Aide: Clinton wasn't close to IT expert who managed server

Aide: Clinton wasn't close to IT expert who managed server
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Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE appeared to keep an arms-length relationship with the IT expert believed to have set up and maintained her private server, according to her former chief of staff.

During a marathon seven-hour deposition at law offices in Washington, D.C., Cheryl Mills said she couldn’t recall a single instance in which Bryan Pagliano interacted with Clinton or her top aides.

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“In my presence, I don't recall occasions where he interacted with the secretary,” Mills said. “In my presence, I don't recall him engaging with folks in the secretary's office.”

The comments shed new light on the relationship between the Democratic presidential front-runner and Pagliano, who has been granted immunity in exchange for his cooperation with the ongoing FBI probe connected to Clinton’s private server. 

Mills’s deposition Friday came as part of an open-records lawsuit related to Clinton’s server by the conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch. A lengthy transcript of the interview, which lasted from 9:25 a.m. to 4:12 p.m., was released Tuesday afternoon.

Mills’s testimony adds to the scrutiny of Clinton’s use of a private email server, which was thrust into the spotlight last week by a scathing State Department Office of Inspector General report. The watchdog analysis said Clinton violated State Department policies by using a personal email address housed on a private server while secretary of State, and that the arrangement would have been blocked had she sought permission.

The server was previously used by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert The Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, Mills noted. However, she could not recall how she learned about the arrangement or whether there was any effort to move Hillary Clinton off of the system.

Echoing a defense used by Clinton, Mills said she assumed that the former secretary of State was complying with federal record-keeping rules by emailing people on their official State Department email accounts, where the messages would have been preserved.

“I assumed — I now know inaccurately — that records that were on a State system were ones that were kept forever,” she claimed. “And I thought since the secretary's practice was to email people on their State records, that there was resident in the department a set of records with respect to her work at the department.

“I wish I had thought about the fact that someone could be nongovernment — non-State — and those records might be not being captured,” she added. “I didn't think about that.”

The Friday deposition turned feisty at times, as Mills’s attorneys repeatedly objected to questions they thought were vague or outside the scope of the open-records case. At multiple points, attorneys told Mills not to answer questions that they did not feel were appropriate.

“You're going over and over outside the scope of the questions,” attorney Beth Wilkinson told Judicial Watch at one point.  

“Which makes it seem like you don't really care about what you were supposed to ask her, and you're asking her all these things that are not relevant.”

In a separate moment of bickering between the opposing legal teams, Wilkinson said, “You know, in most depositions, people try to work together. In any deposition I've done, normally people are more than willing to do that, because the idea is to get you the information you're entitled to and that you need.”

Ramona Cotca, who was representing Judicial Watch, repeatedly protested Mills’s lawyers' efforts to explain their objections to her questions.

“I would ask that all counsel no longer provide speaking objections,” she said. “It's highly improper. It's coaching the witness.”

Judicial Watch is set to interview at least five other current or former Clinton aides as part of its lawsuit. Next up is Stephen Mill, the former State Department executive secretary, who is scheduled to answer questions under oath on Friday. Pagliano is scheduled to testify the following Monday.