Isn’t it interesting that Cheryl Mills and her attorney Beth Wilkinson set the ground rules of what questions could be posed to them during the interrogatories? It seems too that the plan set forth was to declare attorney/client privilege on certain questions. So there is the game…legal warfare.
Clinton aide leaves interview briefly when the FBI broaches an off-limits topic
WaPo: Near the beginning of a recent interview, an FBI investigator broached a topic with longtime Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills that her lawyer and the Justice Department had agreed would be off limits, according to several people familiar with the matter.
Mills and her lawyer left the room — though both returned a short time later — and prosecutors were somewhat taken aback that their FBI colleague had ventured beyond what was anticipated, the people said.
Investigators consider Mills — who served as chief of staff while Clinton was secretary of state — to be a cooperative witness. But the episode demonstrates some of the tension surrounding the criminal probe into possible mishandling of classified information involving the leading Democratic presidential candidate. In the coming weeks, prosecutors and FBI agents hope to be able to interview Clinton herself as they work to bring the case to a close.
The incident was described to The Washington Post by several people, including U.S. law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and those involved could face professional consequences for discussing it publicly.
It is not completely uncommon for FBI agents and prosecutors to diverge on interview tactics and approach, and the people familiar with the matter said Mills answered investigators’ questions. Mills and her lawyer, Beth Wilkinson, also asked for breaks more than once to confer, the people said.
The questions that were considered off limits had to do with the procedure used to produce emails to the State Department so they could possibly be released publicly, the people said. Mills, an attorney herself, was not supposed to be asked questions about that — and ultimately never was in the recent interview — because it was considered confidential as an example of attorney-client privilege, the people said.
So far, investigators have found scant evidence tying Clinton to criminal wrongdoing, though they are still probing the case aggressively. Charges have not been ruled out. In recent weeks, they have been interviewing Mills and other aides. One former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Bryan Pagliano, was granted immunity so he would cooperate as part of the probe.
There is no indication a grand jury has been convened in the case.
In response to this story, Wilkinson said, “Ms. Mills has cooperated with the government.” The Clinton campaign also did not provide a response, but spokesman Brian Fallon has said repeatedly that Clinton is willing to answer investigators questions, and he added in a recent statement that “we hope and expect that anyone else who is asked would do the same.”
Clinton herself said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” Sunday that she has “made it clear I’m more than ready to talk to anybody, anytime” and that she looked forward to the inquiry being “wrapped up.”
In an interview with The Washington Post last year, Mills agreed of Clinton’s email “if you could do it again, you’d just do it again differently,” but Mills said she did not recall the topic “being a major area of conversation or engagement.”
“I wish there had been a lot more thought and deliberation around it, but I can’t tell you that I can offer you that insight that there was,” she said. “I think it was just a continuation of a process that she had been engaged in, in terms of using her own account, and it was consistent with what the Department had seen in the past.”
Mills said in the interview that she did not recall having conversations about security vulnerabilities. She would not say then whether she had spoken to the FBI but offered the general assurance that “we’ve obviously sought to be, to cooperate with the FBI and to provide them whatever information they’ve needed to be able to conduct the inquiry that they’re doing.”
Her attorney, Wilkinson, is a seasoned lawyer who handled many high-profile cases when she worked at the Justice Department as an assistant U.S. Attorney. She received the department’s highest award for the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers.
Spokesmen for the FBI, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment.
**** More on Cheryl Mills from Politico:
Here are some words often associated with Cheryl Mills: Clintons, gatekeeper, loyal, Benghazi.
Here are words you most likely haven’t heard as frequently: military brat, mother of twins, unmarried in solidarity with the gay community, point person at the State Department on rebuilding Haiti.
Her middle name? No one knows what the “D” in Cheryl D. Mills stands for. Her partner, David, is the son of former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.).
Having worked for the Clintons in some capacity for more than two decades, including her recent stint as chief of staff to the former secretary of state, Mills is a member of the family’s small inner circle. She has remained a key part of Hillary Clinton’s transition team and is likely to factor strongly in a presidential campaign, should there be one, in 2016.
Her dedication and reputation for providing unvarnished advice have earned praise from Obama administration top brass who worked with her.
“I have known Cheryl for nearly two decades. There is no one who cares more about the people she works with and who is more dedicated to public service,” said Treasury Secretary and former Obama White House chief of staff Jack Lew.
Bill Burns, deputy secretary of state, was effusive about the role she played at Foggy Bottom during the Clinton era.
“Cheryl was one of the smartest, most dedicated, and most decent colleagues I’ve had in over 30 years in government service,” Burns said in a statement to POLITICO. “She was just as effective and caring an advocate for the people she served with — the men and women of the Department of State — as she was for the foreign policy goals we pursued. That’s a really admirable combination.”
Mills, 48, spent her childhood living on bases throughout Europe because of her father’s career in the Army. She developed an appreciation for government service work.
The Stanford Law School graduate first came into the Clinton orbit as part of Bill Clinton’s transition team after his 1992 campaign. Seven years later, she was a deputy White House counsel during the House impeachment trial against Clinton.
Mills’s pushback against the House managers’ case gained her trust within Clintonworld — particularly Hillary Clinton, who was impressed with her loyalty. It was around this time, according to a 1999 profile in The Washington Post, that Mills befriended Domenici, while both were involved in a mentoring and tutoring project called D.C. Works, which helped underprivileged kids.
Hillary Clinton made Mills general counsel of her 2008 presidential campaign and then her chief of staff at State.
In between various roles for the Clintons, she has worked at Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Media and at New York University as a senior vice president.
At State, she had a major role in expanding benefits for the agency’s LGBT personnel, officials said, and was actively involved in helping Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. And she ran the agency’s policy on Haiti, work that current Secretary of State John Kerry has asked Mills to continue to play a part in.
Mills, who has twin 8-year-olds (a boy and a girl), was known for working grueling hours — from a 3:50 a.m. wake-up until her departure from Foggy Bottom at 6:15 p.m., then back at work at 8:30 p.m. after the kids were in bed.
In a thank-you note from Barack Obama to Mills, which Lew read aloud before a gathering of State Department officials at the end of Clinton’s tenure, the president wrote: “Hillary and I have enjoyed watching you and Denis [McDonough] grow from a team of rivals to an unrivaled team.”