See below for an update to this story.
Paul Combetta, the computer technician who wiped Hillary Clinton’s private email server clean with BleachBit, apparently queried Reddit two years ago about how to delete a “Very VIP’s” e-mail address and how to replace the real address with fake ones. Combetta, who works for Platte River Networks, the private Colorado firm that managed Clinton’s server, would go on to scrub Hillary Clinton’s emails despite an order from Congress to preserve them. He has been granted immunity by the Justice Department, which a “stunned” Trey Gowdy said was “tantamount to giving the triggerman immunity in a robbery case.”
Internet sleuths have discovered what the FBI somehow missed: Combetta’s username on Reddit was “Stonetear” and he was very curious about how to delete a VIP’s e-mail address about two years ago — around the time the House Benghazi Committee was requesting Clinton’s emails from the State Department. He told fellow Redditers that it involved the private email address of someone they would all recognize. His post indicates that the Clinton team was ordering an obstruction of justice effort to take place.
“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?”
“…The issue is that these emails involve the private email address of someone you’d recognize, and we’re trying to replace it with a placeholder address as to not expose it,” said Stonetear:
“Stonetear” eventually settled on using a product called “BleachBit” to wipe out Clinton’s private server and email archive. He has now deleted his posts from the last three years at Reddit.
According to recently released FBI documents, Mr. Combetta told the FBI last February that he did not recall deleting the emails. But he changed his story in May.
In the days after Mrs. Clinton’s staffers called Platte River Networks in March 2015, Mr. Combetta said realized that he had not followed a December 2014 order from Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers to have the emails deleted. Mr. Combetta then used a program called BleachBit to delete the messages, the bureau said.
Around the time of Combetta’s sudden recollection, Platte River officials joined a conference call with Hillary Clinton attorneys Cheryl Mills and David Kendall, according to the FBI report.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee last Tuesday released an email dated August 19, 2015, that was sent between Platte River Networks employees. The email expressed deep concern over the destruction of the records.
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan pulled up the email during the hearing and said it was from either Combetta or Thornton.
The email expressed a keen desire for documentation of Clinton’s deletion requests and a sense that maybe they had bitten off more than they could chew when they won the contract to manage Clinton’s server.
“Wondering how we can sneak an email in now after the fact asking them when they told us to cut the backups and have them confirm it for our records. Starting to think this whole thing is really covering up a lot of shaddy (sic) sh*t,” the worried employee wrote.
FBI Director James Comey on July 5 recommended no charges in Clinton’s email case because, he said, no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case because there’s no clear evidence of intent.
Update 8:12 p.m. ET: The House Oversight Committee is reportedly reviewing the Reddit post. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee told the Hill, “The Reddit post issue and its connection to Paul Combetta is currently being reviewed by OGR staff and evaluations are being made as to the authenticity of the post.”
The committee has scheduled another hearing on the “preservation of State Department records” for Thursday.
Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has issued a criminal referral asking the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server.