Clinton Spokesman Won’t Say if FBI Ordered Her to Hand Over Email Server

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Did Hillary Clinton choose to turn over her private server or did the FBI ask her for it? Contrary to the suggestion of some early reports, it’s not clear what prompted Hillary’s sudden change of heart.

When word broke Tuesday evening that Hillary Clinton was turning over the private email server she used as Secretary of State to the Department of Justice, the headlines all emphasized her proactive stance. The Associated Press published a stub under the headline, “Clinton campaign says she directs her team to give personal email server to Justice Department.” A little while later ABC News published a full story with a very similar headline, “Hillary Clinton Directs Team to Turn Over Private Email Server to Justice Department.”

Both headlines and others like them appear to be based on the full statement released to the media by Hillary’s spokesman Nick Merrill which read in part, “[Hillary] directed her team to give her email server that was used during her tenure as Secretary to the Department of Justice, as well as a thumb drive containing copes of her emails…” But nothing in the statement makes clear whether the FBI played a role in prompting her decision to hand over the server.

Later Tuesday night, the Washington Post pointed out that spokesman Merrill “declined to say whether the FBI ordered that [Hillary] turn over the devices and when her attorney, David Kendall, had done so.” In other words, no one knows for certain whether Hillary made this move of her own volition or whether the FBI asked that she turn over the server.

As for the decision to hand over the thumb drive in the possession of Hillary’s attorney David Kendall, that decision was made by the FBI.  The AP reported, “Kendall gave the thumb drives, containing copies of roughly 30,000 emails, to the FBI after the agency determined he could not remain in possession of the classified information contained in some of the emails, according to a U.S. official briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.” So at least part of this hand over was prompted by a decision made by the FBI, not by Hillary.

Beyond that we don’t know for certain. However, it seems sensible that the FBI would make the determination to collect Hillary’s server at the same time they decided to collect the thumb drive held by Kendall. Why bother collect one copy of the material if you’re going to leave other copies out there? Add to that spokesman Merrill’s refusal to say whether the FBI prompted Hillary’s change of heart and you have reason to suspect this might not have been her idea at all. But until Hillary’s camp or the DOJ offers more details, we don’t know for certain whose idea this was.