The Trump administration is ramping up its investigation into the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email.
As many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by State Department investigators — a list that includes senior officials who reported directly to Hillary Clinton as well as others in lower-level jobs whose emails were at some point relayed to her inbox, said current and former State Department officials.
Those contacted were notified that emails they sent to Clinton’s private email have been retroactively classified and now constitute potential security violations.
In virtually all of the cases, potentially sensitive information, now recategorized as “classified,” was sent to Clinton’s unsecure inbox.
State Department investigators began contacting the former officials about 18 months ago, after President Trump’s election, and then seemed to drop the effort before picking it up in August, officials said.
Senior State Department officials said that they are following standard protocol in an investigation that began during the latter days of the Obama administration and is nearing completion.
“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.”
Many are under scrutiny, including some of the Democratic Party’s top foreign policy experts.
Clinton’s use of a private email server during her term as secretary triggered multiple investigations by the State Department, the FBI and Congress. The bureau did not accuse her of breaking the law, but she blamed the FBI’s unusual public handling of the matter as a major factor in her loss in the 2016 election.
“I’d like to think that this is just routine, but something strange is going on,” said Jeffrey Feltman, a former assistant secretary for Near East Affairs. In early 2018 Feltman received a letter informing him that a half dozen of his messages included classified information. Then a few weeks ago he was found culpable for more than 50 emails that contained classified information.
“A couple of the emails cited by State as problems were sent after my May 2012 retirement, when I was already working for the United Nations,” he said.
The probe is being carried out by investigators from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), have been pressing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to complete the review of classified information sent to Clinton’s private emails and report back to Congress.
State Department officials said they were bound by law to adjudicate any violations.
Those being investigated began receiving letters in August, saying, “You have been identified as possibly bearing some culpability” in supposedly newly uncovered “security incidents,”
Communications from the server are now being “upclassified” or “reclassified,” according to several officials involved in the investigation, meaning that they have been retroactively assessed to contain material so sensitive that they should have been sent only on State Department classified systems.
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