In a letter released Wednesday, Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyer once again asserted that the computer server that had housed her e-mail from her time as secretary of state “no longer contains data from Secretary Clinton’s” private e-mail account.
Attorney David Kendall made the comment in a letter to the the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that reiterated steps Clinton’s team took to preserve official e-mail communications during her time in that position, a period when mixed her private and official e-mails in a single account.
The question of what exactly is on that server, which was used to store e-mails during the period she was secretary of state, has become central to the controversy. The letter to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), adds fresh details to remarks already made by Clinton and Kendall.
During an exchange with reporters Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said repeatedly that she did not know if her e-mail server — once stored in the Clinton family home in Chappaqua, N.Y., most recently voluntarily turned over to the FBI — had been “wiped” clean of data, with information deliberately and permanently removed.
Clinton responded dismissively to a reporter’s question about potential wiping. “What, like with a cloth or something?” she said, adding: “I don’t know how it works at all.”
Clinton had directed that the old server be turned over after the FBI requested it as part of an inquiry into whether data that had been stored on the server was secure. Officials have said the probe is preliminary and that Clinton is not a target.
A technology services company hired by the Clintons in 2013 to manage their e-mail turned that server over to the FBI last week from a warehouse where it had been stored since it was removed in June of that year from the Clinton home. Last week, a lawyer for the company, Platte River Networks, said the server was “blank,” noting that information once contained on it had been migrated to other servers when Platte River took over management of the Clintons’ e-mail system. The lawyer did not address whether the blank server had been “wiped” of data. FBI technology experts are expected to try and recover data on the server.
This week, a spokesman for the company said he could not be certain the server was in fact blank nor whether it had been “wiped.”
Questions about the security of the private e-mail system, emerged last month after the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General has said he located two e-mails containing top secret material in a sample of 40 of Clinton’s e-mails he reviewed.
The State Department has said Clinton herself did not write those e-mails but that there are potentially hundreds of other messages that also included classified material. Clinton has said repeatedly that she did not send or receive messages marked as classified, though some may have been later deemed to be classified. Kendall addressed that in his Aug. 12 letter to Johnson. “Not a single e-mail was marked as classified,” he asserted in the letter, which acknowledged that some e-mails have since been re-classified.
“Recently, the Department of State has retroactively classified certain information in the emails we provided to the Department” in 2014, he wrote. “When this information was upgraded to classified…we consulted with the State Department and took appropriate measures to ensure the security of the newly classified information.” Kendall said in the letter that both he and his law partner, Katherine M. Turner, “hold Top Secret security clearances issued by the Department of State.”
Kendall has voluntarily turned over thumb drives on which he had retained copies of official emails. The letter and Hillary Clinton’s comments this week have stressed their cooperation since the FBI requested the thumb drives and server.
“In order to be as cooperative as possible, we have turned over the server,” Clinton told reporters Tuesday. “They can do whatever they want to with the server to figure out what’s there and what’s not there. That’s for the people investigating it to try to figure out.”
Clinton has said she turned over 30,000 work-related e-mails from her private account to the State Department in December. She said she chose not to keep 31,000 other e-mails from the account that were sent and received during those years because they dealt only with personal matters.
“Look, my personal e-mails are my personal business. Right?” she told reporters, when asked if the e-mails were wiped from the server. “So we went through a painstaking process and through 55,000 pages we thought could be worth relating. Under the law, that decision is made by the official. I was the official. I made those decisions.”
Clinton has been struggling to get beyond the e-mail controversy, and has acknowledged she now regrets her decision to use a private email account for her official business while secretary of state.
“In retrospect, what was meant to be convenient has turned out to be anything but convenient,” she said Tuesday.