FBI Director James Comey made excuses for Hillary Clinton’s former State Department chief of staff Cheryl Mills on Wednesday when asked about conflicting statements she made to federal investigators about when she learned of the former secretary of state’s private email server.
“Having done many investigations myself, there’s always conflicting recollections of facts, some of which are central [to the investigation], some of which are peripheral,” Comey told Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Republican had asked Comey about Mills’ claims during her April 9 interview with the FBI that she did not know about Clinton’s server until after she became Clinton’s personal attorney.
“Mills did not learn Clinton was using a private server until after Clinton’s DoS tenure,” notes from the interview read. “Mills stated she was not even sure she knew what a server was at the time.”
“I think she lied to everybody,” Chaffetz said of Mills later Wednesday during an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.He pointed to email chains involving Mills in which the email server was discussed. One email from Feb. 27, 2010 appears to completely undermine Mills’ dual assertions that she did not know about Clinton’s server and that she did not know what an email server was.
“hrc email coming back — is server okay?” she asked in a Feb. 27, 2010 message to Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, and Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton who helped set up the Clinton server.
“Ur funny. We are on the same server,” Cooper responded.
Mills and Abedin were also involved in an Aug. 30, 2011 exchange in which State Department official Stephen Mull mentioned that Clinton’s “email server is down.”
“Come on, there’s direct evidence that she actually did know,” Chaffetz told Fox’s Megyn Kelly on Wednesday, adding that Comey’s defense of Mills “makes no sense.” (RELATED: Hillary Aides Told FBI They Didn’t Know About Server, But Emails Suggest Otherwise)
Abedin, who also told the FBI that she did now know about Clinton’s server until after she left the State Department, was involved in another email exchange with Cooper discussing the server.
“Had to shut down the server,” Cooper wrote to Abedin on Jan. 9, 2011, adding that “someone was trying to hack us.”
Cooper also told the FBI that he discussed the server with Abedin in early 2009 as Clinton’s private email system was being set up.
Chaffetz did not focus on Abedin during his exchange with Comey on Wednesday. That’s probably because, even though Abedin may have misled the FBI, Mills has emerged as a more important figure in the never-ending email scandal.
It was recently revealed that the Justice Department gave her immunity so that she would turn over the laptop she used in 2014 to sort through Clinton’s emails. Comey told Congress that since Mills was serving as Clinton’s lawyer, she likely would not have turned over the laptop without a fight.
Mills’ dual roles working for Clinton would explain why she may have misled the FBI. By claiming that she did not know about Clinton’s server when she worked at the State Department, Mills could invoke attorney-client privilege in order to avoid discussing the issue with investigators.
And she did just that during her April 9 interview. She stormed out of the session with her own lawyers in tow because she was asked a question about the process she used in late-2014 to help determine which Clinton emails to provide the State Department. She said that those deliberations were privileged.
Mills was interviewed by the FBI again on May 28. By then she had been granted immunity which protected her from being prosecuted for anything found on her laptop.
That interview was also days after the State Department’s inspector general released a bombshell report detailing the flaws in Clinton’s private email system. The report was the first document to cite Mills’ email exchange with Cooper in which she explicitly mentions the server.
It is unclear if Mills recalled that email when she spoke to the FBI. Like Clinton, she refused to talk to State’s inspector general for its report.
As Clinton’s lawyer, Mills was a member of the entourage that accompanied Clinton to her July 2 FBI interview.