Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) ripped the Justice Department’s "stunning" reported decision to grant immunity to the "triggerman" who deleted Hillary Clinton’s emails during a Fox News appearance on Friday.
"This is Prosecutor 101. You don’t give immunity to the person who actually robbed the bank," Gowdy said. "You may want to give it to the getaway driver. You may want to give it to the person who helped them count the money afterwards, but you don’t give immunity to the person who walked in and robbed the bank. That ain’t that complicated, but that’s apparently what the FBI did."
Computer specialist Paul Combetta received immunity from the Justice Department during its investigation into Clinton’s private email server, the New York Times reported Thursday. Combetta, an employee of Platte River Networks, used a program called BleachBit to permanently delete messages from Clinton’s server, just weeks after her server use came to light in March 2015.
Gowdy, the Benghazi Select Committee chairman and a career prosecutor, wanted to know what sort of immunity Combetta received.
"If the FBI and the Department of Justice gave this witness transactional immunity, it is tantamount to giving the triggerman immunity in a robbery case," Gowdy said. "It looks like they gave immunity to the very person you would most want to prosecute, which is the person who destroyed official public records after there was a subpoena and after there was a preservation order."
Combetta initially told investigators he did not remember deleting any messages, but then said he remembered he had not followed earlier instructions from Clinton’s attorneys to do so and did not mean to violate a subpoena. The Washington Post summed up the timeline:
On March 2, 2015, the New York Times revealed that Clinton used a personal email account as secretary of state, and the following day, the Benghazi committee requested documents related to it be preserved. On March 25, Platte River, which then managed Clinton’s private server, had a conference call with staffers of former president Bill Clinton, according to the summary. (A private server in the Clintons’ home was initially set up to be used by the former president and his staff.)
The Platte River employee told FBI agents that sometime in the week that followed, he realized he had not made the changes Mills requested months earlier–though he gave varying stories as to what happened next. The employee first said he did not recall making deletions based upon his realization, but in a later interview said he had an "Oh, s—" moment and deleted a Hillary Clinton email archive using a program called BleachBit, which is designed to prevent recovery.
The "devil is in the chronology," Gowdy said, adding that Combetta’s story did not hold up to scrutiny.
"That defies logic why some techie in Colorado would, despite a subpoena, despite a preservation order, but after a conference call with David Kendall and Cheryl Mills, decide on his own that he is going to destroy public records, and then you grant this person immunity," he said. "We need to ask the FBI what kind of immunity did you give, and why did you give it to the triggerman? Why did you give it to the person who actually destroyed government documents?"
Gowdy went on to criticize FBI Director James Comey’s decision to not recommend charges against Clinton, in spite of saying she was "extremely careless" with classified information, saying that her intent was clear from the evidence.
"Part of the way you prove criminal intent is the destruction of evidence, the consciousness of guilt, the multiple false explanations for why you did something, which are legion in this case from Secretary Clinton and others," he said.