The Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal may have its first target for criminal charges — assuming the Department of Justice takes its job seriously. E-mails produced via a FOIA lawsuit from Citizens United include two instances in which Hillary’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills transmitted classified information to people outside of the government. In fact, as Politico reports, the two e-mails from Mills went to the Clinton Foundation to assist in coordinating with Bill Clinton’s efforts on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative:
Hillary Clinton’s No. 2 at the State Department twice forwarded information to the Clinton Foundation that was later deemed classified, the latest instance of former Clinton staff transmitting now-classified information.
According to a new email chain shared with POLITICO by Citizens United, Cheryl Mills — Clinton’s former chief of state at State — forwarded State Department background information about Rwanda and the Congo to the Clintons’ philanthropic organization. Citizens United, a conservative activist group, obtained the messages via a Freedom of Information act lawsuit. …
The information in the 2012 emails was classified by the State Department in July of this year because of national security and foreign policy reasons, according to the documents. The classification specifically related to foreign government information and intelligence activities, sources or methods, according to the redaction labels.
If true, this would be a classic violation of 18 USC 793 (f):
(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
It’s actually a more clear-cut violation than what has emerged so far. Until now, we have seen evidence of gross negligence in communications of classified information between State Department officials on an unsecured system known to have been penetrated by outsiders at least once, and whose data has been in unsecured and unauthorized hands. These two e-mails show a deliberate communication of classified information to someone fully outside the government, not just within the State Department’s sphere of operations.
Mills’ defenders — both formal and informal — will argue that Mills didn’t intend on transmitting classified information, and that is was either not classified at the time or at least not marked so in the originating materials. None of this is a defense against 18 USC 793, which nowhere requires classification to prosecute. Besides, the kind of information suggested by the redaction would obviously be sensitive enough to protect, and certainly not to be shared with uncleared and unauthorized personnel at a politically connected non-profit. This is precisely what security briefings tell people with clearances not to do. No one at any level would fail to grasp the risks and legal implications of these actions, and certainly not at the high level of clearance employed at the top of the State Department.
On top of that, what was Mills doing in briefing Clinton Foundation officials in the first place? She had a job serving the public at the State Department, a job she took by leaving the Clinton Foundation. Mills returned to the foundation when she left State, too. In between, though, the public had a right to expect that Mills would put her duties at State — which includes the safeguarding of classified material — ahead of any other priorities. Politico’s Rachel Bade asks the same question:
Mills sat on the foundation’s board before becoming the department’s No. 2 official and returned to the board after leaving State in 2013. And she appeared to continue to advise the foundation while at State, according to other emails revealed by the Citizens United lawsuit. Republicans say those connections between Mills and the Clinton Foundation raise questions about whether the relationship was too close.
“The fact that these two email chains — which are now classified — were sent only 16 days apart, makes it appear as if the sharing of sensitive government information with the Clinton Foundation was a regular occurrence,” David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said in a statement. “Time will tell as more emails become public.”
Indeed it will. Until then, Mills may need to seek legal representation, and in any other administration might have already been Mirandized.