The complicated history of Hillary and Boehner

The complicated history of Hillary and Boehner

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on US leading in coronavirus cases: Trump 'did promise "America First"' Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines Clintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus MORE and Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Pelosi administration Coronavirus spending will come amid huge deficits Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE (R-Ohio) have a complicated relationship, and it’s far from warm and fuzzy.

That much was obvious with the disclosure of a 2010 email to then-Secretary of State Clinton from her longtime confidant, Sidney Blumenthal, who disparaged BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Pelosi administration Coronavirus spending will come amid huge deficits Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE as an “alcoholic” and “lazy” as he prepared to ascend to the Speakership.

Those unflattering remarks — never intended to see the light of day — would contribute to an awkward political relationship if Clinton wins the White House in 2016 and Boehner decides to seek a fourth term as Speaker of the House.

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“From what I’ve seen, they don’t have a personal relationship; it’s been strictly professional and that’s about it,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a Capitol Hill veteran who informally advises House and Senate Republican leaders.

The scathing Blumenthal memo, written the night Republicans captured control of the House in 2010, represented just the latest chapter in a long, complicated history between Boehner and one of Washington’s power couples.

Hillary Clinton probably first heard of Rep. John Boehner while serving as first lady in 1993, when the future Speaker was making a name for himself by railing against a healthcare plan the GOP mocked as “Hillarycare.”

Later, Boehner was a member of the GOP leadership team that forged ahead with the investigation of former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus Budowsky: President Trump, meet with all former living presidents Why Klobuchar should be Biden's vice presidential pick MORE’s sex scandal with intern Monica Lewinsky. While Boehner wasn’t the architect, that strategy backfired, costing Republicans five seats in the 1998 elections.

By the time the House voted on articles of impeachment that December, Boehner had been ousted as GOP conference chairman, the No. 4 leadership job. He officially relinquished his post the following January, when the new Congress was seated, and wouldn’t make his political comeback for another seven years.

But Boehner and Hillary briefly crossed paths again after her election to the Senate in 2000. During her freshman year, she was appointed to a House-Senate conference committee charged with negotiating a deal on No Child Left Behind, the landmark education bill. As House Education chairman, Boehner co-chaired the conference panel.

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More recently, when Boehner was Speaker and Clinton was running Foggy Bottom, the two leaders did sometimes call each other to discuss foreign affairs.
And in 2012, Boehner defended top Clinton aide Huma Abedin after five House conservatives, including then-Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannEvangelicals shouldn't be defending Trump in tiff over editorial Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (R-Minn.), accused her of having ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and being a threat to national security.

“I don’t know Huma,” Boehner told reporters at the time, “but from everything that I do know of her, she has a sterling character, and I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.”

But for the past year, Boehner has been using his powers as Speaker — as well as his bully pulpit — to investigate and raise questions about Clinton’s leadership at State.

Last year, Boehner created a special committee to probe the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks against U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. That panel, led by Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for another week fighting the coronavirus, seek to curb fallout GOP lawmaker shows off AR-15 in office, challenges Biden to 'come and take it' Sunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses MORE (R-S.C.), discovered that Clinton had used a private email server while she was at State, and Boehner began focusing more of his time and attention on her emails just as Clinton ramped up her presidential bid this year.

His aides insist the Speaker is solely focused on getting to the bottom of Benghazi.

“When it comes to Secretary Clinton, the Speaker has been focused on making sure the American people have the facts about her record in relation to the terror attack in Benghazi,” Boehner spokeswoman Emily Schillinger said in an email. “After creating the Benghazi Select Committee, Speaker Boehner has ensured Committee members have the support and resources they need to fairly and thoroughly investigate this tragedy.”

The Clinton campaign did not respond to an email seeking comment. The former secretary is set to testify before the Benghazi committee in a public hearing on Oct. 22, a month after two of her former top aides, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, appear before the panel.

Abedin, who is married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), has become a central figure in the email scandal. She also had an email account on the Clintons’ home server.

Former Boehner aides describe the Speaker’s relationship with Hillary Clinton as “cordial” during the two decades when she served as first lady, New York senator and later as secretary of State following her failed 2008 presidential bid.

“Their paths occasionally crossed over the last 20 years,” said one former Boehner aide. “They have a cordial, professional relationship. They’re not close but not hostile
either. He gave her the courtesy and respect she was due as secretary of State and she reciprocated.”

But former aides concede Boehner has a slightly warmer relationship with former President Clinton, with whom he has golfed. The two men, along with President George W. Bush, also joined hands in 2011 to raise the final $10 million needed to complete the memorial honoring the victims of United Flight 93, which crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., during the 9/11 attacks.

Boehner’s name appears several times in the latest tranche of emails released by the State Department Monday night, revealing that Team Hillary eyed the incoming Speaker warily and viewed him and his new House GOP majority as a potential problem for her political future.

“Hillary’s team viewed Speaker Boehner as a threat. … This was advice from a political assassin,” said a Republican source who is familiar with Blumenthal.

“Boehner was on their radar screen and they were concerned about Republicans taking over the House and how that could impact her trajectory.”

In Blumenthal’s lengthy memo, he concluded that Boehner is vulnerable from the right and urged Democrats to exploit divisions between establishment and Tea Party Republicans rather than seek bipartisanship.

“Boehner is despised by the younger, more conservative members of the House Republican Conference,” Blumenthal wrote to Clinton. “They are repelled by his
personal behavior. He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle.”

In a couple of earlier memos that fall, Blumenthal had expressed frustration to Clinton that Republicans had successfully made the 2010 midterms a referendum on President Obama, even though Boehner was also deeply unpopular.

“Whatever issue ginned up by Republicans — from illegal immigration to the ‘ground zero mosque’ — is not about the issue itself. Everything, but everything, is about
making John Boehner, that old scandal ridden hack Republican, the Speaker,” Blumenthal wrote in a memo on Sept. 6, 2010.

“No matter what the Republicans say, the ultimate issue is the Boehner power-grab. The Republican Party is the same old party. It’s unreformed. It hasn’t learned anything. It can’t control its extremists.”