Cheryl Mills

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Cheryl Mills
Cheryl D. Mills.jpg
Counselor and Chief of Staff, Department of State
In office
January 20, 2009 – February 1, 2013
President Barack Obama
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
Personal details
Political party Democratic
Domestic partner David Domenici[1][2]
Parents LaVerne Mills (mother)[3]
Alma mater University of Virginia,
Stanford Law School
Occupation Lawyer, Administrator, Government Official, Corporate Executive

Cheryl D. Mills (born 1965[4][5]) is an American lawyer, administrator, and corporate executive. She first came into public prominence while serving as deputy White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton, whom she defended during his 1999 impeachment trial. She has worked for New York University as Senior Vice President,[6] served as Senior Adviser and Counsel for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign,[7] and is considered a member of "Hillaryland".[7] She served as Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[8]

On September 3, 2015, she testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding her and former Secretary Clinton's actions and role during the 2012 Benghazi attack, although as she did not then hold a security clearance, her answers may have been somewhat limited for that reason.[9]

Early life and education

Mills is the daughter of a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army[10][11] and grew up on Army posts all over the world,[11] including Belgium, West Germany, and the U.S.[10] She attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland. Mills received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1987,[6] where she was Phi Beta Kappa,[12] and her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1990,[6] where she was elected to Stanford Law Review.[6]

She worked as an associate at the powerful Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson.[11] While there, she represented school districts seeking to achieve racial integration per Brown v. Board of Education.[6]

White House counsel

After serving as Deputy General Counsel of the Clinton/Gore Transition Planning Foundation after Clinton's 1992 election, she served as Associate Counsel to the President in the White House[6] from 1993 on.[12] Until the impeachment, she was little known to the public.[13]

During the impeachment trial, the BBC reported that she was "widely regarded as the shining star of the defense team, and gave an effective presentation on President Clinton's behalf on the second day of defense arguments."[4] Other media outlets also viewed her work quite favorably.[14] Her presentation to the Senate focused on refuting the obstruction of justice charge and the House managers' claim that failure to convict the President would damage the rule of law.[4] Her summation became known for its endorsement of Clinton's record with respect towards women and minorities;[5] she said, "I stand here before you today because President Bill Clinton believed I could stand here for him ... I'm not worried about civil rights, because this President's record on civil rights, on women's rights, on all of our rights is unimpeachable."[5][10]

After Clinton was acquitted, Mills was offered the White House Counsel position when Charles Ruff stepped down, but she declined.[5]

Post-White House career

After leaving the Clinton administration, Mills took a break from the practice of law. From 1999 to 2001, she served as Senior Vice President for Corporate Policy and Public Programming at Oxygen Media.[6]

By 2002, she was working for New York University (NYU).[15] While at NYU, she played a central role in the university administration's efforts around union contracts with adjunct faculty[16][17] and graduate students.[18][19] The Washington Post reported in October 2015 that, during Mills' first four months at the State Department, she continued to work at NYU on a part-time basis, negotiating with officials in Abu Dhabi to build a campus in the United Arab Emirates city.[20] She worked for no pay in those first months at the State Department, and was officially designated as a "temporary expert-consultant", which allowed her to continue receiving outside income while serving as Clinton's Chief of Staff. On her financial disclosure forms, she reported $198,000 in income from NYU in 2009, during the period her university work overlapped with her time at the State Department, and that she collected an additional $330,000 in vacation and severance payments when she left the university’s payroll in May 2009.[20] Additionally, Mills remained on the Clinton Foundation’s unpaid board for a short time after joining the State Department. Another Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, spent her final six months employed as Clinton’s deputy chief of staff in 2012, while also simultaneously employed by the Clinton Foundation.[20] As has Abedin's, Mills’ employment arrangement has raised questions regarding potential conflicts of interest, in Mills' case about how one of the State Department’s top employees set boundaries between her public role and a private job that involved work on a project funded by a foreign government.[20] Under Federal ethics laws, employees are prohibited from participating in matters that would have any direct and predictable effect on themselves or an outside employer. Mills told the Washington Post that she did not “recall any issues” at the State Department that would have required her recusing herself, and said she would have consulted with the ethics office if such an issue had come up. Nick Merrill, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, declined to comment.[20]

Department of State

Mills served as the Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beginning in January 2009.[3] In her capacity as Counselor, she was a principal officer who served the Secretary as a special advisor on major foreign policy challenges.[8] As Chief of Staff, Mills managed the Department's staff, providing support to the Secretary in administering operations of the Department. As former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said, “I think Secretary Clinton wants to know you’re a team player, but she wants to hear it straight and she gets exactly that from Cheryl.”[21]

Mills oversaw the Department’s interagency global hunger and food security initiative (Feed the Future) and diplomacy and development efforts in Haiti working closely with USAID and others across the government.[22] She served as the United States' representative on the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). In January 2011, Mills joined Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, the Inter-American Development Bank, Sae-A and the IHRC to announce the construction of an industrial park in Northern Haiti. Its first tenant will create 20,000 jobs alone.[23] She has said, "I feel a special connection to Haiti and the Haitian people. The power of Haitian heritage and the strength of the Haitian people is tremendous. And, Haiti holds a unique and rich role in the history of African Americans."[24] Shortly after taking office Secretary Clinton asked Mills to lead an interagency consultation of current agriculture and food security efforts. The subsequent strategy became (Feed the Future). The Obama administration pledged $3.5 billion over three years to boost agricultural productivity. Describing the importance of food security Mills said, "We are always worried whenever people can't feed themselves. And particularly worried when that actually might translate to destabilization of a country. It is one of the reasons why this program is such an important one."[25]


Throughout her career, Mills has been active in community service and civic affairs. In 1990, she worked with DCWorks, a non-profit organization that supported the academic and social development of underprivileged high school students of color.[6][11] She served on the Boards of the See Forever Foundation, National Partnership for Women and Families, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Library Foundation.[6] In 2010, Mills received UVA's Distinguished Alumna Award.[26] In the corporate world, Mills served on the board of Cendant Corporation.[6]

Mills has spoken about women in the work place and work-life balance.[27] “There weren't often a lot of models where you could see women at the height of what they were doing and balancing their family,” she told ABC News. “And being able to see her [Clinton] with Chelsea, see what their relationship was like, see when she took the time, all those things helped you to be thoughtful about how to be an effective parent yourself." [28]

On March 26, 2014, Elle magazine honored Mills at the Italian Embassy in the United States during its annual “Women in Washington Power List” celebration.[3]

Government offices
Preceded by
Eliot A. Cohen
Counselor of the United States Department of State
January 20, 2009 - February 1, 2013
Succeeded by
Heather Higginbottom
Government offices
Preceded by
Brian Gunderson
Chief of Staff to the United States Secretary of State
January 20, 2009 - February 1, 2013
Succeeded by


  1. "DAVID DOMENICI". 2001. Retrieved 19 May 2015. David's belief in the potential of court-involved and truant teens has, in his words, "forced many people and institutions working with at-risk students to face the reality that comprehensive programming coupled with mission-driven people can really provide a setting for even the most behind students to grow and develop."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "David Domenici—2013 Bio" (PDF). Nebraska Department of Education. Retrieved 19 May 2015. David designed the school program, hired all the staff, and became the founding Principal of the school, called the Maya Angelou Academy. ... He started his first nonprofit, DCWorks, at the age of 22. He lives in Washington, DC, with his partner, Cheryl Mills, and their two children, Lucca and Indigo.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Watters, Susan (26 March 2014). "Gucci and Elle Honor Women in Washington Power List". WWD. Retrieved 28 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "President Clinton's best defence". BBC News. 1999-02-10. Retrieved 2006-11-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Katherine Q. Seelye (1999-08-09). "Chief Lawyer for White House Heads Back to Private Practice". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 "Cheryl Mills". New York University. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Michelle Cottle (2007-08-06). "Hillary Control". New York. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Cheryl Mills". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2011-06-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Robin Toner (1999-08-16). "For a Tough Clinton Lawyer, a Tough Decision to Leave". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 David Von Drehle (1999-01-21). "Mills: A Brand New Legal Star on the Rise". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 "See Forever Board of Directors". See Forever Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-04-02. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Defense Who's Who". The Washington Post. January 19, 1999. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Tim Graham (1999-01-28). "Cheryl Mills: Liar, Obstructor...Heroine?". Media Research Center. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Karen W. Arenson (2002-05-01). "Cabinet's New Look at N.Y.U." The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Arenson, Karen (May 8, 2004). "Benefits Outlined For Adjuncts At N.Y.U." New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Meg Huelsman (2004-02-23). "Pro-adjuncts club sprouts". Washington Square News. Retrieved 2009-06-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Memo to the Community from Cheryl Mills & Terrance Nolan" (PDF). March 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Jason Rowe (2005-04-07). "Work with, not against, unions". Washington Square News. Retrieved 2009-06-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Rosalind S. Helderman - "While at State, Clinton chief of staff held job negotiating with Abu Dhabi", Washington Post, October 12, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-13
  21. Amie Parnes (2009-04-24). "Gatekeeper: Cheryl Mills". Politico. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Cheryl Mills (2010-03-10). "The Importance of Agriculture in Confronting Hunger, Poverty, and Unemployment in Haiti". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Jose De Cordoba (2011-01-11). "Planned Haitian Textile Park Provides Hope for Jobs". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Lois Romano (2010-05-10). "State Department's Cheryl Mills on rebuilding Haiti". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Weekend Edition (2011-06-12). "Clinton's Africa Tour Underscores The Power Of Women". NPR. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "U.Va. Distinguished Alumna Award Goes to Cheryl D. Mills, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Chief of Staff". University of Virginia. 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Trapped in the 'Marzipan Layer': Why Women Can't Make it to the Top". Daily Beast. 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Who Runs Government: Cheryl Mills". Washington Post. 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links