Politics

Report: Hillary Clinton’s Top Aide Received Justice Department Immunity In Email Probe

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s State Department chief of staff and her personal attorney, received immunity from the Justice Department in order to cooperate with the FBI’s investigation into the former secretary of state’s email practices.

The Associated Press reported the bombshell news on Friday.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, told the wire service that Mills, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff, granted federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that nothing found on the computer could be used against her.

Two other former State Department officials also received immunity, Chaffetz said. Heather Samuelson, a former State Department official who now works as a lawyer for Clinton, received immunity. So did John Bentel, a former State Department official who managed the agency’s IT systems.

“No wonder they couldn’t prosecute a case,” Chaffetz said of the Justice Department. “They were handing out immunity deals like candy.”

The DOJ declined to prosecute anyone involved in the Clinton email matter. That decision was made just days after Clinton’s July 2 interview with federal investigators. Both Mills and Samuelson attended that interview in their capacity as Clinton’s lawyers.

Five people are now known to have been granted DOJ immunity in exchange for cooperation with the FBI’s investigation.

In addition to Mills, Samuelson and Bentel, two computer technicians who managed Clinton’s email servers both received limited immunity. Bryan Pagliano is one of them. He is the former Clinton campaign staffer who took a job at the State Department in May 2009 and managed Clinton’s server while it resided in the basement of her New York home.

Paul Combetta also received immunity. He is a technician with Platte River Networks, the Denver-based IT firm that managed Clinton’s email system after she left the State Department in 2013.

[dcquiz] Mills had contact with both Pagliano and Combetta regarding Clinton’s email system. But it is her interaction with Combetta that has proved most intriguing.

In July 2014, Mills — who by then was working as Clinton’s personal lawyer — asked Combetta to forward her and Samuelson copies of Clinton’s email backups. Clinton’s team was at that time negotiating a deal with the State Department to turn over Clinton’s work-related emails. The State Department, in turn, had reached a deal with the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding the records.

Ahead of that handover, Combetta appears to have sought help on scrubbing Clinton’s email address from her emails. As was revealed earlier this week, Combetta appears to have posted on a Reddit message board asking other users how to “strip out” the email address from an account for a “VIP.”

“They don’t want the VIP’s email address exposed to anyone, and want to be able to either strip out or replace the email address in the to/from fields in all of the emails we want to send out,” Combetta wrote. (RELATED: Computer Tech Who Asked How To ‘Strip Out’ Email Addresses May Have Worked For Hillary)

Combetta also appears to have misled the FBI during one or more of his interviews with investigators. Weeks after Clinton’s email practices were reported, and after Congress had subpoenaed all of her records, Combetta used a software program called BleachBit to erase Clinton’s email backups. Combetta gave the FBI conflicting answers about why he decided to use BleachBit.

He also held conference calls during the week of March 25-31, 2015 to discuss Clinton’s emails. He used BleachBit in the interim. The first call was with staffers who worked for Bill Clinton. The second call was with Hillary Clinton’s attorneys, including Cheryl Mills. According to the FBI’s report of its investigation, Combetta invoked attorney-client privilege when asked by the FBI what was said during that conference call.

While it is still unclear why Mills was granted immunity, TheDC found some apparent inconsistencies claims she purportedly made to the FBI during her May 27 deposition. Mills asserted that she was not aware of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. But Mills was included on numerous email chains exchanged during Clinton’s tenure in which the server was explicitly discussed. (RELATED: Clinton Aides Told FBI They Didn’t Know About Server, But Emails Suggest Otherwise)

Samuelson and Bentel are also key figures in the email scandal.

In 2014, Samuelson directed the effort to determine which of Clinton’s State Department emails counted as federal records. Bentel appears to have given inconsistent answers about what he knew of Clinton’s server while he was at State. He told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that he did not know about Clinton’s server, but the State Department inspector general interviewed two of Bentel’s subordinates who said that he told them that Clinton’s server had been approved by State’s legal adviser. They also said that Bentel ordered them not to discuss the server. (RELATED: Ex-State Dept. Official May Have Lied To Congress About Hillary’s Server)

The Daily Caller has reached out to Mills and her attorney, Beth Wilkinson, through email for comment and will update if she responds.

Reached for comment, the Justice Department referred TheDC to the FBI.

“We don’t have any comment,” an FBI spokeswoman said.

This post has been updated with additional details. 

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