In 2014, someone who appears to be Hillary Clinton's former private computer specialist asked Reddit for some help hiding a "VERY VIP" email address from appearing when that person emailed other people.
"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 that I have," a user named Stonetear wrote on a Reddit thread, which was deleted (but is still archived and screenshotted) on Monday, after Redditors spotted it. "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."
As is turns out, that Reddit user was probably Paul Combetta, Clinton's computer specialist, who recently was granted immunity by the Justice Department in its investigation into the Clinton private email server controversy. Neither Combetta nor representatives for Clinton responded to requests for comment, so while it's impossible to know if it's definitely him, a number of breadcrumbs point in Combetta's direction.
The nickname Stonetear appears in several places online. A website publicizing a help file for the video game Betrayal at Krondor states that Paul Combetta's email is stonetear@gmail[.]com; in a 2011 forum post, user Stonetear signs with the name of "Paul"; and in a 2002 Slashdot post, Stonetear says he's "contracted to a state government."
The date of the Reddit post about obscuring an email address, July 24, 2014, predates the public discovery of Clinton's private email servers, which was first reported by The New York Times in March of 2015.
Stonetear's Reddit thread mysteriously disappeared on Monday, after it was found and picked up by other subreddits, including the controversial pro-Donald Trump "r/the_donald," and r/conspiracy, whose users found the thread and apparent links between the pseudonymous poster and Combetta. It's possible Stonetear isn't Combetta, but if it is not, why bother deleting the account after it gets some public attention?
In the thread, the author doesn't seem to hint at a plan to delete incriminating emails—the crux of the whole Clinton private email server endless controversy—but rather asks how to hide his customer's email address.
The devil might be in the details, but until Combetta or the Clinton's camp come out clarifying the situation, we won't have certainty about what happened here. An email to Stonetear's alleged Gmail address was not returned. The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated to include reference to Stonetear's Etsy profile.
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