Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s former Chief of Staff at the State Department, has refused to answer questions about a misleading FOIA response the department sent out in 2013.
A report published by the State Department’s IG last month noted the department’s terrible record of responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Of the 240 FOIA requests related to Secretary Clinton, 177 are still outstanding.
The IG’s report also noted one instance where an FOIA request came in seeking information on Hillary Clinton’s email accounts. The request was forwarded to Mills in late 2012. As Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Mills was fully aware of her boss’s email setup but apparently chose not to inform her subordinates about the private server. Six months later, a response went out stating, “no records responsive to your request were located.”
When the Inspector General attempted to ask Mills about this apparent oversight on her part, she refused. In a letter sent by Sen. Chuck Grassley, chariman of the Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over FOIA, to Secretary of State John Kerry, Grassley writes, “According to the briefing provided by State IG, when State IG attorneys investigating this matter approached Ms. Mills, she, through her attorney, refused to speak with them.”
In addition, Josh Dorosin, the State Department lawyer who sent out the inaccurate response in 2013, did speak with IG investigators but told them he had no recollection of the matter.
In order to clarify the record, Grassley is seeking all email correspondence between Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton, Patrick Kennedy, Dorosin, and two other department staffers who handled the request. The letter includes a deadline for response of February 10th.
The issue could be significant because it suggests a possible motive for Clinton’s use of a private server. Clinton has claimed she set up the server merely for convenience, as a way to keep her work and private messages on one account. However, the arrangement also had the side effect of keeping her email out of the reach of FOIA requests like the one the department received in 2012.
Mills’s apparent failure to inform others in the State Department of the arrangement suggests it was being kept secret beyond her top aides. An email released last September suggests that even IT staff at the State Department was unaware of the arrangement. Clinton’s private IT expert, Bryan Pagliano, announced he was prepared to plead the 5th rather than explain his involvement in the setup.
Clinton’s emails are now being released by the State Department at her request; however, the department only has the emails Clinton chose to turn over to them in 2014. More than half of the emails she kept on her private server were deemed private by Clinton’s aides, including Cheryl Mills, and then deleted.
The server itself was seized by the FBI last year after “Top Secret” information was discovered in some of her emails. The FBI is investigating possible criminal activity related to the mishandling of classified material.
Last week, the State Department announced it could not release 22 emails, even in redacted form, because the information they contained was too sensitive.