Democrats are being sticklers for State Department impeachment witnesses preserving their internet messages, rekindling memories of the Hillary Clinton “BleachBit” saga at the same agency.
Republicans have chortled at the other party’s insistence, given their defense of Mrs. Clinton’s mass email destruction in 2015-16.
As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton adopted the unique practice of storing her official State.gov emails, mixed with personal messages, on an unsecured home computer server outside the government network.
“I would have said, ‘You know what? I don’t want an official classified email system. I want to have my own private server,” said Democrat Bill Richardson, who defended her in 2015. “Because of WikiLeaks, because of hacking, because of leaks.”
In 2015, she instructed aides to have a tech specialist delete older emails. He used software called BleachBit. Later, as congressional investigators issued her a preservation order, the tech support employee wiped away more than 30,000 additional messages.
Mrs. Clinton ultimately delivered 30,490 emails to State, scores of which contained classified information. Former FBI Director James Comely called her email handling “extremely careless.”
Today, Democrats are moving to impeach President Trump, relying often on testimony from State Department diplomats who use the same State.gov address.
When Gordon Sondland testified on Oct. 17, Democratic investigative counsel Daniel Noble grilled him on whether he has adhered with the Federal Records Act on preserving documents.
“So you say you used your personal or you had a dual cell phone for personal and business. Are you familiar with the Federal Records Act and its requirements for record keeping?” Mr. Noble asked, according to a transcript released Nov. 5.
“Did that occur within 20 days days of the communication?” he pressed after Mr. Sondland said messages were transferred to State’s network.
The line of question irked Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, who recalled the political battle in 2015 to find Mrs. Clinton’s emails for the Benghazi probe.
“I’m looking for 30,000 emails, Adam. 30,000,” Mr. Meadows said. “You want to talk about 20 days. Come on.”
“Adam” is Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is leading the impeachment inquiry.
“It is 9 hours and now we’re getting into this kind of crap, and that’s what it is,” Mr. Meadows said.
Then, in a dig at Mrs. Clinton, the congressman asked, “Did you have a personal server, Ambassador Sondland?”
The hearings have produced an interesting tidbit on State tradecraft. Diplomats often rely on the popular WhatsApp to talk in Europe where the messaging software is popular.
WhatsApp is rigged so messages migrate to State’s cloud storage.
“We were told that we needed to and forgive me, you know, I don’t know all the technical terms but that we needed to kind of upload our texts to the cloud,” testified former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “And I got a special, I don’t know what the right word is, but it was somehow done for me.
“So, you know, my belief is based on, you know, the conversations when this first came out, that we needed to retain our texts, I mean, I think that that was being done for me and my texts are somewhere safe.”
Here is the Justice Department inspector general’s report language on what Mrs. Clinton did:
“In 2014, in response to a request from the State Department to Clinton for “copies of any Federal records in [her] possession, such as emails sent or received on a personal email account while serving as Secretary of State,” Clinton produced to the State Department 30,490 emails from her private server that her attorneys determined were work-related. Clinton and her attorneys did not produce to the State Department approximately 31,830 emails because, they stated, they were personal in nature, and these emails subsequently were deleted from the laptop computers that the attorneys used to review them.”Sign up for Daily Newsletters