Top Clinton aide worked on Abu Dhabi project while at State

Top Clinton aide worked on Abu Dhabi project while at State
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Hilary Clinton's former chief of staff spent some of her time at the State Department working part time to build a campus for New York University (NYU) in Abu Dhabi.

Cheryl Mills disclosed the details of the special arrangement — which are likely to raise additional questions about top government officials who split their time between official and private work — in an interview with The Washington Post published on Monday. 

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Mills worked “very hard” to stick to State Department rules preventing conflict of interest, she said in the interview.

“I try to understand the rules and follow them. And I try to make sure that I’m disclosing my obligations,” Mills said. “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.”

Mills served as Clinton's chief of staff during the Democratic presidential candidate's time as secretary of State.

During her first four months with the State Department, Mills worked part time with NYU to set up its new campus in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The government during those four months dit not pay her.

As she explained to the Post, the job was primarily to coordinate the construction of a new facility in the Persian Gulf metropolis, and navigate the cultural and administrative barriers that presented themselves.

“The UAE’s culture is very different than ours,” she told the Post.

“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.”

The revelation comes amid heightened scrutiny on the work arrangements for Clinton’s former top aides.

In addition to Mills, longtime Clinton confidante Huma Abedin also received permission to work for an outside firm while employed at the State Department. Abedin’s decision to split her time between the government and a private consulting firm have led to allegations about a possible conflict of interest.

In her discussion with the Post, Mills said that did not recall the State Department’s ethics office flagging any questions about her unusual work arrangement.

“There was nothing special, if you were, about me,” she said.

Mills continued to work with NYU and to sit on outside boards because she initially intended to leave the government after helping with the transition. Once Clinton convinced her to stay, Mills said she began to “wind down those obligations.”  

This summer, Mills sat down before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to answer questions for nine hours behind closed doors. Democrats have said they intend to make the transcript of that testimony public this week, despite the objections of the committee's GOP leaders. 

Concerns about outside obligations on Mills and Abedin have compounded existing criticism against Clinton for her use of a personal email address and private server while serving as secretary of State.  

In her Post interview, Mills declined to offer any new information about the server or the ongoing FBI investigation into whether any classified information was improperly handled.

She largely echoed Clinton’s explanation that she had used the server purely out of habit.

“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,” she said.