Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may have been cleared from official prosecution in what many dubbed the “Clinton email scandal.” But if the army of redditors behind the latest revelations concerning one of Clinton’s computer specialists have a say, the investigation into the former secretary of state’s mishandling of confidential material may have just begun.
Paul Combetta, the computer specialist who “deleted [Clinton]’s emails despite orders from Congress to preserve them” — and who has been granted immunity — is now at the center of another investigation being carried out by the House Oversight Committee, The Hill reports. The IT specialist is being accused of asking Reddit users how to “alter the contents of ‘VERY VIP’ emails” two years ago.
The investigation is looking into claims made by an army of Reddit users. The “collaborative investigation” unearthed archived Reddit posts uploaded by the user “stonetear,” the man redditors believe to be Combetta.
The post in question shows stonetear requesting advice on how to “remove a ‘VERY VIP’ individual’s email address from archived content.” U.S. News reports the “requests match neatly with publicly known dates related to Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.”
Since then, stonetear’s posts have been deleted. Nevertheless, individuals using Reddit were able to archive these posts in time.
While the evidence connecting Combetta to the stonetear account is “circumstantial,” the “inactive website combetta.com is registered to the email address [email protected]. … An account for a person named Paul Combetta on the web bazaar Etsy also has the username stonetear.”
To those paying attention, however, the most damning “evidence” is the date the posts were uploaded.
“Hello all- 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. 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.
“I am not sure if something like this is possible with PowerShell, or exporting all of the emails to MSG and doing find/replaces with a batch processing program of some sort.
“Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”
In December of that same year, Clinton’s longtime aide and attorney Cheryl Mills requested that “the email retention policy be shortened to 60 days.”
On December 10, 2014, stonetear was on Reddit again, posting the following:
“Hello- I have a client who wants to push out a 60 day email retention policy for certain users. However, they also want these users to have a ‘Save Folder’ in their Exchange folder list where the users can drop items that they want to hang onto longer than the 60 day window.
All email in any other folder in the mailbox should purge anything older than 60 days (should not apply to calendar or contact items of course). How would I go about this? Some combination of retention and managed folder policy?”
According to the FBI’s records, Mills “instructed [redacted] to modify the email retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com e-mail account.” While the request was placed in late 2014, the FBI added that “according to [redacted] he did not make these changes to Clinton’s clintonemail.com account until March 2015.”
The person in charge of making these changes allegedly failed to make the retention change promptly when asked, and sometime “between March 25-31, 2015, deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from the [Platte River Networks] server and used BleachBit to deleted [sic] the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s emails.” This individual was identified as Combetta.
Now, as the story gains traction online, Congress vows to look into the matter.
According to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), lawmakers are evaluating the posts, attempting to verify their authenticity.
“If it is determined that the request to change email addresses was made by someone so closely aligned with the Secretary’s IT operation as Mr. Combetta, then it will certainly prompt additional inquiry,” Meadows said.
“The date of the Reddit post in relationship to the establishment of the Select Committee on Benghazi is also troubling” the Republican added.
On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee will hold another hearing to discuss the “preservation of State Department records.” In addition, the committee’s chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), has “issued a criminal referral asking the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server,” which is related to the publication of the 58-page report detailing the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s private server use.