Clinton told the FBI that she used the private server for convenience, not to evade public record laws. But the documents show that former secretary of state Colin Powell appeared to advise her early in her term that private email could give her more control over her communications in the face of public inquiries.
In January 2009, according to the FBI, Clinton contacted Powell, who also used a personal email account during his time in office, to ask about his use of a BlackBerry. According to the FBI, Powell “warned Clinton that if it became ‘public’ that Clinton had a BlackBerry, and she used it to ‘do business,’ her e-mails could become ‘official record[s] and subject to the law.’”
“Be very careful,” Powell advised Clinton, according to the FBI. “I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”
Clinton told investigators she understood Powell’s comments to mean any work-related communications would be government records, and they did not factor into her decision to use a personal email. She indicated that she believed her own records were being preserved when she emailed other State Department officials at their government addresses.
Powell said he could not recall the details of the years-old exchange, though he said he used his email system “openly for unclassified communication” and “saw no need for, say, an email to one of my kids or a friend becoming an official record.”
The FBI’s report traced the history of Clinton’s private server use, detailing ad hoc efforts to backup data and respond to requests for records. In one instance, after Clinton left office, someone created a personal Gmail account to move an archive of Clinton’s email on a laptop to a server run by Platte River Networks, a company Clinton had hired. The person then attempted to ship the laptop back to another person connected to Clinton.
According the FBI report, the laptop, which had not been wiped, got lost in transit. And the FBI would come to find on the Gmail account dozens of classified emails.
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.
Clinton told FBI agents that she did not know much about how the government classified information. For instance, she said she did not pay attention to the difference between levels of classification, like “top secret” and “secret,” indicating she took “all classified information seriously.” When shown an email she received in which a paragraph had been marked with a “C,” a standard way of indicating it included “confidential” information, Clinton at first speculated to agents that the marking was indicating that email contained bullet points in alphabetical order.
Clinton indicated she never sought nor received permission to use a private server and said she largely turned over the set-up of the system to aides.She said she could not remember a cable that was sent to all State Department employees under name in June 2011, advising her employees not use to private email for work. She said that all cables of a “certain policy nature” went out under her name.
Clinton told agents that she generally received classified material in personal briefings or on paper, which she read in specially prepared secure facilities, and that she didn’t remember ever receiving an email that she thought shouldn’t be sent through the unclassified system. The FBI’s report says Clinton took her BlackBerry into a State Diplomatic Security post where other State Department personnel were not allowed to carry mobile devices, though a Clinton aide said Clinton left the secure area before using it.
Much of Clinton’s interview, which is described in an 11-page summary, appears to have consisted of FBI agents showing Clinton specific email exchanges that they determined included classified content and asking her to comment.
Repeatedly, Clinton said she could not remember the specific exchange but had trusted at the time that her staff at the State Department knew how to handle classified material and would not email her material they should not. The exact nature of those classified emails are redacted in the version of the summary released by the FBI but it is clear they included deliberations on drone targets. Shown one July 2012 email she exchanged with President Obama at his own highly secure address, Clinton indicated that she recalled sending the note on an airplane during a trip to Russia.
Clinton also told the FBI that she played no role in sorting her work and personal emails after she left office other than to instruct her legal team to submit to the State Department all those emails that were “work-related or arguably work related.” Comey has indicated the FBI discovered thousands of work related emails that Clinton had not turned over but said the agency found no effort to purposely delete or conceal emails.FBI releases Hillary Clinton email investigation documents - The Washington Post