her email archives, pursuant to her order is how it looks. This is the guy who had the “oh, blank” moment. He had been told the day before, he claims, I forgot and then I saw the subpoena and suddenly I remembered I was supposed to delete everything of interest.
NAPOLITANO: They’re going to blame me, I better take a sledgehammer to a couple of blackberries. [Fox News, Kelly File, 9/6/16]
Fox’s Catherine Herridge: “Chaffetz Asked The U.S. Attorney Here In Washington To Investigate Whether Clinton And Her Team Obstructed Justice When They Deleted Emails.” Reporting on his calls for a new investigation, Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent repeated Chaffetz’s baseless insinuation that a conference call with Clinton staff led to the improper deletion of emails by the PRN employee after the preservation order of March 3. Herridge also repeated the claim that it was Clinton and her team, as opposed to the unnamed contractor, that “deleted emails”:
CATHERINE HERRIDGE: A March 3, 2016, a preservation order was issued for the Clinton emails. On March 31, the FBI found Clinton's legal team held a conference call with the IT firm managing the server. And in the same time frame, records were electronically shredded.
Separately, the Republican chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, asked the U.S. attorney here in Washington to investigate whether Clinton and her team obstructed justice when they deleted emails. Clinton told reporter today she is not concerned, Bret. [Fox News, Special Report, 9/6/16]
Fox’s Brian Kilmeade: “FBI Notes Reveal That Its I.T. Staffer Deleted Clinton’s Email Archives After House Benghazi Committee’s Order.” When introducing Chaffetz for an interview, Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade suggested the PRN contractor deleted Clinton’s emails despite knowledge of the congressional order to preserve them. Kilmeade also did not question Chaffetz when the Republican congressman claimed again that “when the subpoenas were in place … there is a work order at Platte River Networks and these documents are destroyed.” From the September 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): All right, Hillary Clinton may not be out of the woods yet, just yet when it comes to her emails. Republican lawmakers now pushing to reopen the investigation after the FBI notes revealed that its I.T. staffer deleted Clinton's email archives after the House Benghazi Committee’s order that Clinton keep all her emails. So what happens next, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz is leading the charge for a new investigation. He joins us now. Chairman, what bothers you most about this?
JASON CHAFFETZ: That the House had been asking for documents, they're federal records, they're not Hillary Clinton's emails, they're federal records. And more than two years after she left office suddenly when the subpoenas in place, preservation order is in place, you have this high level meeting with David Kendall, with Cheryl Mills, the top lieutenants there for Hillary Clinton. This is roughly March 25 of 2015. A couple days later, we don't know exactly what time but within days, certainly less than a week later, there is a work order at Platte River Networks and then these documents are destroyed using BleachBit nonetheless, a tool to erase everything, and these were federal records that were under subpoena. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/7/16]
FBI Report Does Not Reference Email Deletion “Work Order,” And Clinton Staff Instructions To Change Email Retention Policy Came Prior To Subpoena
No Evidence In FBI Report That Emails Were Deleted After Subpoena. According to the FBI report, the investigation discovered a “work ticket” in reference to a conference call between Clinton staff and PRN on March 31, 2015, which cannot be accessed due to “attorney-client privilege.” There is no evidence that the work ticket related to the PRN contractor’s decision to delete emails “sometime between March 25-31, 2015,” and the FBI report indicated that neither Clinton nor her staff were aware of the deletions. In fact, according to the FBI report, on March 9 Clinton staff informed PRN about the “preservation request from the Committee on Benghazi”:
[Clinton E-Mail Investigation Report, U.S. Department Of Justice, Federal Bureau Of Investigation, July 2016]
House Oversight Committee Letter Does Not Reference Email Deletion “Work Order”
Letter From House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz Does Not Match Fox News Claims. In a September 6, 2016, letter from Chaffetz to Washington, D.C.’s U.S. attorney on behalf of his committee, Chaffetz cited the FBI report and claimed the conference call between Clinton’s staff and PRN “raises questions” about Clinton’s involvement in the “destruction of evidence” and the “obstruction of justice.” The letter did not make the erroneous claims repeated on Fox News that according to the FBI report the PRN contractor had been ordered -- by “work order” or otherwise -- to delete the emails after the preservation orders were in place. From the September 6 House Oversight Committee email:
[House Committee On Oversight and Government Reform, 9/6/16]