NEW YORK – Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff during her four years as secretary of state, demonstrated a repeated inability to recall key information about her former boss’s private, unsecured email server in a deposition with Judicial Watch, according to a 270-page transcript released Tuesday.
In testimony Friday that lasted seven hours, three attorneys representing Mills and four from the Justice Department interrupted Judicial Watch attorneys approximately 250 times, shouting “objection” to argue why Mills should not answer the question posed.
When Mills finally did answer, she responded “I don’t recall” 40 times and “I don’t know” to another 182 questions. Her testimony was characterized by pleading she was too busy, too stressed or not sufficiently expert to have appreciated the legal implications of Hillary Clinton’s decision to use two BlackBerry phones to conduct her official State Department correspondence via a personal server in her Chappaqua, New York, residence.
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Nevertheless, Mills confirmed that President Bill Clinton first established ClintonEmail.com on the private email server to communicate with his office staff, evidently while he was still president.
Rather than establish a separate private email server for Hillary Clinton after she became secretary of state, the Clintons decided simply to use ClintonEmail.com.
The testimony is part of a lawsuit by Judicial Watch related to Clinton’s use of a private server. Mills’ deposition is among seven of former Clinton top aides and State Department officials that the Washington watchdog has scheduled over the next four weeks
Consider the following exchange in which Judicial Watch attorneys asked Mills if she had any discussions with Secretary Clinton prior to Clinton leaving the State Department about leaving the emails stored on her ClintonEmail.com account with the State Department so they would be available to her successor, John Kerry.
Mills: I don’t recall having those discussions. And, you know, I can only speak to what I can recall.
Judicial Watch Attorney: Okay.
Mills: And I don’t recall having those discussions.
Asked if she communicated with Clinton by email about the Benghazi attacks, Mills responded:
Mills: I may have, I don’t recall. Because in real time obviously her office is about, happily, or sadly, five to seven feet from mine. And so given the set of events that were happening in that time period, there was a lot of, obviously, direct communication.
As an immediate follow-up, Mills was asked, “OK, did you communicate with Ms. Abedin [Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department] about the Benghazi attacks via email?”
Mills: I absolutely might have. I don’t have a recollection of doing that, but I might have.
Despite Mills’ obvious attempts to avoid answering direct questions asked by Judicial Watch attorneys, Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president, told WND the deposition included valuable information that he estimated would be very important as the other Judicial Watch depositions in the Clinton email scandal develop.
“We now know more than we did prior to Mills’ testimony regarding the Clinton email system,” Fitton told WND, “but there remain many important questions yet to be answered.”
Server ‘preexisted’ secretary
The key question-and-answer session regarding the creation of Hillary Clinton’s private email account is on Page 259 of the deposition transcript:
Judicial Watch Attorney: ClintonEmail.com. Do you understand whether that was on a server that Secretary Clinton set up or on a server that was set up by President Clinton?
Mills: The server preexisted Secretary Clinton’s arrival at the State Department. President Clinton had established a server for the purposes of his own staff office, and – and her – her email was subsequently put on that. That was not information I had contemporaneous knowledge of. It is information that I’ve come to learn over the course of my time period since then.
Then, on Page 265 of the transcript, the line of questioning resumes.
Judicial Watch Attorney: How did you learn how the server – or who had – who had purchased the server?
Mills: So, I’m not sure how to answer your question. But maybe I should answer it what your goal – I don’t know what your goal is. But, in other words, the server was in place at the Clinton’s residence prior to Secretary Clinton becoming secretary. It subsequently was upgraded. And it was being used for the president’s personal staff, and the email was put on that server.
Fitton also stressed that Mills admitted knowing Brian Pagliano, the Clinton family technical assistant who was hired by the State Department to make Hillary Clinton’s private email operational and integrated into the State Department’s secure government server.