The House Oversight Committee is reviewing a Reddit post that alleges an IT specialist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private server sought advice on how to alter the contents of “VERY VIP” emails, according to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
Meadows is the chairman of the panel’s Government Operations subcommittee.
“The Reddit post issue and its connection to Paul Combetta is currently being reviewed by OGR staff and evaluations are being made as to the authenticity of the post,” Meadows told The Hill.
Reddit users appear to have uncovered a two-year-old post from an account believed to belong to Combetta, an engineer with Platte River Networks. The Denver, Colo.-based firm managed Clinton’s private server.
The post, which has been deleted but can be read in images archived by Reddit users, coincides with the discovery of Clinton’s use of the server.
“I may be facing a very interesting situation where I need to strip out a VIP’s (VERY VIP) email address from a bunch of archived email… Basically, they don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out,” reads the post, by a user called “stonetear.”
“Does anyone have experience with something like this, and/or suggestions on how this might be accomplished?”
Combetta is currently one of the targets of a broader Oversight investigation on whether Clinton ordered the destruction of emails that had been subpoenaed by the Benghazi Select Committee.
“If it is determined that the request to change email addresses was made by someone so closely aligned with the Secretary’s IT operation as Mr. Combetta, then it will certainly prompt additional inquiry,” Meadows told The Hill. “The date of the Reddit post in relationship to the establishment of the Select Committee on Benghazi is also troubling.”
The Reddit message was sent on July 23, 2014, according to an archive of the page saved by other users. The day before, the Benghazi Committee had reached an agreement with the State Department on the production of related records, according the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of the server.
The identity of the “stonetear” user is not confirmed. Reddit users point to the fact that an account on the online marketplace Etsy for a Paul Combetta has the username “stonetear” and the inactive website combetta.com is registered to the email address email@example.com.
Combetta appeared under subpoena in a committee hearing last week on the alleged destruction of evidence, but both he and colleague Bill Thornton exercised their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
The committee has scheduled another hearing on the “preservation of State Department records” for Thursday.
Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has issued a criminal referral asking the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server.
This latest probe stems from revelations from the 58-page report issued by the FBI summarizing its investigation into Clinton’s use of the server.
According to the FBI’s report, an unnamed Platte River Networks technician deleted an archive of emails from the server in March 2015 — after the House Select Committee on Benghazi had issued a subpoena for records relating to the 2012 attack on the Libyan outpost.
According to the FBI’s notes, longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills instructed Platte River Networks to delete a set of archived emails in December 2014. Mills told investigators Clinton had decided she no longer needed access to emails older than 60 days.
But the technician apparently forgot the request and didn’t immediately comply. According to the FBI report, between March 25 and March 31 of 2015, the technician “believed he had an ‘oh shit’ moment and … deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from the [Platte River Networks] server.”
Reporting from The New York Times has since identified Combetta as that technician, citing an anonymous law enforcement official and others familiar with the FBI probe.
Clinton and Mills told the FBI that they had no knowledge of the technician’s deletion of the emails. The technician, according to the report, “was aware of the existence of the [Benghazi Committee] preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton’s email data on the [Platte River Networks] server.”
Chaffetz’s referral asks that the Justice Department investigate whether Clinton or her aides were involved in the decision to delete the archive when it was under subpoena and a request for preservation of records.
Democrats have slammed the investigation as a partisan attack designed to damage Clinton’s presidential run.