Bombshells: Clinton’s WikiLeaks problem over release of controversial Podesta emails
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
With the news media focusing on Republican nominee Donald Trump’s allegations of groping women, there is little focus on a more political related scandal, WikiLeaks of controversial emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. On Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks began their release of emails from Podesta’s hacked account. The organization plans to release up to 50,000 emails throughout October, on an almost daily basis.
Julian Assange, the founder WikiLeaks wants their release of a treasure trove of emails from Podesta and the Democratic National Committee to be this election’s October Surprise. The emails give insights into Clinton’s privilege, and a strategic campaign full of hypocrisy and duplicity when it comes to demographic, religious groups and policy positions. The emails show Clinton only cares about one thing winning the presidency, and her public message is only a means to an end.
Amidst his scandal of sex impropriety, pundits are criticizing Trump for not taking advantage of the email leaks. The Hill writes, “The emails, from hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton confidante John Podesta’s email account, may be the best chance Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has of knocking off Clinton, the Democratic nominee and heavy favorite to win the White House.”
Throughout the week, the Clinton campaign would not entirely confirm the emails authenticity. They have proceeded to blame the Russians for the hacking and breaching national security in an attempt to sway the election and elect a Republican president. Clinton’s campaign is angry at the news media for covering the details of the emails rather than the national security breach. Clinton is also blaming Trump for being sympathetic to Russia and comparing the leaks to Watergate.
Some of the most controversial releases made public the following bombshells:
Wall Street speeches transcripts:
The first batch of emails WikiLeaks released Friday, Oct. 7, included excerpts of Clinton’s highly guarded paid speeches to Wall Street financial institutions. Throughout the primary campaign, opponent Bernie Sanders demanded she releases those transcripts, but Clinton refused, putting their content more into question. There has long been speculation that Clinton had a close relationship and pro-Wall Street approach that differed from her later campaign rhetoric.
In speeches to Goldman Sachs and BlackRock delivered in 2014, Clinton stated that to play the political game one has to be “deceptive.” Clinton said she is that “kind of far removed” from the issues most Americans face and “you need both a public and a private position.” Clinton said, “We had a solid middle class upbringing… 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.”
Clarifying in another speech from 2013 to the National Multi-Housing Council, Clinton explained, “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. 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.”
Clinton expressed support for “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” Clinton gave a speech to Banco Itau in 2013, declaring, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders … I think we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade already under the current circumstances.” Continuing Clinton said, “There is so much more we can do, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit, but businesses on both sides have to make it a priority, and it’s not for governments to do but governments can either make it easy or make it hard and we have to resist protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access, and to trade, and I would like to see this get much more attention.”
Clinton also dismissed terrorism as a danger for Americans in the country in a speech to the Global Business Travelers Association in August 2013. Then Clinton said, terrorism is “not a threat to us as a nation,” but in general is “a real threat.” Clinton told an audience that terrorism “is not going to endanger our economy or our society, but it is a real threat,” she said. “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.”
Planning to spin the Wall Street speeches:
If ever Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches had to be released Clinton’s campaign was ready with contingency plans to spin them in a positive light. In November 2015, Clinton aides Brian Fallon, Jake Sullivan and Dan Schwerin, and advisor Mandy Grunwald considered leaking excerpts of Clinton’s speech to Deutsche Bank from October 2014 to counter a Politico reports about her speeches especially those from Goldman Sachs. Sanders’ campaign was applying a lot of pressure over the speeches.
In an email from Nov. 20, Schwerin, who serves as Clinton’s speechwriter wrote an email, saying, “I wanted to float one idea. HRC did a paid speech in NYC for Deutsche Bank. I wrote her a long riff about economic fairness and how the financial industry has lost its way precisely for the purpose of having something we could show people if ever asked what she was saying behind closed doors for two years to all those fat cats.”
Schwerin suggested that speech because although it was “definitely not as tough or pointed as we would write it now, but it’s much more than most people would assume she was saying in paid speeches.” He thought maybe it should be leaked to the press because “perhaps at some point there will be value in sharing this with a reporter and getting a story written. Upside would be that when people say she’s too close to Wall Street and has taken too much money from bankers, we can point to evidence that she wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power.”
Schwerin, however, was concerned that releasing an excerpt would force the campaign to release all the emails, writing, “Downside would be that we could then be pushed to release transcripts from all her paid speeches, which would be less helpful (although probably not disastrous). In the end, I’m not sure this is worth doing, but wanted to flag it so you know it’s out there.”
Clinton’s spokesman Brian Fallon thought of spinning the speeches, which Clinton was only telling Wall Street what they wanted to hear. In an email from Nov. 23, Fallon wrote, “I think we could come up with a vanilla characterization that challenges the idea that she sucked up to these folks in her appearances. But then use AP’s raising of this to our advantage to pitch someone to do an exclusive by providing at least the key excerpts from this Deutsche Bank speech. In doing so, we could have the reporting be sourced to a ‘transcript obtained by [news outlet]’ so it is not confirmed as us selectively providing one transcript while refusing to share others.”
In the end, Clinton’s camp decided against releasing the excerpt seeing more damage than good, and raising the possibility; they would have to release more including the rest of the Deutsche Bank speech where Clinton seemed to sympathize with the financial industry.
Clinton received primary town hall debate question from CNN:
During the primaries against Bernie Sanders, Clinton had preferential treatment going as far as obtaining a question to CNN town hall held in March 2016 in advance. Present Chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile, who then commented for CNN emailed Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri. Brazile told Palmeri “From time to time I get the questions in advance. Here’s one that worries me about HRC.”
Then the email included six sentences that compromised the question: “DEATH PENALTY 19 states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. 31 states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Should Ohio and the 30 other states join the current list and abolish the death penalty?”
Palmieri responded, “Yes, it is one she gets asked about. Not everyone likes her answer but can share it.” At the town hall moderator TV One’s Roland Martin used the same data included the email and an audience member asked an almost identical question. Martin said, “Secretary Clinton, since 1976, we have executed 1,414 people in this country. Since 1973, 156 who were convicted have been exonerated from the death row. This gentleman here is one of them. This is Ricky Jackson, wrongfully convicted of murder in 1975, he spent 39 years in prison. He is undecided. Ricky, what is your question?” Martin moderated the town hall with CNN anchor Jake Tapper. All parties involved have since denied sharing or passing along the question.
Clinton campaign coordinated with DOJ over emails release:
Clinton’s preferential treatment extended beyond the campaign to the Obama Administration, who defended her long after leaving her post as Secretary of State. The Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits the emails from her private server with the Clinton campaign just as recently as May 2015. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon wrote in an email “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.” Fallon was a former spokesman for the State Department during Clinton’s tenure.
Clinton camp insults Catholics and Evangelical Christians:
The leaked emails show the Clinton campaign’s animosity towards Catholics and Evangelical leaders. A 2011 email thread with Podesta, and communications director Jennifer Palmieri and John Halpin, who is a senior fellow at the Podesta founded liberal think tank Center for American Progress” proceeds to mock those two religious groups.
Halpin wrote that Catholic media titans 21st Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp Chairman Robert Thomson belong their religion because of “systemic thought and severely backward gender relations.” Palmieri, who is Catholic responded by mocking Catholics and Evangelicals, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable, politically conservative religion — their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelical.”
Clinton used harsher rhetoric in her Benghazi testimony:
In an earlier draft of her opening statement to House Benghazi committee as part, her testimony in October 2015 Clinton used harsher rhetoric to attack the Republicans leading the committee. The tone in the earlier draft released by WikiLeaks differed considerably in the opening lines, where Clinton wrote, she “will not be a part of a partisan slugfest on the backs of dead Americans.”
Clinton’s director of speechwriting Dan Schwerin emailed a draft of the earlier version of the speech to Clinton campaign staff for their opinion. Schwerin tells them about the tone, saying he “aimed for high minded but it’s possible this will come off as fairly pugilistic. Maybe that’s just fine, but see what you think.” Clinton’s final draft did not include that line, but instead focused on the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the attack on Sept. 11, 2011. Clinton discussed her relationship with the ambassador and a personal anecdote from his mother.
Clinton’s strategically chose policy positions based on politics:
Clinton’s game plans have nothing to with passion for policy positions or issues but is guided entirely by winning. One case point from the leaked emails is Clinton’s changing position on the Keystone XL Pipeline. During her, speeches to Wall Street Clinton said she supported the Keystone Pipeline from Canada. Clinton waited a long time to give her public position. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon emailed her aides, “[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?”
Democratic consultant Joel Benenson thought coming out of nowhere with a position looked politically motivated, which what it was. Benenson wrote, the lack of a “single big idea that encapsulates her vision on this and link it to our country’s future…. 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.”
Clinton’s entire campaign is calculated:
The Hill noted the sharp contrast in the way Clinton runs her campaign versus Trump. Clinton’s campaign considers every word published and said, everything is carefully planned. If Clinton appears stiff, it is because her campaign is just as stiff with a strict script and no room for improvisation. WikiLeaks released emails that show Podesta coordinating with campaign aides on the exact wording of tweets.
Two instances stood out where the campaign was in panic and considered their responses. One was responding to new reports about Clinton’s private email server in March 2015. The second instance was the release of Peter Schweitzer’s book in 2015, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”
Clinton has an army of reporters that serve her:
Trump may be right that the media is biased against him in the election. According to the WikiLeaks release of Podesta emails Clinton has reporters all over the new media that are willing to write favorable stories about Clinton and her campaign and soften any negative news at her behest. Among the reporters in Clinton’s corner are ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, CNBC’s John Harwood, CNBC’s Becky Quick, and Univision owner Haim Saban who is also a Clinton donor and advisor.
These are not the only reporters, in Gawker.com obtained emailed from Clinton’s State Department PR aide Phillippe Reines listing more Clinton camp reporters. Among the other journalists, include, Mike Allen at Politico, Ken Vogel at Politico, Juliet Eilperin, White House correspondent for The Washington Post, and Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic.
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert inpresidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.