The New York Times reported that the US Department of Justice granted immunity to a Platte River Networks employee in his role for deleting Hillary Clinton’s emails last year.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement official and others briefed on the investigation, The Times named Paul Combetta as the Platte River computer scientist who used BleachBit software to delete the messages and later told the FBI that he realized he shouldn’t have.
On Friday, Justice Department and Platte River officials declined to comment.
Platte River, the Denver company contracted to host the Clinton family’s email server four months after Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state, said it cooperated fully with the FBI and other government agencies. during the investigation. “The FBI found no misconduct or security breaches,” Platte’s attorney, Kenneth Eichner, told the Denver Post in August.
Last Friday, the FBI released a trove of documents from its investigating Clinton’s use of classified information on the personal server. This publicly revealed that a an anonymous Platte River employee used BleachBit to delete emails in March 2015, when questioned by the FBI in May, “he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and that it meant he should not interfere with Clinton’s email data on the PRN server.”
The FBI decided in July not to press charges against Clinton. FBI Director James B. Comey said the investigation revealed potential violations and chastised Clinton for being “extremely careless” with sensitive information. But, Comey said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Republicans criticized Comey’s decision and called on the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton lied last year when she testified before the Benghazi House committee. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah also asked the Justice Department to look into whether any emails were illegally deleted from Clinton’s private server.
Congressional committees investigating Clinton’s emails subpoenaed Platte River employees last month for further questioning. Combetta and Bill Thornton, another Platte employee, were ordered to appear before a congressional committee on Tuesday to examine allegations that Clinton or his aides ordered the destruction of emails or other documents for the hide from investigators.
On Friday, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee lambasted the panel’s Republican chairman, accusing him of abusing his authority by unfairly targeting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to damage his presidential bid. .
Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland accused Chaffetz, the watchdog chairman, of using committee resources and taxpayer dollars “to engage in an astonishing flurry of political attacks” on Clinton.
Cummings said he was furious that Chaffetz and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress, calling the accusation “ridiculous” and part of a Republican pattern involving Clinton: “accuse, investigate, fail, repeat.”
A spokeswoman for Chaffetz declined to comment on Friday.
The Times article went on to say that with Combetta winning immunity, the Republican demand for an investigation into the deletions is unlikely to go far.
Republicans on the panel are planning back-to-back hearings early next week as they focus on Clinton two months before the election.
Associated Press reporter Matthew Daly and Denver Post writer Tamara Chuang contributed to this report.