From media collusion to evidence of corruption, a guide to the most important leaked Podesta emails.
Since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began publishing emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account, Americans have been deluged with damaging and embarrassing revelations about the former secretary of state.
Even if the broadcast networks have barely noticed.
“Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC. Most I can probably ID but not all.”
Some of the emails confirm what Clinton’s critics suspected all along. Others depict a campaign staff driven to search for the political angle at every conceivable turn. And still others reveal just how negatively the Clintonistas describe various groups of Americans when they think the rest of the world is not listening.
So quickly have the revelations come — WikiLeaks have been releasing thousands of emails almost daily — that it can be difficult to keep up. So here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of the most important things we’ve learned since the first Podesta email drop on Oct. 7.
1) Damning evidence of Clinton Foundation corruption. Perhaps the most incriminating set of emails to be released over the past week did not even come from WikiLeaks. ABC News used emails that the Republican National Committee obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from Clinton’s tenure of secretary of state to make a strong case that the State Department under her leadership favored Clinton Foundation donors with lucrative contracts to rebuild Haiti after a 2011 earthquake.
“Need you to flag when people are friends of WJC [Bill Clinton],” a senior State Department official wrote to a Clinton Foundation aide.”Most I can probably ID but not all.”
Applicants deemed “WJC VIPs” or FOB (Friends of Bill) got special attention, while those who did not pass that test got referred to the general government website, according to ABC.
State Department emails obtained by Citizens United, meanwhile, show that a taxpayer-funded poll of Haitians included a question assessing Bill Clinton’s favorability.
Another email, published by WikiLeaks, shows the government of Qatar pledged in 2012 to donate $1 million to the foundation despite Hillary Clinton’s promise not to accept new donations from foreign governments after she became secretary of state.
2) Clinton dreamed of “open borders.” A paid speech that Clinton delivered in 2013 to the Brazilian bank Banco Itau included this potentially politically problematic passage: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”
Despite pressure from Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, Clinton resisted releasing transcripts of speeches she delivered for hundreds of thousands of dollars after leaving government service — and now we know why.
Republican opponents long have used “open borders” as a pejorative to describe Clinton’s immigration proposals. But even her harshest critics likely never imagined she would admit it so unambiguously.
In response to a question following a speech at the Goldman Sachs Builders and Innovators Summit in October 2013, Clinton complained about a “backward-looking view” of America that was skeptical of immigration and government investment.
“They have to be rejected because they are fundamentally un-American,” she said, according to the transcript provided by WikiLeaks.
3) Hillary takes public and private positions. Courtesy of WikiLeaks, the world now knows that Clinton thinks politicians cannot be transparent with the public.
“You just have to sort of figure out how to — getting back to that word, ‘balance’ — how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today,” she told the National Multi-Housing Council on April 23, 2013. “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. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
4) The Clinton camp used journalists — sometimes with willing participation. The WikiLeaks emails show a level of collusion with the mainstream media that even critics of the news business found breathtaking. In a January 2015 memo, campaign spokesman Nick Merrill assured the staff that Politico reporter Maggie Haberman — now with The New York Times — was a friendly journalist.
“We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed,” he wrote.
The might be embarrassing for any reporter’s integrity. But at least there is nothing in the emails from her pointing to favoritism. That is not the case with her current colleague, Mark Leibovich, who gave Clinton veto power over quotes in exchange for access for a long profile that ran in the The New York Times magazine section in summer 2015. Campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri singed off one email with, “Pleasure doing business!”
“We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed.”
CNBC correspondent John Harwood — widely panned for his overly aggressive questioning of Republican Donald Trump during one of the GOP primary debates — offered advice to Podesta.
“Ben Carson could give you real trouble in a general [election],” Harwood wrote, including a link to video clips of an interview he did with the retired pediatric neurosurgeon.
And then there is the behavior of Donna Brazile, who last year was a commentator for CNN but seemed to think she was still in her previous role as Democratic Party operative. The emails reveal that she tipped off the Clinton campaign to a question that Hillary would receive at an upcoming town hall event the cable network hosted during the primary season.
Brazile wrote that she was concerned that the question about the death penalty might cause Clinton problems. That revelation was a double-whammy — both raising doubts about the integrity of CNN as a news network and undermining Brazile’s supposed neutrality in the primary fight between Clinton and Sanders.
5) Clinton advisers found loophole to keep emails secret. In a March 2015 conversation with Cheryl Mills, former State Department chief of staff and Clinton campaign aide, Podesta discussed a strategy for withholding emails from the former secretary of state’s private email server.
The idea was to use “executive privilege” to refuse to give the department emails with Obama.
“Think we should hold emails to and from potus? That’s the heart of his exec privilege,” Podesta wrote. “We could get them to ask for that. They may not care, but I seems like they will.”
Indeed, according to a Politico report in September, the State Department cited the “presidential communications privilege” in indicating that it would not release emails between Clinton and Obama. That allows the president to keep those emails hidden from the public for a period of five to 12 years after Obama leaves office.
6) Hillary allies are nasty in private. And that includes even pro-Clinton pols. Even as they were courting New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s endorsement publicly, they were venting outrage behind his back that he was sending positive tweets about Sanders.
“Wow. What a terrorist,” campaign manager Robby Mook wrote.
Palmieri replied, “Told you!”
In February 2012, left-leaning Voices for Progress founder and President Sandy Newman wrote to Podesta arguing for a “Catholic Spring” to foment an “end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.”
Podesta assured Newman it was happening.
A scholar at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that Podesta founded, emailed his thoughts on conservative Catholic converts. He called it an “amazing bastardization of the faith.”
Palmieri, then-president of the think tank, agreed. “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”
Clinton supporter Mark Siegel — former executive director of the Democratic National Committee — called Sanders supporters “self-righteous ideologues” in an email to the Clinton campaign.