5 takeaways from WikiLeaks emails


WikiLeaks has released thousands of emails detailing the inner workings of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign over the last week.

Though U.S. intelligence officials have suggested the leaks may be part of a Russian plot to meddle in the elections, Donald Trump and other Republicans have seized on the emails and the embarrassing revelations they contain.  

{mosads}Clinton’s campaign has refused to confirm the authenticity of the messages, which were allegedly stolen from campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox.

And there could be many more to come. WikiLeaks had so far released 6,500 emails, though it claims to have a total of 50,000. 

Here are the five biggest revelations so far.

The Wall Street transcripts contain damaging statements

The first batch of emails, made public on Friday evening, contained material that been the subject of speculation for months: excerpts from paid speeches she gave to financial institutions.

During the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders demanded that Clinton release the transcripts, and Trump has since taken up the call. She declined, saying she would only release them if candidates in both parties did.

The emails released by WikiLeaks make clear that the transcripts contain statements that could be politically damaging.

In one remark at a gathering of apartment building firms, Clinton said that politicians “need both a public and a private position,” playing into criticism that she is deceptive.

“Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be,” the former secretary of State said in the speech excerpt. “But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least.”

Elsewhere, Clinton said she dreams of “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” 

In another speech, Clinton said terrorism is “not a threat to us as a nation,” though it is “a real threat.”

“It is not going to endanger our economy or our society, but it is a real threat,” she said in an August 2013 speech to the Global Business Travelers Association. “It is a danger to our citizens here at home, and as we tragically saw in Boston, and to those living, working, and traveling abroad.”

The Clinton campaign was tipped off to a debate question during the primaries

One day before a CNN presidential town hall in March, a senior Democratic Party official appeared to share a question with Clinton’s campaign. 

“From time to time I get the questions in advance,” Donna Brazile, then a TV commentator and vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri in an email. 

“Here’s one that worries me about HRC,” she added, using Clinton’s initials, before including a six-sentence question about the death penalty. 

At the town hall, moderator Roland Martin referenced some of the statistics included in Brazile’s email before allowing a member of the town hall to ask a similar question about the subject.

A Clinton aide discussed an email case with the Justice Department

In the midst of an open records lawsuit concerning emails from Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State, a campaign spokesman who formerly worked for the Department of Justice (DOJ) appeared to be gathering news from former colleagues.

“DOJ folks inform me there is a status hearing in this case this morning, so we could have a window into the judge’s thinking about this proposed production schedule as quickly as today,” Brian Fallon, a former Justice Department spokesman, wrote in May 2015. 

Court schedules are publicly available information, but Republicans said Fallon being in touch with the Justice Department raises questions, and they have called for all emails between the campaign and DOJ to be released.

The lawsuit was separate from the FBI’s criminal investigation into whether Clinton or her aides mishandled classified information. That federal investigation, which did not ultimately lead to an indictment, had not yet begun at the time that Fallon’s email was sent. 

Political considerations were front and center when deciding her positions

Campaign aides openly acknowledged political ramifications during conversations about Clinton’s position on the Keystone XL pipeline and banking regulations.

Before ending her long silence on the project and publicly opposing the oil pipeline, Clinton’s aides discussed the possible political blowback.

“[D]o we worry that publishing an oped that leans this aggressively into our newfound position on Keystone will be greeted cynically and perhaps as part of some manufactured attempt to project sincerity?” spokesman Brian Fallon emailed to the group.

Democratic consultant Joel Benenson, meanwhile, worried about the lack of a “single big idea that encapsulates her vision on this and link it to our country’s future,” as a way to explain her opposition.

“I’m worried that if we don’t have something like that we are light on her core values and beliefs on this issue and we are missing those, she risks looking very political, especially on this,” he wrote.

On financial reform, the political calculations were even more blunt.

Ahead of publishing an op-ed on financial regulation, the campaign openly fretted about the reaction of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) if they went too soft.

“I am still worried that we will antagonize and activate Elizabeth Warren by opposing a new Glass Steagall,” adviser Mandy Grunwald wrote last October. “I worry about defending the banks in the debate.”

“Jake says this is a political decision,” Gunwald added, in an apparent reference to senior adviser Jake Sullivan.

The Glass-Steagall Act is a former law that once created a divide between banking and investment activities. The law was repealed in the late 1990s, and reinstating it has since become a rallying cry for liberal advocates of tougher financial rules. 

Clinton ultimately did not call for resurrecting the law.

The campaign has choreographed its messaging carefully, down to the tweet

Emails from across the last year depict the Clinton campaign as calculating and choreographed.

In multiple conversations, Podesta and other Clinton aides debated specific wording of various statements, weighed the political costs and benefits of actions and even consulted each other on Twitter posts.  

For instance, the campaign jumped into high gear ahead of a book alleging unseemly connections between the Clinton Foundation and foreign governments. Aides discussed talking points to respond to the book’s charges, rolled out a website to push back on the book and planned how and when Clinton would weigh in herself. 

In March 2015, at least seven different senior aides were on an email chain about a tweet to send in response to initial reports that Clinton had exclusively used a personal email account operating on a private server while she led the State Department. Clinton and the department both approved the message, the aides said. 

The scrutiny stands in contrast to the style of the Trump campaign, where the real estate mogul is known for going on long tangents during his speeches and frequently acts by instinct rather than scripted strategy.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton

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