The most revealing Clinton campaign emails in WikiLeaks release
Kyle Cheney, Sarah Wheaton, Politico, Oct 7 2016
WikiLeaks released a trove of emails apparently hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman email account, unleashing thousands of messages that reveal for the first time excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches, including those delivered before Wall Street, that were flagged as problematic or potentially damaging. The late-Friday release came almost immediately after a devastating tape emerged of Donald Trump in 2005 talking about how being “a star” entitled him to make aggressive sexual advances on women, fueling speculation that WikiLeaks is trying to tip the balance of the election. The batch of emails, which Wikileaks promised is the first of many more to come, provided a glimpse into the inner workings of the campaign, and offered telling details about Clinton’s views on trade and the middle class. In one of the most notable exchanges, Clinton campaign research director Tony Carrk emails other members of the team on Jan 25 2016 to share excerpts of her paid speeches that could come back to bite the campaign. Carrk writes:
Attached are the flags from HRC’s paid speeches we have from HWA. I put some highlights below. There is a lot of policy positions that we should give an extra scrub with Policy.
The first excerpt, highlighted with the header *CLINTON ADMITS SHE IS OUT OF TOUCH*, is from a Goldman Sachs-Black Rock event in 2014 in which Clinton discusses her distance from middle-class Pindostanis. She said in the speech:
My father loved to complain about big business and big government, but we had a solid middle-class upbringing. We had good public schools. We had accessible health care. We had our little, you know, one-family house that, you know, he saved up his money, didn’t believe in mortgages. So I lived that. And now, obviously, I’m kind of far removed because the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven’t forgotten it.
The speech excerpts also delve into her support for a Canadian-style universal health care system and offer revealing comments about trade, which could prove controversial after Clinton dragged her feet in voicing fierce opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that progressives loathe. Beyond those excerpts, the emails affirm the campaign’s reputation for extreme caution, with an eagerness to proactively influence news coverage. Whether it’s plotting the candidates’ response to an early attack on influence peddling at the Clinton Foundation or writing jokes for an Iowa dinner speech, ad hoc committees, often incorporating advice from Bill Clinton, are shown agonizing over wording and tone. Under fire, they’re determined “not to look beleaguered,” as one aide put it. Clinton’s campaign would not confirm the authenticity of the emails, though it did not explicitly deny it either. Podesta tweeted on Friday evening:
I do not have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.
Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in an email:
Earlier today the Pindosi government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy. We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton. Guccifer 2.0 has already proven the warnings of top national security officials that documents can be faked as part of a sophisticated Russian misinformation campaign.
The Republican National Committee seized on the leaked excerpts, trying to drive a wedge between Clinton and former supporters of Bernie Sanders, who had made his calls for her speech transcripts a centerpiece of his primary challenge. RNC Chairman Reince Preibus in a statement:
With today’s WikiLeaks revelations we are finding out who Hillary Clinton really is, and it’s not hard to see why she fought so hard to keep her transcripts of speeches to Wall Street banks paying her millions of dollars secret. The truth that has been exposed here is that the persona Hillary Clinton has adopted for her campaign is a complete and utter fraud. How can Bernie Sanders and many like-minded Democrats continue to support her candidacy in light of these revelations?
Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon appeared to criticize the media for digging through the trove on Friday evening, writing on Twitter:
Striking how quickly concern abt Russia’s masterminding of illegal hacks gave way to digging thru fruits of hack. Just like Russia wanted.
Indeed, here are eight more e-mail exchanges that shed light on the methods and mindset of Clinton’s allies in Brooklyn and Washington:
- Clinton Foundation event at Goldman Sachs: In a May 2014 email, Clinton’s soon-to-be campaign manager Robby Mook called it “troubling” that Goldman Sachs had been selected to host an upcoming Clinton Foundation event. He wrote in an email to Podesta:
I flagged for Tina and Cheryl as well but it’s a little troubling that Goldman Sachs was selected for the foundation event.
His comment was in reference to a NYT story included in the email quipping:
The most generous donors to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation will convene on Jun 6 at the Goldman Sachs.
- Clinton’s Keystone response: In Aug 2015, senior aides to Hillary Clinton debated intensely how to react to the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline, which they had heard was imminent. Nikki Budzinski, Clinton’s labor outreach director, wrote:
I just wanted to try to politically get ahead of this and where we are on the issue if this in fact happens. The trades are also hearing that HRC will put out a statement stating that she encouraged Obama to take this position. Politically with the building trades, this would be a very dangerous posture.
Podesta replied verbatim:
Your in trouble, girl. Seriously, doubt we’ll say we ‘encouraged’ but assume we’ll support if it goes that way.
The decision by the Obama administration was ultimately delayed, which aides presumed was to kick it past the Oct 19 Canadian elections. Then, adviser Jake Sullivan suggested that she may simply reveal her opposition in response to a question.
- Challenging Trey Gowdy: In Mar 2015, the Clinton campaign brass wondered whether they could recruit a friendly Congress crittur to question House Benghazi investigators’ attempts to force Clinton to release her emails. Clinton pollster Joel Benenson wondered:
Do we have some D who can squarely at Gowdy and demand he release all his emails for that last two years so people can see for themselves how politically motivated his investigations are?
The problem? No one wanted to do it. They considered Elijah Cummings but then suggested they choose an “HRC Warrior,” as Podesta put it. He wondered:
Who is her most fearsome House ally?
Mook suggested Nita Lowey, Steve Israel or “SJL”, apparently Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. As it turned out, none of them seemed eager. Jim Margolis, another Clinton strategist, wrote:
After i suggested this earlier in the week i talked to few people on the Hill. The challenge is getting a member of congress to do it… because they think they will be called upon to make the same disclosure. I pointed out that they don’t believe private emails should be made public, so there is no hypocrisy. But there is nervousness just the same. Maybe a retiring senator like Mikulski. I’ll keep working it, too.
- ‘Clinton Cash’ rapid response: Clinton’s team scrambled in the spring of 2015 to reaction to allegations made about the Clinton Foundation in “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” Emails show an elaborate response plan, even debuting a rapid-response website for grassroots supporters to get talking points. Jake Sullivan wrote on May 3 to 10 top aides including Jennifer Palmieri, Robby Mook, Mandy Grunwald, Joel Benenson and Jim Margolis:
The biggest question for this group is if and how HRC engages on Clinton Cash this week and what are the ‘two lines’ she would deliver.
Benenson responded with a few lines for Clinton to say about the foundation’s “life-saving work around the world.” Benenson suggested Clinton say:
The notion that that anyone donating to the foundation was going to influence me in my job is absurd.
Margolis suggested adding “and never happened.” Of the rapid-response website, Sullivan wrote:
John [Podesta] and I discussed yesterday and think it is important that supporters and press know that we will deal aggressively with unfair attacks, but our real focus and hers is her proactive vision. Important that we do not appear beleaguered.
In April, the team looked for ways to have reporters thoroughly debunk “Clinton Cash” before its release. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon wrote to other Clinton advisers:
Amy Chozick from the NYT called us to indicate she had obtained a copy of the book on her own and intends to file a separate story tomorrow. Her story will not unpack all of the book’s claims … she will do a more processy story about the book’s existence, the fact that the publisher has approached multiple media outlets in advance of the book’s publication to spoonfeed them some of the book’s research. We think this story, though it was not originated by us, could end up being somewhat helpful in casting the book’s author as having a conservative agenda.
When the author of “Clinton Cash”, Peter Schweitzer, stumbled through an awkward interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, himself a Clinton Foundation donor, the comms team took a victory lap as they sent around the transcript. Spox Jesse Ferguson wrote:
great work everyone. this interview is perfect. he lands nothing and everything is refuted (mostly based on our work).
Nick Merrill chimes in:
This is therapeutic to watch. George is cool as a cucumber, doesn’t rush into it, but just destroys him slowly but surely over the course of the interview.
- Joking about the Benghazi hearing: On Oct 24 2015, the Clinton team debated how sharp of a dig Clinton should take at Rep Trey Gowdy after her marathon appearance before his committee investigating the Benghazi attack. As they discussed remarks she was set to deliver at the October Jefferson Jackson dinner the next night, Podesta had an idea for a joke. Podesta suggested inserting into the speech:
I used to be obsessed with Donald Trump’s hair, that was until I got to spend 11 hours staring at the top of Trey Gowdy’s head.
Jake Sullivan replied:
I love the joke too but I think HRC should stay above the committee, and especially above personal insults about it. She’s got every inch of the high ground right now.
Clinton comms director Jennifer Palmieri joked:
Wow. You people are a bunch of ninnies.
But the team was determined to find some humor they could agree on. Mook suggested, an “Apprentice” joke, but noted:
I never saw the show. I’m also the worst person to generate jokes….
Then Jim Margolis revealed a suggestion from Bill Clinton himself:
Wishing after hour 8 that Bernie would come through the door with his ‘damn email’ line.
But Benenson killed the line, writing:
It’s a joke that would work and room would love it. However one caveat: I think it gives Bernie the credit for putting the email crap behind us instead of her. She crushed the debate and she crushed at the committee. And while crowd may love it question for comms team is whether reporters would take it as proof that Bernie ‘saved’ her campaign from the email tempest.
- Jeb’s economic message is not so different: Following Jeb Bush’s “right to rise” speech on Feb 5 in Detroit, Clinton’s aides had different reactions. Jeffrey Liszt, an outside pollster:
It’s a scary new wrapping paper for trickle down.
Outside comms adviser Mandy Grunwald’s take:
Very little in this speech that HRC wouldn’t say…
- Bernie oppo: In Oct 2015, just as Sanders’ campaign was starting to pick up steam, Tony Carrk emailed colleagues a list of potential points to use against the Vermont senator. The email, with the subject line “PLS REVIEW: Sanders Hits,” featured paragraphs of potential lines of attack against Sanders on labor and the environment, a 1994 crime bill, gun control and gay marriage. The Clinton campaign ended up using some of the potential attacks, like Sanders supporting the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, which blocked regulating credit default swaps, while also bashing repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Another point proposes attacking Sanders on spending. Carrk wrote:
Sen Sanders has not told the Pindo sheeple how much his plans will cost and how he will pay for them. When asked for specifics, he demurs. When other estimates show trillions in new spending, he simply rejects them without offering his own estimate.
- Sounding ‘Pro-Keystone’: In the speech excerpts, Clinton-allied researchers flagged her positive remarks about the Keystone XL Pipeline and trade, made well before she came out against the pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Clinton told a Brazilian bank in 2013:
My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere. We have to resist, protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access.
An aide flagged these remarks as sounding “Pro-Keystone”:
Keystone is a contentious issue, and of course it is important on both sides of the border for different and sometimes opposing reasons, but that is not our relationship.
The HuffPost has reported that the Jun 2014 speech to TinePublic Inc, was among several speeches with ties to two Canadian banks with a financial interest in the oil project.
WikiLeaks releases alleged Podesta emails
Katie Bo Williams, The Hill, Oct 7 2016
WikiLeaks on Friday afternoon published a database of 2,060 documents it claims are emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the emails, which are labeled as “Part I of the Podesta emails,” focus on Podesta’s “communications relating to nuclear energy, and media handling over donations to the Clinton Foundation from mining and nuclear interests.” Donald Trump and others have accused Clinton of tying the State Dept’s 2010 approval of a gradual Russian takeover of the Pindosi company Uranium One to $145m in donations to the Clinton Foundation. The company was made up of land equal to about 20% of Pindostan’s uranium capacity, according to Oilprice.com, although experts note that Pindostan doesn’t actually produce a significant amount of the world’s uranium stock. The State Dept did not take unilateral action, but instead was one of a nine-agency review board, known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in Pindostan (CFIUS). The Clinton campaign has maintained that the then-Sec State was not directly involved in the process. The State Dept’s Asst Sec State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, Jose Fernandez, handled the deal, according to the campaign. Fernandez has attested that “Secretary Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.” But shortly before the NYT reported links between the donations and the sale of Uranium One, according to the WikiLeaks emails, Fernandez reportedly wrote in an email to Podesta:
John, It was good to talk to you this afternoon, and I appreciate your taking the time to call. As I mentioned, I would like to do all I can to support Secretary Clinton, and would welcome your advice and help in steering me to the right persons in the campaign.
In pushing back on allegations in the NYT story, the campaign failed to mention that Fernandez was hardly a neutral witness in this case, considering that he had agreed with John Podesta to play a role in the Clinton campaign.
The $145m in donations came from nine separate donors to the Clinton Foundation, only some of whom were linked by the NYT to Uranium One. According to a timeline put together by Politifact, the bulk of donations occurred more than two years before the 2010 approval of the deal. Assange has said repeatedly that his organization will release “thousands” of documents pertaining to Clinton that could have a “significant” impact on Clinton’s bid for the White House. WikiLeaks has a policy to not disclose where it obtains the information that it makes public. Earlier on Friday, the Intelligence community confirmed (sic – RB) that Russia was behind the theft of the DNC emails. Although it remains unclear exactly who provided the documents to WikiLeaks, security experts have long warned that Russian intelligence is capable of selectively doctoring emails that it disseminates. Some have raised concerns that WikiLeaks is acting as a bullhorn for Russian intelligence. The DNC has not denied the authenticity of any of the emails published in that leak.
Leaked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at Ease With Wall Street
Amy Chozick, Nicholas Confessore, Michael Barbaro, NYT, Oct 7 2016
In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks. The tone and language of the excerpts clash with the fiery liberal approach she used later in her bitter primary battle with Bernie Sanders and could have undermined her candidacy had they become public. Mrs Clinton comes across less as a firebrand than as a technocrat at home with her powerful audience, willing to be critical of large financial institutions but more inclined to view them as partners in restoring the country’s economic health. In the excerpts from her paid speeches to financial institutions and corporate audiences, Mrs Clinton said she dreamed of “open trade and open borders” throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Citing the back-room deal-making and arm-twisting used by Abraham Lincoln, she mused on the necessity of having “both a public and a private position” on politically contentious issues. Reflecting in 2014 on the rage against political and economic elites that swept the country after the 2008 financial crash, Mrs Clinton acknowledged that her family’s rising wealth had made her “kind of far removed” from the struggles of the middle class. The passages were contained in an internal review of Mrs Clinton’s paid speeches undertaken by her campaign, which was identifying potential land mines should the speeches become public. They offer a glimpse at one of the most sought-after troves of information in the 2016 presidential race, and an explanation, perhaps, for why Mrs Clinton has steadfastly refused demands by Mr Sanders and Donald Trump to release them. Mrs Clinton’s campaign would not confirm the authenticity of the documents. They were released on Friday night by WikiLeaks, saying that they had come from the email account of John Podesta, Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman.
In a statement, Clinton spox G Caplin pointed to the Pindosi government’s findings that Russian officials had used WikiLeaks to hack documents in order to sway the outcome of the presidential election, suggesting that the leak of Mr Podesta’s emails was also engineered by Russian officials determined to help Mr Trump. Mr Caplin noted that a Twitter message from WikiLeaks promoting the documents had incorrectly identified Mr Podesta as a co-owner of his brother’s lobbying firm. But Clinton officials did not deny that the email containing the excerpts was real. The leaked email, dated Jan 25, does not contain Mrs Clinton’s full speeches to the financial firms, leaving it unclear what her overall message was to these audiences. But in the excerpts, Mrs Clinton demonstrates her long and warm ties to some of Wall Street’s most powerful figures. In a discussion in the fall of 2013 with Lloyd Blankfein, a friend who is the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Mrs Clinton said that the political climate had made it overly difficult for wealthy people to serve in government. Mrs Clinton said:
There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. The pressure on officials to sell or divest assets in order to serve has become very onerous and unnecessary.
In a separate speech to Goldman Sachs employees the same month, Mrs Clinton said it was an “oversimplification” to blame the global financial crisis of 2008 on the Pindo banking system. Mrs Clinton said of the tendency to blame the banking system:
It was conventional wisdom, and I think that there’s a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened.
And she praised a deficit-reduction proposal from Pres Obama’s fiscal commission that called for raising the Social Security retirement age, saying that the commission’s leaders “had put forth the right framework.” Such comments could have proven devastating to Mrs Clinton during the Democratic primary fight, when Mr Sanders promoted himself as the enemy of Wall Street and of a rigged economic system. Some of the most eye-popping passages ultimately express more nuanced explanations of her views. When Mrs Clinton describes herself as “far removed” from average Pindosis and their finances, she had just finished describing her growing appreciation for how “anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged.” And she reminds the audience that her father “loved to complain about big business and big government.” The Clintons have made more than $120m in speeches to Wall Street and special interests since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001. Mrs Clinton typically earned $225k for speeches, though she sometimes donated her fees to her family foundation. Mr Sanders said during the primary:
I kind of think if you’re going to be paid $225k for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech, a brilliant speech which you would want to share with the Pindo sheeple.
As her race against Mr Sanders, who now campaigns for Mrs Clinton, grew unexpectedly contentious and close, Mrs Clinton sought to portray herself as deeply skeptical of Wall Street and eager to punish its wayward leaders. Mrs Clinton said in January:
I believe strongly that we need to make sure that Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again. No bank is too big to fail, and no executive is too powerful to jail.
As she sought to burnish her image as an advocate of working Pindostan, Mrs Clinton declared her opposition to the TPP, Obama’s 12-nation trade pact, and distanced herself from NAFTA, which her husband signed into law. But in a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank, Mrs Clinton took a far different approach, saying:
My dream is a hemispheric common market with open borders, sometime in the future.
Some of her paid remarks embrace the view that the public can benefit when Wall Street partners with government, such as:
When it comes to writing effective financial regulations, the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.
Foreign hackers, authorized by Russian security agencies, according to national security officials, have successfully penetrated the operations of the Democrat Party and its candidates over the past year. They broke into the email servers of the DNC, revealing embarrassing internal messages in which party leaders who were supposed to be neutral expressed their preference for Mrs Clinton even as she was campaigning against Mr Sanders. And Mr Assange is an avowed critic of Mrs Clinton who has made clear that he wishes to hurt her chances of winning the presidency. Half of all registered voters said it bothered them “a lot” that Mrs Clinton had given numerous paid speeches to Wall Street banks, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll in June. Asked in an interview that month if the practice was self-defeating, given the anger over income inequality, Mrs Clinton responded:
My predecessors as Sec State gave paid speeches, too. I actually think it makes sense, because a lot of people know you have a front row seat in watching what’s going on in the world.