GOP operatives on the prowl for secret Clinton transcripts

GOP operatives on the prowl for secret Clinton transcripts
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Republican operatives are scouring the country for transcripts, notes or secret recordings of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats battle for Hollywood's cash The House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs in hopes of finding damaging material for the general election.

Clinton has rebuffed calls from Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE to release the transcripts of her three speeches to the Wall Street giant, which she delivered in 2013 to the tune of $225,000 per appearance. She has repeatedly said she will release the transcripts of her paid speeches when all the presidential candidates agree to do so.

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Republican opposition researchers have taken matters into their own hands, aggressively seeking any information about the speeches, including from Goldman employees who were in the room. 

Ian Prior, the communications director for the well-funded Republican group American Crossroads, said information about the Goldman Sachs speeches could prove cataclysmic for the Democratic Party. 

Finding and releasing the transcripts “would be a heck of a way to outflank Hillary on her left [in a general election] and stop Bernie’s supporters from voting for her,” he said.

“Just mail the Goldman Sachs transcripts to every Bernie supporter. There’s your targeted mail program right there." 

Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Her team has never disputed that Clinton, as part of her contracts for the speeches, required that they not be taped in any form. The contracts also stated that the transcriptions would be kept solely in her possession. 

While the hunt for the transcripts is on, Republican operatives acknowledge they’ve come up empty so far.

Several employees at Goldman Sachs who attended one of the Clinton speeches have been helpful to Republican researchers, but all they can manage are “vague recollections” of what the former secretary of State said, a source familiar with the effort said.

And neither the Republican National Committee nor the top opposition research firm in the conservative universe, America Rising, has been able to get detailed notes from the three speeches, sources say. Nor have any the other Republican groups with the resources to look for them. 

One GOP official familiar with the search expressed doubt that the transcripts will ever see the light of day.

Information about the Wall Street speeches "falls into the space of we believe it exists, but there’s no route to get to the information without Hillary Clinton releasing it herself." 

"Efforts have been made," the official added, but "this is one of those situations" where high profile and potentially damaging documents might remain out of reach.

Sources involved in the search privately say that they are frustrated by how little they have found, given many of the Goldman employees in the audience would have had smartphones on which to take notes or shoot video of the former secretary of State. 

“It’s as puzzling to us [that it hasn’t come out], as it is to you,” said one GOP strategist familiar with the Goldman Sachs search party.

“I won’t say it won’t come out at some point. It’s like a bomb that’s going to go off in the general election.” 

Secret video of the Goldman speeches is a tantalizing prospect for Republicans, as they know from experience how damaging such material can be. Their last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, was badly damaged by a secretly taped video released in 2012 where he said “47 percent” of voters would vote for President Obama because they are “dependent upon government.” 

Political operatives in both parties speculate about what Clinton might have said to the bankers. Given that she was paid to deliver speeches, many suspect that she lavished praise on Wall Street.

Media outlets have unearthed some tantalizing clues. Politico has reported that, during one of the Goldman speeches, “Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.”

In a 2016 Politico story, one attendee recalled that Clinton “was pretty glowing about us” and “sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director” than Sanders, her populist foe in the general election race.

The gossip mill was provided even more fuel by the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski, who claimed in February that, “I know of a print reporter that has actual transcripts.”

Yet while Republican opposition researchers still occasionally mention Brzezinski’s tip, no story or transcript has materialized.

Republicans believe the Goldman Sachs speeches could be a big liability for Clinton this fall. Prior said the “strange” dynamics of the general election mean that the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, could attack her from the left as being too cozy with Wall Street.

"Secretary Clinton’s closed door speeches and fees are a persistent problem for her because they are emblematic of the unethical, untrustworthy public image Clinton has among a majority of voters,” Jeff Bechdel, America Rising PAC's communications director, told The Hill.

"Everyone knows the Clintons live at the nexus of money and politics, and nothing screams ‘unethical’ like secret speeches in exchange for enormous sums of money.” 

Given the general election battle to come, the Goldman transcripts are also of enormous interest to Democrats, though no one in the party admits to have searched for them.

Meredith Kelly, national press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said, “The DCCC has made no effort to get a copy of these transcripts and views this as a total non-issue.” 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not respond to questions about the transcripts. 

Justin Barasky, the spokesman for Clinton’s super-PAC, Priorities USA, had a simple response when asked whether the group had attempted or succeeded in obtaining the Goldman Sachs transcripts. 

“No comment.”