New Hillary e-mail scandal mystery: DoJ granted immunity to tech who wiped server; Update: "Fishy," says Denver Post

Don’t grants of immunity usually signal a serious intent to prosecute if crimes are uncovered? If so, then the Department of Justice appears to have wasted its time with both Bryan Pagliano and now Paul Combetta, the man who wiped the e-mail files off of Hillary Clinton’s secret server. The New York Times reveals this arrangement for the first time — and how it might keep Congress from delving further into the DoJ’s curious lack of action:

A computer specialist who deleted Hillary Clinton’s emails despite orders from Congress to preserve them was given immunity by the Justice Department during its investigation into her personal email account, according to a law enforcement official and others briefed on the investigation.

Republicans have called for the department to investigate the deletions, but the immunity deal with the specialist, Paul Combetta, makes it unlikely that the request will go far. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the top Republican on the House oversight committee, asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to investigate whether Mrs. Clinton, her lawyers or the specialist obstructed justice when the emails were deleted in March 2015.

In February, Combetta told the FBI that he had no recollection of deleting the files. By May, with an immunity grant in hand, Combetta changed his tune. Not only did he recall deleting the files, Combetta knew that Congress had issued a preservation order to prevent just that outcome:

In Mr. Combetta’s first interview with the F.B.I. in February, he said he did not recall seeing the preservation order from the Benghazi committee, which Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, Cheryl D. Mills, had sent to Platte River. But in his May interview, he said that at the time he made the deletions “he was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data” on the Platte River server.

The FBI referenced Combetta’s supposed “oh shit” moment in this portion of the 302 report, via ZeroHedge:


Last week when Tyler posted this portion at ZeroHedge, he commented that “Something tells us this “Undisclosed PRN Staff Member” is not going to make out as well as Hillary when all the dust settles.” Well, now we know that he’ll make out just fine — legally, anyway. Combetta has immunity from prosecution, and the Department of Justice and FBI have made it very clear they’re not interested in prosecuting anyone. That will be a relief to Combetta, because Team Hillary wasted no time making “Undisclosed PRN Staff Member” the patsy, and the timing should have made Combetta indictable for obstruction of justice.

It’s still not clear, though, why this would interfere with Chaffetz’ probe in at least a technical sense. He can subpoena Combetta, and now Combetta can’t claim the Fifth to avoid testifying. Practically speaking, Combetta would have lots of incentive to stick to his story that he acted entirely on his own, of course, but this is hardly the only contradiction in the 302s that require explanation for the FBI/DoJ’s lack of action. There are serial falsehoods within them from Hillary herself and Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and others on knowledge of the secret e-mail servers and the disappearance of over a dozen devices used to access them.

Chaffetz surely won’t get discouraged by this. He might even produce a few more “oh shit” moments for people who truly deserve to experience them.

Update: The Denver Post editorial board calls the Combetta story “fishy,” and wonders how the FBI — or anyone else — bought it (via Charlie Spiering):

The latest controversy involving Hillary Clinton’s decision to run her State Department e-mail through private servers contains a hard-to-believe shocker that ought to give reasonable people pause.

Her supporters will join her campaign in decrying a “conspiracy” to spoil her presidential aspirations. But really, how can an objective observer not find problems with this latest story, which suggests a dark conspiracy indeed: An errant engineer decides on his own volition to delete e-mails from her private account after a congressional committee orders them preserved? …

Given that FBI director James Comey’s decision to clear Clinton of wrongdoing in the e-mail scandal came with his unusual denunciation of her actions as “extremely careless,” the information from the bureau’s summary of its investigation doesn’t sit well. It’s reasonable to ask why the FBI didn’t look deeper. It’s reasonable to ask why the engineer would act if, as the logic of the cover story must argue, the e-mails were simply personal notes about yoga appointments and being a grandmother.