Clinton Aide Shared Classified Information With Foundation, Email Shows

Cheryl Mills sent information marked ‘confidential’ to Clinton Foundation in 2012

Cheryl Mills / AP
September 28, 2015

A member of Hillary Clinton’s staff at the Department of State emailed classified information about the government in Congo to a staffer at the Clinton Foundation in 2012, according to a copy of the correspondence obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, sent the email to the Clinton Foundation’s foreign policy director, Amitabh Desai, on July 12, 2012.

The message, which was originally obtained by the group Citizens United through a public records request, is partially redacted because it includes "foreign government information" that has been classified as "Confidential" by the State Department.

Although the information was not marked classified by the State Department until this past summer, intelligence sources tell the Free Beacon that it would have been classified at the time Mills sent it because "foreign government information" is considered classified from inception.

The message could add to concerns from congressional and FBI investigators about whether former Secretary Clinton and her aides mishandled classified information while at the State Department.

The email, which discussed the relationship between the governments in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was originally drafted by Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s assistant secretary for African affairs, who sent it to Mills’ State Department email address.

Mills later forwarded the full message to Desai along with "talking points for Presient [sic] Clinton" shortly before Bill Clinton was scheduled to visit the region.

About half of the forwarded message was redacted due to its classified nature before the State Department released it to Citizens United last month. Although it is not clear what the redacted section includes, the State Department said in a court motion filed last week that it "concerns both foreign government information and critical aspects of U.S. foreign relations, including U.S. foreign activities carried out by officials of the U.S. Government."

The State Department added that the "disclosure of this information has the potential to damage and inject friction into our bilateral relationship with African countries whose cooperation is important to U.S. national security."

The Clinton Foundation and the State Department did not respond to request for comment about the email, or say whether Desai—a non-government employee who has worked at the foundation since 2007—would have been authorized to view "Confidential" information.

Mills currently sits on the board of the Clinton Foundation. She previously served on the board until a month after she joined the State Department in 2009.

An attorney for Mills said that she never knowingly transmitted classified information, and would presume that any information sent to her unclassified State Department email address—as opposed to through the department’s secure email system—was unclassified.

"When a subject matter sent the information on the unclassified system, [Mills] presumed it was unclassified," said the attorney. "She never knowingly transmitted classified information."

Mills’ spokesperson also disputed the notion that the information would have been classified when it was sent. The attorney said that some information is not deemed classified until it is transmitted outside of the State Department.

"Information that is considered unclassified when discussed inside the State Department can later be deemed classified when it is being released outside of the Department," said the attorney.

Intelligence experts have told the Free Beacon and other media outlets that "foreign government information" is one of the few categories of information that is automatically presumed classified from the time the U.S. government receives it, because it is so diplomatically sensitive.

Foreign government information is "born classified," J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. Information Security Oversight Office, told Reuters in August.

The controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server while at the State Department has been dogging her presidential bid since it was first revealed by the New York Times earlier this spring.

The Democratic frontrunner has turned over many of her emails in response to a State Department request and congressional inquiries. However, she has said that any emails that were deemed "personal" were deleted from her server.

The FBI is currently attempting to recover the deleted emails as part of an investigation into her server, according to reports.

Clinton declined to say whether the FBI investigation could uncover additional damaging revelations, during an interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press on Sunday.

"All I can tell you is that when my attorneys conducted this exhaustive process [of deleting personal emails], I did not participate," said Clinton.

Clinton is scheduled to testify before Congress on the email issue in October.

Citizens United president David Bossie said the latest news reveals the ways in which the Clintons's various interests intersect.

"The tangled web that is Clinton, Inc.—the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, and Teneo—is coming more and more into focus every day. Classified information moving from the State Department to the Clinton Foundation is extremely problematic—we’ll see if there’s a pattern here," Bossie said.