Right-Wing Media Attempt To Scandalize Cheryl Mills Volunteer Trip For Clinton Foundation, Ignoring Undermining Evidence

Right-Wing Media Attempt To Scandalize Cheryl Mills Volunteer Trip For Clinton Foundation, Ignoring Undermining Evidence

››› ››› CAT DUFFY

A CNN investigation alleged that former Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills potentially violated ethics rules by traveling to New York for the Clinton Foundation while also employed by the State Department -- yet it also noted that she was doing unpaid volunteer work on the trip, thus debunking its own claim. Numerous right-wing media outlets reported on the matter either without mentioning or by glossing over the volunteer aspect.

CNN Reported On The “Blurred Lines” Surrounding Cheryl Mills’ Involvement With Clinton Foundation While Working At State Department

CNN: State Department Aide Cheryl Mills’ Work With Foundation “Raises New Questions About … Blurred Lines.” A new CNN investigation suggested that former Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills possibly violated government ethics rules by simultaneously working for the State Department and volunteering for the Clinton Foundation. CNN’s August 11 investigation into Mills’ volunteer work suggested that the supposed revelation that she traveled to New York to interview staff candidates for the Clinton Foundation in 2012 “raises new questions about the blurred lines that have dogged the Clintons in recent years”:

A top aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department traveled to New York to interview job candidates for a top job at the Clinton Foundation, a CNN investigation has found.

The fact that the aide, Cheryl Mills, was taking part in such a high level task for the Clinton foundation while also working as chief of staff for the secretary of state raises new questions about the blurred lines that have dogged the Clintons in recent years. [CNN, 8/11/16]

But That Same CNN Story Debunked Its Own Attempt To Scandalize Clinton Foundation

CNN: Mills Said Her Foundation Work “Was Strictly Voluntary.” The same CNN reporting debunked its own claim, explaining that Mills was not a paid employee at the Clinton Foundation and that the State Department permitted employees to engage in outside volunteer activities while on personal time. From the article:

According to Mills' attorney, her work for the Clinton Foundation while she was employed at the State Department was strictly voluntary. She received no pay and no government funds were used to finance the short trip.

Clinton's presidential campaign re-iterated that Mills was working as a volunteer on the trip.

"Cheryl volunteered her personal time to a charitable organization, as she has to other charities," said campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. "Cheryl paid for her travel to New York City personally, and it was crystal clear to all involved that this had nothing to do with her official duties. The idea that this poses a conflict of interest is absurd."

[...]

CNN has asked the US State Department if Mills had, or needed permission for the trip, or if the State Department was even aware Mills was involved with the Clinton Foundation while a top aide of Secretary Clinton. A State Department spokesperson responded by stating:

"Federal employees are permitted to engage in outside personal activities, within the scope of the federal ethics rules. All federal employees are subject to federal ethics laws and regulations, including rules pertaining to conflicts of interest." [CNN, 8/11/16]

Still Numerous Outlets Run With Baseless Allegations of Mills’ Impropriety, Omitting The Undermining Evidence

Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy: Mills Was A Federal Employee And Worked For The Clinton Foundation “Exactly At The Same Time.” Fox News’ Fox & Friends’ coverage of the Cheryl Mills story ignored the fact that her trip to New York was unpaid volunteer work and instead declared it a “conflict of interest.” From the August 11 edition:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): How many of the news shows this morning, and I don't know the answer, but I suspect a small number, other than us are actually doing this story? Remember when Hillary Clinton was applying to do the job of secretary of state for Barack Obama, she said that she pledged to do everything in her power to keep her work as secretary of state separate from the Clinton family foundation. That's what she said then. But now there’s this big news story out that her chief of staff -- the chief of staff to the secretary of state, a woman by the name, an attorney by the name of Cheryl Mills, has been with the Clinton since the '90's I think -- in 2012 she came to New York City to interview candidates for a top job at the Clinton Foundation.

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): While she was working for the State Department?

DOOCY: Right. She was chief of staff, she's a federal employee, and she's working for the Clinton Foundation. Exactly at the same time. It's a conflict of interest. How can you work for the federal government and work for the Clinton Foundation as well? This just goes to show you how murky it is. How many channels -- I’m asking you --- are going to cover that story today? And this plays into the whole Clinton email thing, which was revealed by Judicial Watch, with the pay for play. What was revealed earlier this week is if you wanted to get access to the State Department, just give a bunch of dough to the Clinton family foundation, and that is so illegal. [Fox News, Fox & Friends8/11/16

Fox’s Judge Jeanine Pirro: Cheryl Mills Is Clinton’s “Pitbull” Protecting The Clinton Foundation “Slush Fund” On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Judge Jeanine Pirro claimed that Mills “[made] sure the moneys that were funneled through the foundation were protected from disclosure” and that Mills was the one “interviewing for the Foundation position.” She argued that claims that Mills was “doing [it] for a charity” are wrong because “that’s not what this woman does.” From the August 12 edition:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Let’s talk a little bit about this. Mainstream media all about Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama founders of ISIS. They don't seem to be going too much into this whole pay-for-play thing where it looks like if you wanted access to the State Department under Hillary Clinton you just gave them a bunch of dough. And now there’s a story that her chief of staff in 2012 left the State Department for a day, came to New York City to interview somebody for the Clinton Foundation. There was supposed to be a line of division there. Apparently not.

JUDGE JEANINE PIRRO: Apparently not. And remember, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, the person who went to interview someone for the Clinton Foundation, they are that triumvirate that were on the private server. And I have said from the beginning that the whole purpose of that server and no one having access to the information that the three of them had, Hillary, Huma, and Cheryl Mills, her attorney, her pitbull from the days of Bill Clinton’s impeachment when he was in the White House, was to make sure that moneys that were funneled through the foundation were protected from disclosure. So it makes perfect sense that Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills would be involved in this. Huma's paid by the foundation and the State Department. Cheryl Mills is the one who was interviewing for the foundation position. So you ask yourself, “Well, maybe she's just doing this for a charity?” Wrong. That's not what this woman does. Remember, as you said, Steve, there's an M.O.U. with the president, where Hillary Clinton said that there would be this wall between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Now we find out that there are 12,000 emails from the Clinton Foundation to the State Department, essentially making sure that people who paid the Clintons -- and I'm not even going the say the foundation, because that is nothing more than money laundering operation that was used as slush fund. It is not a charitable foundation. No charitable foundation has only 10 percent that goes to a charity, and that money is used as a slush fund eventually. And Huma and Cheryl Mills are the ones who are the dogs protecting the organization. [Fox News, Fox & Friends8/12/16]

Wash. Free Beacon: Mills’ “Secretive Trip” Raised “Ethical Questions.” The Washington Free Beacon highlighted “the ethical questions raised by Mills’ trip,” quoting CNN’s Drew Griffin speculating about whether “State even [knew] the trip was taking place.” The August 11 article omitted any mention that Mills’ trip was volunteer work:

Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department, Cheryl Mills, took a secretive trip to New York City to interview candidates for a position at the Clinton Foundation, CNN reported on Thursday.

“On June 19, 2012, Cheryl Mills, then the chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, boarded an Amtrak Acela train in Washington’s Union Station bound for New York. What she did, who she met with, and why has remained a mystery, even to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee until now,” CNN reporter Drew Griffin said. “For the last seven months, Senate investigators have been trying to find out what Mills was up to and for seven months the U.S. Department of State has refused to answer.”

“Now CNN learned a potential reason why. Cheryl Mills, then a U.S. government employee and Secretary of State Clinton’s chief of staff, was in New York working on behalf of the Clinton Foundation,” Griffin said.

“A source close to the situation confirms to CNN [that] Mills was interviewing two people for the leadership role of the foundation. Interviews took place inside the Park Avenue executive headhunting offices of [Russell Reynolds Associates]. Mills would interview top level executives at Walmart and the drug company Pfizer. Both companies, huge donors to the Clinton Foundation and partners with the Clinton Global Initiative.”

Griffin then addressed the ethical questions raised by Mills’s trip.

“Was Mills’s role in violation of government ethics rules, did she have permission from the U.S. State Department, did State even know the trip was taking place? CNN has asked the U.S. State Department all of these questions.”

“This was the response: federal employees are permitted to engage in outside personal activities within the scope of the federal ethics rules,” Griffin said. “All federal employees are subject to federal ethics laws and regulations including rules pertaining to conflicts of interest.” [The Washington Free Beacon,8/11/16]

Other Sources Downplayed Evidence Disputing A Conflict Of Interest

CNN’s Brianna Keilar: “Where Does The Clinton Foundation End And The State Department Begin?” CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar reported that “Cheryl volunteered her personal time to a charitable organization,” and New York Times political correspondent Alex Burns questioned, “where would the Clinton Foundation end and a Clinton White House begin” and speculated about whether Mills engaged in other “examples of her volunteering her time this way.” From the August 12 edition of New Day:

BRIANNA KEILAR (GUEST HOST): And normally this would be an issue. For instance, we now know a top aide to Hillary Clinton -- really a top aide, Cheryl Mills. There are a few people in Hillary Clinton's orbit that are almost like appendages for her. And that is who -- Cheryl Mills is one of these people. And she actually, while working at the State Department, took the train up to New York to try to help them, help the Clinton Foundation interview someone to be at the helm. I should say that we have a statement from the campaign. They say Cheryl volunteered her personal time to a charitable organization, as she has to other charities. Brian Fallon, the spokesman for the campaign, concluding, “The idea that this poses a conflict of interest is absurd.” State Department saying federal employees can do this kind of thing. It just creates this question of where does the Clinton Foundation end and the State Department begin, and why is that such an issue?

ALEX BURNS: Well and where would the Clinton Foundation end and a Clinton White House begin? When you're looking at the statement given regarding Cheryl Mills. I do wonder, are there other examples of her volunteering her time in this way? Paying for her own way up to New York to do a personal favor for the Red Cross or something like that. Did that happen? [CNN, New Day8/12/16]

Today Show Says Mills’ Trip “Rais[ed] Questions About ‘Blurred Lines.’” Today’s Hallie Jackson reported on “questions about ‘blurred lines’” between the Clinton Foundation and State Department, despite noting that the Clinton campaign said Mills “volunteered her time.” From the August 12 edition of NBC’s Today:

HALLIE JACKSON: Trump's team taking aim at a new report showing a top aide to Hillary Clinton traveled to New York for business with the Clinton Foundation while working at the State Department, raising questions about "blurred lines." Clinton's campaign now calling suggestions of a conflict of interest "absurd," saying the aide volunteered her time. [NBC, Today8/12/16]

TheBlaze: Mills’ “Clandestine Trip” “Raises Questions About A Potential Conflict Of Interest” Even Though She Paid “Her Own Way.” TheBlaze picked up the CNN story and acknowledged that Mills paid for her own trip to New York, but linked the “clandestine trip” to an allegedly “tangled relationship between the charitable organization and the State Department.” From the August 11 article:

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been trying to get information about Mills’ June 2012 trip, but were stonewalled for  seven months. The State Department had reportedly refused to divulge the purpose of the former staffer’s trip. On Thursday, a CNN report shed some light on the clandestine trip.

[...]

The revelation about Mills’ trip raises questions about a potential conflict of interest. How was she able to conduct work for the Clinton Foundation while being a federal government employee working for Clinton? According to Mills’ attorney, the former chief of staff paid her own way.

“Cheryl volunteered her personal time to a charitable organization, as she has to other charities,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN.

The State Department gave this vague statement on agency ethics: “Federal employees are permitted to engage in outside personal activities within the scope of the federal ethics rules. All federal employees are subject to federal ethics laws and regulations including rules pertaining to conflicts of interest.”

[...]

The new information about Mills’ involvement with the Clinton Foundation while working for the government comes on the heels of a new set of Clinton emails seemingly showing a tangled relationship between the charitable organization and the State Department. [TheBlaze, 08/11/16]

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