Following is a transcript of that interview, edited slightly for length and clarity:
Rosalind S. Helderman: The story that brings us together is about your transition to the State Department. The State Department says that from January to May  you worked as an unpaid GS-15. Tell me a little bit about sort of how you came to be Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff and why it was that you came in under that status?
Cheryl D. Mills: So, well, thanks for that. When I came to the department, my goal was actually not to stay. I was going to help the secretary transition into office and then replace myself with someone else. And I was doing that in a part time capacity, because I had two small children. They were 3 years old. And so the notion of being able to do that job, knowing how intense government is, because I had served before, was something that I just felt like I wouldn’t be able to balance, the way I would want to with my family. But ultimately I did make the decision to come and once I did, then I transitioned from my status—
Helderman: How did you decide to do it?
Mills: Well, the secretary obviously is a, she’s a very persuasive woman. I think part of what was also part of my analysis was coming up with a strategy of how to balance my family and my work, and coming up with a schedule that worked, coming up with a way that I could do that and being very transparent with the secretary and with my colleagues that if I ever did do that, that I would have to do it in a particular way. But honestly, you know, I believed I was going to go back to NYU. It was a great place to work and a great university. So, for me, this was really about trying to make sure I had done an effective hand off and transition, as opposed to actually going into government. I had served before, and I just knew it takes a lot to serve and with two small children, I just figured there wouldn’t be a way for me to do that well.
Helderman: How did the conversation go about, sort of, from a technical standpoint, what was the status that would allow you to have that role? What do you remember about that?
Mills: You know, the department has terrific human resources personnel. Actually, they’ve got great public servants there. It’s been interesting for me, because when I served in government before, I served in the White House. This time, I ended up serving in an agency and it just made me respect and admire how much happens and that happens every day with people who don’t even know all the work that’s going on. But they have, obviously, human resources professionals. I stated that I was going to be, obviously, temporary—my goal was to transition her in—and then they worked through what the appropriate status is for that. That’s how they handle it.
Helderman: Was there communication with the ethics office? Was there an ethics analysis of what organizations you would be accepting outside income from and what boards you would continue to sit on?
Mills: So, you do have to do that. You have to do a whole disclosure, confidential disclosure form, and that is what they is what they review to be able to step through that process. I would just say one thing, because I know you had shared some of the things that you were thinking about, the disclosure form actually covers the prior year’s activities. So it covers 2008 and 2009. So you have to report what you were doing before, as opposed to what you’re also just doing at the time.
Helderman: So, as I remember it, there’s a 2008 form for you, but there is also a 2009 form. So I think when I put together those questions, I was only asking about the things you reported for 2009. Was there something in particular that you saw that I asked about—
Mills: Well, so, yeah, because my income that I earned that you had asked about—you had asked about some of the campaign related entities, I earned that in 2008 and not 2009.
Helderman: So not to—I did look at the FEC records, and there were a couple—not a ton—but a few payments to you in late January and February 2009 from some of those entities.
Mills: So, the Januaries would have been capturing periods of before I came in. So, once I was in, I didn’t actually have income that would have been coming from the campaign-related entities, because they were winding down. I’m happy to double check that, but I think that’s right.
Mills: I think that’s right.
Helderman: Yeah. I mean, is it possible there might have been some final checks but not for work done in that time?
Mills: Well, there would have been reimbursements or other things like that, so it’s possible, I haven’t actually gone and looked at them. But I do remember that they were winding down. So when I was going in, it was primarily my, obviously, time period in 2008 that captured it and it would have been in the January period of 2009. I’ll look to see if there was something for February to see what that would have been. But I don’t have a memory of that.
[Note: Mills later said that she indeed received campaign entities in January and February 2009 but indicated they were compensation for work performed before she joined the State Department.]
Helderman: Sure. This is specifically about the campaign payments, not for NYU?
Mills: No, NYU I actually, I reflected that, obviously.
Helderman: Sure. Okay. We’ve gotten a little into the weeds. So, how did you decide to be unpaid from the State Department for that time period?
Mills: My typical paradigm is that I do believe in public service. My father’s a military man. He really does always speak about the fact that there is actually nothing more valuable that you can do than actually to serve your country. And I buy that. So, for me, it wasn’t really about taking income from the government during a period where I, one, believed I was going to go back. And so, given that I was going to go back, it struck me that giving my service was something that I could do. When I obviously left government, I also served as an unpaid special government employee on Haiti. That too, for me, was an act of service. So those have been my choices, just as a matter of service, as opposed to anything else. Those just happened to be a little bit about my own value set.
Helderman: How did you decide in the end to stay?
Mills: I decided to stay after being, well, one, the secretary, like I said, was very persuasive. And being able to get comfortable with the fact that, if I decided to make a transition, I could actually do that and balance my family and my work.
Helderman: When you say she was persuasive, do you remember conversations where you told her, I’m not sure this is something I want, and she told you, this is something I want?
Mills: [Laughs] Well, as a general matter, look. I was always very clear that I was not staying, as everybody would probably tell you, that I was not staying. I think from her perspective, she thought this was going to be a big and hard job for her, and for getting things done, given all the work that needed to be done, and obviously given a new president who had placed a lot of faith in the work that she could do in that role. So, she wanted to be supported. That’s something that, given the many years I had worked in the past with her meant that she thought that that was something I could do.
Helderman: How resistant were you?
Mills: I was relatively resistant, primarily because, look. I had served in government before. And, when I did, I typically got in at 6 a.m. and I left somewhere around 11 or 12 o’clock at night. I didn’t have a family at that time. So the notion that I would be entering into a role like this where there might be those kinds of demands, and I wouldn’t get the enjoyment of my children, who were 3 years old, struck me as not the right, not the right personal choice for me. And being able to have a structure that had talented team members around me and also good boundaries for how to do that well ultimately gave me the confidence to be able to feel comfortable making that choice and that I wouldn’t be compromising something I cared dearly about.
Helderman: You mentioned the Haiti service. When you did that, you were classified by the State Department as a Special Government Employee, which I think is the normal designation for someone who has dual employment. They’ve said that you didn’t have that designation for that first part of the term. Do you remember why?
Mills: I don’t. And actually, I had always assumed that I was a special government employee. So I don’t know how they make the determinations that they make, because I don’t have the same personnel facilities that they do, or understand how they make those judgments or assessments. So I don’t have the benefit of that.
Helderman: Okay, that sounds like a question for them. Let’s talk a little about the particular things you did on the outside. So, working for NYU. Tell me what your job responsibilities were for NYU in that time, how much time were you spending there—what did you do?
Mills: At NYU, I was part-time. So what I was actually primarily dedicated to was--we had been spending time in discussions with, to establish the, really I guess it was really one of the first full degree granting universities in Abu Dhabi, and NYU was going to be establishing a campus there. We had been in those discussions for more than a year. Most of my time, I was spending time, trying to step through what were a challenging set of issues that we were trying to negotiate. Because the UAE’s culture is very different than ours. So when you are taking a university like NYU and placing it in an environment that has different laws and different customs and different rules, there’s a whole set of different challenges. From academic freedom, which we take for granted but in their country it’s against the law to criticize a government, not only their own government, but what is an ally of their government. In their country, you don’t speak freely or critique different individuals in leadership roles. You can’t say a number of things that are very different than the concept of academic freedom if you’re putting in a university. So we had to have extensive discussions and negotiations to step through how this university could exist consistent with their framework, how we ensured the right protections for faculty and for students as they did their work. Similarly, there were certain requirements that the university wanted to see for labor and how labor would be treated and to have a code of conduct that had to be lived to. That was something that was very novel for the UAE at that time. That process, and any time where you’re dealing with something that is novel, was extensive and a set of back and forth to try to get to a common ground. We also had faculty who lived in relationships that were non-traditional for the UAE, be that same-sex relationships or unmarried relationships and that also is outside the framework of their laws at that time. So, it was really about trying to make sure we step through and navigated those issues. I was primarily spending my time trying to step through those sets of issues and navigate those to closure.
Helderman: Did it involve negotiation directly with the UAE government?
Mills: So they have an arm called Mubadala, which I would say is the same thing, but I don’t want to be inaccurate in characterizing it. But we did end up negotiating with their officials, that they designated, some of whom, from my perspective, you would say serve in a quasi-governmental if not governmental role.
Helderman: You know there are people who are going to say—I mean, the UAE campus is largely funded by the government there, as I understand it. You know there are people who are going to say there is a conflict in working for a project that takes funding from a foreign government while also serving for the state department. Is there?
Mills: Well, you know, I don’t know how to take issue, one way or another. Here’s what I do. I try to understand the rules and follow them. And I try to make sure that I’m disclosing my obligations. That’s one of the things our government does a good job with, right? We have conflict of interest and other rules in a way that that allow our citizens who serve—because people come in and out of government, which is not always the case in other governments—to be able to understand what the rules are and then follow them. Our government anticipates that there will be occasions where people are working outside, and so that they are earning outside income and doing other things. What they do is have a framework for how you actually need to follow those rules. That’s certainly something I try to do. I don’t know if I’m ever perfect. But I was obviously trying very hard to make sure I was following those rules and guidelines.
Helderman: Were there issues at the State Department that you recused yourself from, that you would have had to had they arisen, because of the UAE project?
Mills: I don’t recall any issues at that time arising. I think what it would have required, and what I would have done, if I thought that there was, is to talk to the ethics official to make sure if there was something I needed to do, that I did it right.
Helderman: Was the ethics office specifically involved, not just with the idea of generally working for NYU, but specifically on the UAE project?
Mills: So the ethics office, actually, when you give your disclosure form, gives everybody advice and guidance on their things, because anybody who is an employee who is coming in might have any number of things that require guidance. There was nothing special, if you were, about me, as much as I like to think of myself as special. There wasn’t anything special per se as opposed to making sure that, to the extent that I had laid out what were the type of interests, which are in my disclosure, that they had understood what those were and could actually address those.
Helderman: The outside boards that you sat on. I imagine this is sort of a similar answer, but how did you decide to not immediately resign from those boards and how did you decide to resign ultimately from them?
Mills: I didn’t because I was going to go back to my prior life, so I wasn’t coming into government. I had a wonderful and long experience in government before. So for me, this was really about an opportunity to transition Secretary Clinton, who I had known and worked with, to an effective place. And to do that in a way that obviously got her off to a good start but also allowed me to return to a life that allowed for more balance, which was obviously important to me at that time. Once I had decided that I was going to come in, then I started to wind down those obligations and make sure that I tried to do them in a way hopefully they experienced as professional for the organizations that I had served on. So I stepped off the boards and then I obviously wound down my activity at NYU and made those transitions. So it was much more just a reflection of that fact, like I said: I wasn’t planning to stay.
Helderman: I know once you did that and you became a paid employee and joined the Senior Executive Service, you wrote a letter to the ethics office indicating that you would not participate in matters related to those organizations whose boards you had sat for a period of a year. What did that prohibition mean to you in a practical way, and, I guess, specifically, I would ask about the Clinton Foundation? Because we’ve all seen the correspondence that you were copied on with President Clinton’s office that sometimes related to foundation matters. Why was that not prohibited?
Mills: So, two things. My board service typically meant you have a meeting, you know, once a quarter. Or sometimes they might be having meetings once every four months. It just depends on the organization. It doesn’t typically present a lot of overlap, if you will, with the Department’s work. Most of the organizations on whose boards I served—the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, See Forever—are domestically focused.
But with respect to the Clinton Foundation, one of the things that I think really, in looking at one of your questions you had shared with me was around his speeches, I guess I would just step back and maybe offer just a little bit of context. That is, when Secretary Clinton, she was then senator, and President Clinton—when she decided to come into government, she decided, and they decided there was an additional set of things they were going to do to ensure and to give confidence around income that they were taking. So, his speeches and his business arrangements. And that they would actually make sure that they ran those things by the State Department before they took them. So that if there was any money coming to them, personally, that wasn’t coming from her income from the Department, that the Department had a chance to identify any potential conflicts.
In doing that, obviously it meant it was a new set of obligations that the Department was taking on, to make sure that they also were reviewing them. My goal, always, was to make sure that, to the extent this is the kind of commitment that somebody was going to make, that it got done. And that it gets done to ensure that if you’re going to take on all these additional disclosures and responsibilities that they actually are followed through. So, I was copied on the speeches. Because, obviously, if the president was going to be potentially taking any kind speech into personal income, they had agreed that they were going to have the department review them. So, they copied me on those, I’m sure, to ensure they were getting done. I’m sure to show transparency. I’m sure to show that this was a commitment that was being fulfilled. But what I cared about was making sure that there was follow-through, to ensure that the commitments that were being made, which were public ones that they had made to the public about how they would conduct themselves while they were in office—while she was in office, while he was continuing to serve at the foundation—that those actually were followed.
Helderman: In retrospect, do you wish you had asked someone else to take on that responsibility of making sure it got done, given your previous, and actually at the very beginning, current board service to the foundation?
Mills: Well, so the decision maker in this process obviously was the legal adviser’s office. You know, I think, as you probably saw from the memo that you shared with me, they made the judgment, obviously, to put me on those memos. And I think that is probably more a reflection of trying to give transparency and visibility, that these obligations were being followed through and people were doing their jobs. From my stand point, I would want to make sure that if you’re going to make a commitment, it’s going to be done. But, more to the point, if you’re taking something into personal income, which obviously is different than the foundation, you do want to make sure that those things that are taken into income, if you’ve made a promise that the department is going to review them, that they are actually being reviewed. So I think this provided a transparent way for the Department to be able to ensure that that process was being followed….
Helderman: Senator Grassley has been looking at the issue of SGEs [special government employees]. I think he’s looked at your position, he’s also looked at Huma Abedin’s. He has talked about feeling like there was an inappropriate blurring of the lines between the public sphere and the private sphere under Secretary Clinton. And that Secretary Clinton offered special treatment for her senior staff. How do you respond to that kind of criticism?
Mills: Well, I think, one of the things that I was most proud of in working at the department was the professionals who were there. The commitment that they had to their job and to the partnership to new teams as they had to come in and out. And I’ve watched that as they have made the transition obviously to Secretary Kerry’s team and engaged with them. You admire, not only the fact that their commitment every day is not only getting up every day to do the work that is unseen and unchampioned, but is important and sometimes it’s unglamorous. Human resources is unglamorous. That’s not to say it’s not vitally important. But it is unglamorous.
From my observation, obviously, in the end, these types of decisions about personnel and how to properly ensure that you were following those rules, were ones that were reviewed in the department and reviewed by folks who have long tenures and the ability to be able to make those kinds of judgments better than any individual of us who might have been able to, who were coming into government only for a short period of time. And so I trust them. And I believe that as a general matter, obviously, the goal was to try to get the best talent and to get the best opportunity to serve the American people as possible. That’s something obviously Secretary Clinton was committed to, but I actually believe that’s one of the things that people in the Department are committed to and people in government are committed to.
Helderman: But, realistically speaking, if the new Secretary coming in says this is something I want to have happen, are human resources professionals really going to push back and say, this is not the way it should be done?
Mills: They do. If there are guidelines that actually are not consistent with what somebody might want to do, they do. And that’s obviously part of the reason why they’re professionals. They can share, this is what we can do, this is what we can’t do, this is what we have done, this is don’t do. They do know that Secretaries come and go and they’re job is their job for serving all of them. And they take those responsibilities very seriously.
Helderman: Did they raise any questions about this arrangement?
Helderman: Yeah, any hesitations?
Mills: So, no. Look, mine, I think mine probably was--I don’t know how to speak to this from the standpoint of, there was nothing that they thought was untraditional or that they shared was, per se, untraditional. We have had, you know, envoys, on the Haiti side. You obviously probably know that. People have served in that capacity. And I couldn’t have told you my status in that  paradigm other than that I can tell you what I had to do. I had to sit down and say, look, I’m not intending to stay. I’m going to be working part-time and I’m ultimately going to transition out. And I want to make sure, that whatever is the right way to do that, I do it that right way. And that’s part of, obviously, what they can help you do.
Helderman: I read recently that the campaign said that you were the one, not Secretary Clinton, who signed off on Huma’s SGE status. Can you walk me through, sort of, what the discussions were about that status?
Mills: To step back, just to do one framing issue, whenever you are engaging talent in any office, whether or not that’s the Near East office or the African affairs office or in the counter terrorism office, the office has to sign off for any personnel that are going to be joining that office. But after the office personnel do, it actually has to go through HR, and they are actually the final determiners. So what you are saying, when you sign, this is a position I would like. What the department does, when it signs through its human resources bureau is to say, yes, this is a position that’s been reviewed. We looked at the position description, we looked at the slots that are available, we’ve looked at the role, and we agree, and we are going to therefore approve this position.
I want to make that distinction primarily because I think it probably does a disservice to those who work in this space to think that others can do their jobs for them. We can’t. We don’t have their knowledge and their experience and their background. So from that standpoint, the goal was to be able to say, here are the sets of things that Ms. Abedin is going to be doing in this office. My signature is saying, yes, those are things that we would like. Ultimately HR makes the determination with respect to whether or not the role and the status and the position is consistent with or if it needs to be in a different framework, at which point they then share what that needs to be and then that’s what ultimately happening.
Helderman: Similarly to how I asked about your own status and the criticisms from Sen. Grassley, do you find anything unusual, do you think there is any fairness to the criticism that, for Huma, it was hard to tell when she was working in which capacity during those six months when she served as an SGE?
Mills: So, I’m obviously here to talk about myself. I don’t want to tell other people’s stories. I can only tell my own. But I can tell you this about Huma. I talked to Huma the day her baby was born. I talked to Huma when she was supposed to in the midst of juggling a bi-lat with a whole set of other issues. My ability to always reach her and for her to always be on task, was amazing. It was amazing because I think of myself as someone who works incredibly hard. I have been blessed with not needing many hours of sleep. And that means that I have the capacity to do more. I believe that she can do more than me. My own observation of how hard she worked and how much she worked was that she was constantly working. I don’t say that as a criticism of ‘she had no life.’ I say it as an observation of ‘she gave it her all.’
Helderman: I’d like while I have the opportunity to speak with you, to talk a little bit about the e-mail situation, because your name comes up frequently in connection with it. But before I move off the job situation—I know that you wanted to do the interview because there were things you wanted to say. So, is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would, like, want say about the job situation?
Mills: I think I would just want to say that I do view serving in government as an honor and I do view it as a responsibility. And having had the chance to serve before, it was for me really a hard decision about whether to serve again. Primarily because it really requires such a full commitment of yourself. And it also requires a willingness to open yourself up to a more public life than you might ordinarily—I tend to be more on the private side. But, I am really grateful for the chance that I did get to serve. I am really grateful that I had the chance to work with the folks at the Department who helped me remember why government service is so important. I don’t want the honor of what they do every day to get lost, in a lot of the ways in which sometimes matters are covered. Because I think their incredible contributions sometimes don’t get the same coverage that they might deserve. And that’s something for that I would always want, having served with them…
Helderman: We’ve obviously heard from Secretary Clinton about this, but what’s your memory and what was role in the discussions that Secretary Clinton would only use private e-mail and that it would be housed at a server at her home?
Mills: I think Secretary Clinton probably has spoken about this better than anyone else can because, it obviously, was her e-mail. But, I know as odd as it seems now--and certainly agree that, gosh, if you could do it again, you’d just do it again differently--but I don’t recall this actually being a major area of conversation or engagement. Primarily because there had been a prior secretary who had used their own account. And she had been using her own account in the Senate and I think it was a continuation of that same practice. I wish there had been a lot more thought and deliberation around it, but I can’t tell you that I can offer you that insight that there was. I think it was just a continuation of a process that she had been engaged in, in terms of using her own account, and it was consistent with what the Department had seen in the past.
Helderman: I’m sure you’ve read all the many experts who have talked about the possibility that the system may have been vulnerable, vulnerable to hackers and that sort of thing. Do you remember having that conversation, about whether or not the information might have been put in danger, and what steps were taken to safeguard against that?
Mills: I don’t. But I would say two things. I mean I think one of the challenges of email generally is it’s vulnerable. And, every mechanism of communication has that. I think part of the enduring challenge for our government but others as well is, how do we have efficient and effective processes and work, you know, getting things done for people and, but at the same time respecting the boundaries of how to ensure that those kinds of communication are protected. I don’t ever remember an occasion where someone referenced that her e-mail had ever been hacked or intruded on. But sometimes you don’t know, right? Those things can be insidious and you don’t have a way of knowing that it’s even occurred.
But I would say, that, just as the Department had its vulnerabilities, and I’m sure that it was always trying to be conscious of those, I do think given that this was a server that had already existed in her home, it was one that had been being used by the President’s personal office, so they would have been thoughtful about how to be careful given his own prior role as president, that I’m sure it probably just struck her as not that big a deal.
Helderman: Let me ask you a question about that. Because my understanding was that the server in the house that served President Clinton was there. But that when the decision was made that she was going to share it, there was a decision that that server had to be upgraded to a larger and more sophisticated device. And so the server from the  campaign was then installed in the house. What’s your memory of that?
Mills: So I wasn’t involved at that time, so I don’t have a memory. So I just want to be transparent about that. I didn’t participate in that part of any process with respect to the e-mail server that was there. But I don’t know that that’s my understanding from what I’ve learned. At least my understanding, from what I’ve learned, is that there had been a server there and then as you grow and you have the opportunity to get better equipment, you get better equipment. So I didn’t understand it as something that was uniquely associated with her joining that server. But that’s just my understanding now. I wasn’t obviously present at the creation, so I don’t have contemporaneous or knowledgeable framework.
Helderman: I had understood that the campaign server was put in in the sort of December 2008 or January 2009, as she was coming into office?
Mills: What I have learned is that I do believe it was sometime at the end of the year of that year. I think that would be consistent with excise equipment being available. And so, obviously, when campaign’s wind down, there’s always different equipment that people can purchase and use. So that probably would be an opportune time, if you were going to take advantage of being able to buy something that could improve what you have, that certainly would be a time when that could occur.
Helderman: I know you said there was not that much dialogue about this—
Mills: --with me. I can’t speak for other people, obviously. I don’t have the benefit of being in those kinds of conversations.
Helderman: Right. Did the office of the legal adviser at the State Department review this, sign off? Did IT professionals?
Mills: I don’t recall that. But I’m not saying, I’m not trying to speak for things that I’m obviously not a participant in.
Helderman: Do you remember the discussions about Bryan Pagliano? Were there any discussions with you about how to handle his employment? [note: Pagliano was a State Department employee who was privately paid by the Clintons to maintain the server.]
Mills: No. And I think, I want to be conscious of the fact that Mr. Pagliano has made his own decisions about how he engages with reporters and with everyone else. [note: Pagliano has invoked his 5th amendment rights against self-incrimination and declined to testify before Congress.] So I want to be respectful of that. I would say that I didn’t have a cognizance of that framework. But, obviously, there are rules. And he would be in a place where he could step through those rules with the ethics officer, to make sure he did those in the appropriate way.
Helderman: Have you spoken to the FBI about this? Have they asked to speak with you?
Mills: So, actually, I don’t want to be compromising any kind of confidentiality obligations that they do or don’t have. So I want to be thoughtful about that. Cause I obviously serve as a lawyer so it’s important for me to be cognizant of all of those obligations, and I want to do that well.
Helderman: Okay, so that’s a ‘no comment’ on that question?
Mills: I think there’s probably a maybe better way to answer your question, which is that we’ve obviously sought to be, to cooperate with the FBI and to provide them whatever information they’ve needed to be able to conduct the inquiry that they’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that. So maybe as opposed to a ‘no comment,’ it’s an answer of ‘we’re continuing to make sure that we are addressing and responding to any of the questions that they are asking.’
Helderman: Sure, but, not to belabor the point but, I mean, there’s been a lot of discussion of what exactly is the nature of the FBI inquiry is—
Mills: I mean, that’s their privilege to discussion. It’s not mine too. I’m sure you can ask them.
Helderman: Though you can always tell a little bit about the nature of an inquiry by the actual activities that they are taking--
Mills: I won’t do that. Not only would I not appreciate that if I was sitting at the Department. I don’t think they would either. I want to make sure I’m a good colleague and a good partner.
Helderman: So, I know you mentioned that, gosh, you wished there had been more conversations about this. One of the things that I hear when I talk to people in the Clinton world, people will often say that you are a person who tends to be very astute about seeing potential dangers around the corner—potential political dangers, potential legal dangers. And they express surprise and even, in some cases, some anger, that you didn’t sense it in this situation. Do you hear that? How have you responded to that? Why didn’t you sense the potential danger here?
Mills: Look, I don’t know what ‘Clinton World’ is, and so I don’t know who or what might be behind that. But I would certainly say, for me--look, if there’s anything I could ever do that would have alleviated this level of attention, certainly I would have wished I could have. Look, I’m human. I want the best opportunity for people to be able to understand not only the kind of person that Secretary Clinton is, the kind of commitment and work ethic she has, but, also, I want the Department to have the best opportunity to enjoy what it should get. Which is really the level of appreciation, given how many people put their lives on the line every day. People don’t think about it, because they’re diplomats and they’re development professionals. And yet they’re vulnerable.
So, for me, I certainly wish that I could have thought about this in a different way and wouldn’t want it any other way. But the reality is. I can’t change the past. I can only do my best each day going forward. And from my observation at the time, you know, there was so much crushing in on us. I don’t think I stopped to think about her e-mail, per se. And I certainly wish I did.
Helderman: Did you support, did you advise her to make that apology? What do you think she was apologizing for?
Mills: So, I’m not going to speak for her. Because I think she’s great at doing a better job at that than I ever would. So I don’t want to speak for her. I think, obviously, she’s spoken to this and will continue, because she wants to make sure that people have the best chance to make whatever judgments they want to make.
Helderman: I know I’ve seen, sort of, records from 2014 that showed you were in touch with Platte River [note: Platte River Networks, which managed the e-mail server starting in 2013] about starting to gather the e-mails. What prompted that? And then, were you ultimately involved in the process of sorting the public from the private e-mails?
Mills: So, the department had indicated that they learned their systems were not as comprehensive as they wanted and as they had hoped. So part of what they were doing was reaching out to be able to try to figure out how they could make their records more comprehensive, and to do everything that they obviously could to make sure they did that, not only with Secretary Clinton but also, obviously, with prior secretaries as well. Because in their own observation of their systems, once they started looking through them, they saw that they were not as comprehensive as possible. So part of what Secretary Clinton did is ask her attorneys to go through her e-mail and provide anything that might be work related. And myself and David Kendall oversaw that process. And, ultimately, ended up ensuring that those materials went to the Department….
Helderman: It’s been reported that you turned down the role of campaign chairman. What is your role with the campaign these days? Do you talk with Secretary Clinton? Do you talk to her advisers? Do you ever talk to donors? That sort of thing?
Mills: Look, I’m a passionate supporter of Secretary Clinton and her leadership. I think she would be an amazing president. But I’m not working on the campaign. That’s not because I don’t believe she wouldn’t be stellar. But because each of us have our own passions and our own dreams. I’ve given a lot to both government and others in ways that I think are really, they’ve been incredible. My whole life I’ve had opportunities that I would have never had but for the chance of having served, first in the White House with President Clinton and certainly now, having had the chance also to serve in the Department. But I spend my time getting to try to build businesses in Africa that will hopefully be transformational for the lives of people it affects, and that is a personal passion of mine--
Helderman: So you have no contact with them? You offer no advice?
Mills: No, no. Look, this is a woman I have known for many many years. So I know her. I love her. She’s a friend. So just as with your friends and close confidantes, you absolutely always available to them, and you always try to give your best advice and you always try to be a true champion of the things that they want, and that you believe ultimately will be good for them and good for others. So I’m always going to be available to do that, and I’m always going to be that person. Because I don’t know how to be any different. While I appreciate she is someone who has an outsized public persona, she’s also a very real human being, and someone who is very near and dear to my heart. So I do my best to be a good friend,'cause she inspires that.