Who is Paul Combetta? FBI dismissed repeated intel warnings about Clinton server

by WorldTribune Staff, August 19, 2019

The FBI was warned that nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails, including some which included classified information, were copied to a Gmail account but the bureau, specifically anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok, disregarded the information, a new Senate report says.

Charles McCullough, the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), and his investigator Frank Rucker discovered that all but four of Clinton’s 30,000 emails were secretly copied to the cryptically named email address, CarterHeavyIndustries@gmail.com by IT aide Paul Combetta, according to the Senate report.

“Combetta is the same IT aide who used BleachBit to permanently erase copies of Clinton’s emails after they were subpoenaed by the House, misled the FBI about it, and was given immunity from prosecution, all while asking for basic computing advice on Reddit,” The Daily Caller noted in an Aug. 16 report.

Rucker and attorney Janette McMillan had repeatedly warned FBI officials that China had hacked into Clinton’s private server, the Daily Caller reported in August 2018, citing a former intelligence officer with expertise in cybersecurity issues who was briefed on the matter.

The Senate report also noted that McCullough and Rucker had found that a company with a similar name to Combetta’s Gmail account, Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Machinery Co., was based in Shandong, China.

“Shandong is a province that houses multiple schools where Chinese hackers allegedly study and infiltrate Western systems,” the Daily Caller noted. “But the ICIG investigators didn’t believe that aspect of the probe was within their jurisdiction and that it was the FBI’s responsibility. Additionally, without having access to Clinton’s server, they were limited in what they could do.”

The FBI released a statement at the time saying they had “not found any evidence” of an intrusion of Clinton’s server.

The statement does not address a central aspect of the Daily Caller’s reporting, which was that the ICIG briefed top bureau officials on three separate occasions to warn the FBI of an “anomaly” they found 30,000 in-bound and outgoing emails. Former Director of the FBI James Comey himself conceded in July 2016 that while the bureau assessed the server could have been exploited, “given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”

“It is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account,” Comey concluded.

The Daily Caller, citing two independent sources, noted that the ICIG found such evidence and briefed the FBI on it three times.

The ICIG found that virtually all of Clinton’s emails were sent to a “foreign entity,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said at a July 12, 2018 House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The Daily Caller added that, although the new Senate report was billed as a “majority” report by GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein had more interviewers in the room than Johnson. McCullough has said that the California Democrat pressured him to resign. Feinstein also had an alleged Chinese spy on her payroll for decades, and when the FBI brought it to her attention, she asked him to retire.”

The Senate report “raises more questions about the honesty and integrity of those in the FBI that they gave a pass on this and during the House and Senate inquiries into this, nobody mentioned that he had set up another address,” Gohmert said. “It makes the FBI look either incompetent or dishonest, because it didn’t come out from the FBI until the ICIG was so forthcoming that the FBI had no choice.”

Rucker told Senate investigators that when he brought the findings to Strzok he seemed uninterested and did not ask any follow-up questions.

“The trouble is the version of the truth that’s come out now only raises more questions,” Gohmert told the Daily Caller.

“When Peter Strzok said I remember Rucker coming over but I don’t remember anything we talked about, that’s when I knew he was lying,” Gohmert continued. “Whether they knew about it before or not, there’s no way that kind of blockbuster info would not have made an impression on Strzok as head of intelligence. You’re disinterested because you don’t want to know or you don’t want anyone else to know.”

The Daily Caller noted that Combetta had worked for Platte River Networks, a technology company in Colorado that began managing Clinton’s email server when the then-Secretary of State decided to house it more professionally than the homemade server in her basement.

Staff for Sens. Johnson and Grassley interviewed Rucker and released a redacted and paraphrased version of the interview transcript on Aug. 14.

Rucker “said that the Carter Heavy Industries email address isn’t somebody Secretary Clinton intentionally communicated with, but it appears in the metadata of almost all of her emails,” the transcript said.

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“Mr. Rucker said that his first interaction [with the FBI on the case] was dropping off a packet of information which contained a single printed email that he told the FBI was ‘not a good sign.’ In this email, he said, Secretary Clinton replied to an email that she never received,” it continued.

“He said that he found this data point and reported it to the FBI. He said that he found the Carter Heavy Industries Gmail address, which he had not seen before and that it appeared to be hidden data,” the transcript said.

“Mr. Rucker said that Mr. Strzok seemed to be ‘aloof and dismissive.’ He said it was as if Mr. Strzok felt dismissive of the relationship between the FBI and ICIG and he was not very warm,” the transcript said.

“He said that Mr. Strzok didn’t ask many questions including any about SAP related issues,” it continued, referring to Special Access Programs, or super-classified contents. “He said that Mr. Strzok seemed ‘nonplused’ by the info, and that he didn’t ask any follow-up questions.”

Rucker also told investigators that an email on Clinton’s server from former congressman and convicted sex offender Anthony Weiner said that Weiner’s email had been hacked and configured to forward all his emails to someone else, further raising Rucker’s suspicions that something similar could be happening on Clinton’s server.

Combetta’s lawyer told the Department of Justice’s inspector general that the IT aide “made-up” the name Carter Heavy Industries, the Senate report said. He created it in 2012, before Clinton hired Platte River Networks. Combetta told Strzok that in 2014 Clinton aide Monica Hanley mailed him an old laptop containing Clinton’s emails from 2010.

After moving the emails to her new server, Combetta was supposed to wipe the laptop and then mail it back to Hanley, but there is no evidence that he did, according to the DOJ, suggesting that a laptop containing Clinton’s emails may be unaccounted for.

Combetta told the FBI that he forwarded all the emails to the Carter Heavy Industries address as an intermediary step in moving the files from the laptop to the server, according to the Senate report.

The Daily Caller noted that Combetta also “frequently posted to the website Reddit, asking how to perform basic computer tasks, most infamously posting that he needed to erase details for a ‘VERY VIP’ client.”

The Daily Caller continued: “In short, Clinton’s emails had been uploaded to Gmail and her server still appeared to fall short of even basic IT practices for a small business, even after she hired a professional company and moved it out of a basement. But neither the Clinton campaign nor the FBI acknowledged it, despite years of congressional investigations seeking every detail.”

Combetta refused to cooperate with the Department of Justice and with the authors of the Senate report about his use of the cryptic email address. He previously pleaded the Fifth before Congress in September 2016 about his deletion of emails.

“I think Combetta ought to be prosecuted,” Gohmert, a former judge, said, adding that typical immunity deals can be canceled if the person has lied at any point. “And just because there’s incompetence, doesn’t mean there’s not also conspiracy there.”


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