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.
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.
GOP lawmaker: FBI gave immunity to top Clinton aide
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told The Associated Press on Friday that Mills gave federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that what they found couldn't be used against her.
Democrats on the committee said Friday the immunity agreements were limited in scope and did not cover statements made to investigators or to potential testimony before Congress.
Still, Chaffetz said he was "absolutely stunned" that the FBI would cut a deal with someone as close to the investigation as Mills. By including the emails recovered from the laptops in the immunity agreements, the Justice Department exempted key physical evidence from any potential criminal case against the aides.
"No wonder they couldn't prosecute a case," said Chaffetz, R-Utah. "They were handing out immunity deals like candy."
Copies of the immunity agreements were provided to the House oversight committee by the Justice Department this week under seal.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon accused House Republicans of "trying to make something out of nothing by rummaging through the files of a Justice Department investigation that was closed months ago without any charges whatsoever, and leaking selective details three days before the first presidential debate."
"Congressman Chaffetz continues to abuse his office by wasting taxpayer dollars to try to second-guess the FBI in what amounts to a desperate attempt to boost Donald Trump's chances against Hillary Clinton," Fallon said.
A yearlong investigation by the FBI focused on whether the Democratic presidential nominee sent or received classified information using the private server located in the basement of her New York home, which was not authorized for such messages.
FBI Director James Comey said in July that his agents hadn't found evidence to support any criminal charge or direct evidence that Clinton's private server had been hacked. He suggested that hackers working for a foreign government may have been so sophisticated they wouldn't have left behind any evidence of a break-in.
Chaffetz said in addition to Mills, others granted immunity include John Bentel, then-director of the State Department's Office of Information Resources Management, and Heather Samuelson, Clinton's executive assistant.
Beth Wilkinson, the lawyer representing Mills and Samuelson, said the text of the immunity agreements show investigators considered her clients "to be witnesses and nothing more." Her office declined to provide copies of the agreements to AP.
"The Justice Department assured us that they believed my clients did nothing wrong," Wilkinson said. "At all points my clients cooperated with the government's investigation, including voluntarily participating in interviews with the FBI and DOJ."
The latest revelation brings the total number of people who were granted immunity as part of the FBI's investigation to at least five.
It had previously been reported immunity had been granted to Bryan Pagliano, a tech expert who set up Clinton's email server, as well as Paul Combetta, a computer specialist for a private firm that later maintained Clinton's email setup.
Chaffetz said he is looking forward to asking Comey questions about the immunity deals when Comey testifies Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. Chaffetz is also a member of that panel.
Mills, who was among Clinton's closest confidants, voluntarily appeared last year for a lengthy interview as part of the House GOP's investigation into the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left three Americans dead.
Pagliano and Combetta, however, have refused to testify before Congress by invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. On Thursday, the GOP-led House oversight committee voted along party lines to hold Pagliano in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with its subpoena.
Disappointed the FBI didn't recommend criminal charges, congressional Republicans are seeking to keep the issue of Clinton's email use alive through the November election. Clinton has called her use of the private server a mistake.
Congressional Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics.
"The facts are that Ms. Mills cooperated fully with the Justice Department and Congress, the FBI concluded that there was no basis for any criminal prosecution," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the oversight committee.
In a statement, the campaign of the Republican presidential nominee criticized both Clinton and the Justice Department.
"No one with judgment this bad should be allowed to serve as president of the United States or hold any public office," Trump spokesman Jason Miller. "What has become abundantly clear is that the Obama Administration is protecting Hillary Clinton from accountability at all costs because she will keep the rigged system in Washington in place."