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PunditFact: When did Hillary Clinton wipe her email server clean?
Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin July 12, 2015
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu July 12, 2015
Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman July 12, 2015

Questions about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state aren’t going away.

One part of the story that remains unknown, CNN’s Brianna Keilar says, is when exactly Clinton wiped her email server clean.

The answer could be an important marker in the Clinton email story, as House Republicans continue to question Clinton’s reaction to the death of four U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Keilar, who interviewed Clinton on July 7, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that she was "surprised" Clinton "didn’t show a little more contrition" about her use of a private email account and seemed a bit irked by Clinton’s spin that she "never had a subpoena." (She did, though Keilar and Clinton interpreted the point differently.)

"What the campaign will say is I was asking her about facing a subpoena that she wiped her server. They’ll say that’s not true," Keilar said. "But the other thing is the campaign hasn't been clear about when she wiped her server of her work emails, so there's no way to even really completely fact-check what she's saying, because they don't want to get into all of the details of those things."

We were curious about Keilar’s claim that Clinton "hasn’t been clear" about when she wiped her server clean.

PunditFact rates that claim Mostly True.

The Clintons began using the private server in question when President Bill Clinton was in office, Hillary Clinton said at a press conference March 10, 2015. According to Clinton, it contained around 30,000 personal emails and 30,000 work-related emails from during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Clinton said she deleted the personal emails — "emails about planning Chelsea's wedding or my mother's funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations," she said — sometime in the fall of 2014 and sometime after the State Department asked on Oct. 28 for Clinton’s work-related correspondence.

Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails and communication relevant to her role as head diplomat to the State Department on Dec. 5. Sometime after that, the entire server was "wiped clean," said Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Benghazi committee, on March 27.

When exactly did that happen? Keilar has a point when she says it’s unclear.

The Clinton campaign told us the work-related emails were deleted off the server shortly after they were turned over to the State Department on Dec. 5. They referred us to a letter Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall wrote to Gowdy. The Benghazi committee subpoenaed Clinton’s emails on March 4, 2015, and Gowdy asked for the physical server about two weeks later on March 19.

According to Kendall’s letter, dated March 27, the emails relevant to Benghazi were in the State Department’s possession and the committee had no legal right to the server. What’s more, what Gowdy wanted no longer existed.

"During the fall of 2014, Secretary Clinton’s legal representative reviewed her [email protected] account for the time period from Jan. 21, 2009 ,through Feb. 1, 2013," Kendall wrote. "After the review was completed to identify and provide to the Department of State all of the secretary's work-related and potentially work-related emails, the secretary chose not to keep her non-record personal emails and asked that her account (which was no longer in active use) be set to retain only the most recent 60 days of email."

"No emails from [email protected] for the time period Jan. 21, 2009, through Feb. 1, 2013, reside on the server. Thus, there are no [email protected] emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate and legally authorized."

To recap, Clinton’s private server was wiped clean — technically, filtering out emails older than 60 days — sometime between Dec. 5, 2014, and March 27, 2015. No clearer timeline has been stated.

Why does this matter?

After receiving Kendall’s letter, Gowdy issued a statement accusing Clinton of "unilaterally" and "permanently" deleting all the emails when she wiped the server. The Clinton campaign and Kendall, meanwhile, contend that all the emails relevant to Benghazi and her time as secretary of state still exist and are in State Department’s possession.

Also Sunday, we heard a talking point that has been making the rounds among conservative circles about the economy.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said in an interview on ABC’s This Week that "we're destroying more businesses in the United States now than are being created for the first time in our history."

That’s Half True.

What’s accurate is that more business firms are closing than are opening. In fact, it has been that way since 2008.

But it’s wrong to say it’s the first time that has happened in U.S. history. The truth is available data goes back only to the 1970s, and economists say we simply don’t know what happened prior to that. Business failures may have exceeded startups at other points, for instance, such as during the Great Depression.

Claims like Fiorina’s are "somewhere between plausible and impossible to prove," said Robert Litman, a Brookings economics fellow who has studied the number of business openings and closings. Litman said it would be better "to say that for the first time since the government began tracking these things, fails have exceeded starts."

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PunditFact: When did Hillary Clinton wipe her email server clean?