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Clinton allies criticize campaign over health secrecy

A lack of transparency about her health has turned what might have been a non-issue into a hugely problematic storyline for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE that could plague the Democratic presidential nominee into November, say allies and confidants. 

One ally described the string of events that culminated in Clinton leaving a Sept. 11 memorial early as a “self-inflicted f---ing nightmare.”

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Clinton’s campaign sought to deal with the fallout on Monday of damaging video that showed Clinton’s knees buckling and Secret Service agents helping her into a van. The campaign later revealed that the Democratic nominee was suffering from pneumonia. 

David Axelrod, who served as a senior adviser to President Obama, chided Clinton and the campaign for unnecessarily withholding information from the public. 

“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia,” Axelrod wrote on Twitter. “What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

Behind the scenes, the criticism was even more withering. And it comes at a time when the campaign’s trajectory appears to have stalled, with polls showing Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE gaining on Clinton.

A second ally said Clinton and her team probably wanted to withhold that she’d been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday so that conservatives who have been raising questions about her health wouldn’t have ammunition. 

Yet in withholding the information and allowing Clinton to go forward with an event that she was not able to handle, they made the situation worse. 

“Why couldn’t the campaign just have been aboveboard about this?” the second ally questioned. “She got sick. Tell people she’s sick and move on. I know they thought it would give the right-wingers something to pounce on, but who cares?”

Trump and his top campaign aides chose not to focus on Clinton’s health issues on Monday.

Speaking on Fox News, Trump said he hoped she “gets well and gets back on the trail and we’ll be seeing her at the debate.” 

Instead, the Trump campaign focused on remarks Clinton made at a fundraiser Friday evening, when she categorized half of the Republican nominee’s supporters as fitting into “the basket of deplorables.”

“Hillary Clinton is an insider, supported by powerful insiders, attacking Americans who have no political power,” Trump said in the Monday speech.

Over the weekend, while dealing with the now-public bout of pneumonia, Clinton expressed regret for the comments. 

But on Monday, Clinton’s team had a new problem on their hands with the lack of transparency on Clinton’s illness.

Spokesman Brian Fallon told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that the campaign would be releasing additional health records for Clinton in the coming days.

He also said Clinton would be back on the campaign trail laster this week after canceling a trip to the West Coast — were it up to Clinton, he said, she’d already be back.

Fallon argued that Clinton was “dead set” on attending the 9/11 ceremony on Sunday despite being diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier. The diagnosis was disclosed on Sunday evening after the video emerged of her stumbling.

The Clinton aide said the campaign could have better kept the press informed in the 90 minutes after Clinton left the memorial.

“That’s on the staff. That’s on us, and we regret that,” Fallon said.

Another Clinton aide, Jennifer Palmieri, responded to Axelrod on Twitter, acknowledging, “We could have done better yesterday.”

It’s not the first time a lack of candor came back to hurt Clinton, something even allies were quick to point out on Monday. 

“They should have been more transparent,” one confidant said, adding that it is a “chronic problem of lack of trust in the media” that leads to the secrecy but which has also hurt Clinton with voters. 

Polls have repeatedly found that a large number of voters do not trust Clinton or find her honest. 

Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis comes after a couple of coughing fits that got attention not just from conservative media outlets but some in the mainstream, including NBC.

At the time, the Clinton campaign aggressively pushed back at the NBC report. 

On Monday, Fallon insisted that Clinton was suffering from pneumonia but that there was no other condition or illness. He said it had nothing to do with a concussion Clinton suffered in 2012 that has been pushed by conservatives. 

“There’s no other undisclosed condition. The pneumonia is the extent of it,” he said. 

After the 2012 concussion, doctors found a blood clot, and Clinton was treated for months with blood thinners.

“I did have a concussion and some effects in the aftermath of it, mostly dizziness, double vision,” she told People magazine in 2014. “Those all dissipated. Blood thinners are my continuing treatment for the blood clot.”

Even Clinton allies say the details about her health “will need to be provided sooner than later,” as one put it. 

The confidants swear the Democratic nominee is in great health. They point to her grueling schedule and say she wouldn’t be able to handle the dizzying pace of the campaign trail if she wasn’t. 

And her longtime aides still brag that she visited 112 nations as secretary of State. 

Knowing that Clinton has a tendency to operate at a breakneck pace, some friends encouraged her to slow down this summer and take a break before the final stretch of the campaign. 

Clinton only had a few public events in August. But she spent most of the month fundraising  for the busy fall season.

This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.