Email shows Mills was told of key Clinton FOIA request – Politico (blog)
A newly released email message shows that Hillary Clinton’s State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills was alerted within days in December 2012 when a liberal watchdog group requested records describing all the email accounts used by Clinton.
Six months later, state sent a letter to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, saying that no records could be found. A State Department inspector general report issued in January described the episode as part of a pattern of “inaccurate and incomplete responses” to FOIA requests.
The incident is noteworthy because had the agency’s response been more thorough, Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server as secretary of state could have been exposed years before it became public in March 2015.
The January State IG report found evidence that Mills was advised of the CREW FOIA request “and subsequently tasked staff to follow up.” However, the newly disclosed emails — obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch through an FOIA lawsuit — show the details of what Mills was told and just who was supposed to be involved in following up on the request. The IG shared many of those details with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, but they were not contained in the report.
An email chain shows that the CREW inquiry landed on a regular list of “significant” FOIA requests received by the State Department. A State spokesman, Brock Johnson, clipped out the portion about the Dec. 6, 2012 CREW request on Clinton’s email use and forwarded it to Mills.
“FYI on the attached FOIA request from: ….Anne Weismann of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington,” Johnson wrote in a Dec. 11 message to Mills.
“Thanks,” Mills wrote back about an hour-and-a-half later.
Another document released to Judicial Watch shows that about a month later, state officials organized a conference call to talk about CREW’s request. Those to be included were two senior officials involved with State’s FOIA operations, Sheryl Walter and Karen Finnegan, as well as a senior adviser and White House liaison for State, Heather Samuelson. It is unclear whether the call ever took place.
After leaving the State Department, Samuelson went on to screen the contents of the email messages Clinton kept on a private server during her tenure as secretary of state. Samuelson was tasked with separating personal messages from work-related ones and eventually testified before a closed-door session of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Asked about the CREW FOIA request during a deposition in May, Mills said she had no “specific recollection” of the issue before it came to the fore again in recent months.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said Tuesday that the newly released emails show Mills was part of a cover-up.
“This is evidence that Cheryl Mills covered up Hillary Clinton’s email system. She was aware of the FOIA request about Clinton’s email accounts and allowed the response to go out that was a plain lie. And you can bet if Cheryl Mills knew about this inquiry, then Hillary Clinton did, too,” Fitton said. “This is all the more reason for Mrs. Clinton to finally testify under oath about the key details of her email practices.”
Spokespeople for the Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for comment. A message left with a lawyer for Mills and Samuelson was not immediately returned.
While the emails about the CREW request confirm Mills’ awareness of the issue at the outset, the messages do not show that Mills was involved in issuing the “no-records” response State’s IG found to be inaccurate. Mills left State shortly after Clinton stepped down on Feb. 1, 2013, three months before State wrote to CREW to say no records could be found.
The State IG report found that none of the officials Mills tasked with addressing the issue appeared to have reviewed the results of the search done in State’s files, and there was “no evidence” that those staffers who did the search and responded to CREW knew about Clinton’s private email setup.