With a daily flood of embarrassing emails offering detailed accounts of the inner workings of Hillary Clinton’s campaign — courtesy of WikiLeaks — perhaps it is ironic that the most damaging emails to the Democrat’s candidacy are ones whose contents are completely unknown.
Friday’s bombshell revelation that the FBI was reopening its investigation of her private email server after newly discovered emails has the potential to be politically fatal. Nothing concentrates pubic attention like the potential of criminal charges against the favorite to win the presidency in an election that now is just a little more than a week away.
Even without the FBI, however, there is evidence that the death by a thousand cuts of WikiLeaks since October 7, 2016, had begun to take a toll on Clinton, whose lead in the polls over Republican Donald Trump had begun to shrink.
Here is a roundup — by no means exhaustive and in no particular order — of the revelations contained in emails dumped by WikiLeaks, hacked from the Gmail account of Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta.
The Hillary email server scandal. WikiLeaks offers evidence that Clinton’s use of a private server in her house caused the campaign plenty of worry. National spokesman Josh Schewerin in March 2015 alerted the campaign to the fact that President Obama said publicly that he found out about Clinton’s private email when The New York Times reported it.
“We need to clean this up — he has emails from her — they do not say state.gov,” longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills wrote.
According to investigative notes released by the FBI, Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy offered a “quid pro quo” — allowing more FBI agents in countries where they are presently forbidden in exchange for declassifying an email marked “secret.” The FBI rejected the offer.
Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon informed the campaign in a May 2015 email that he had information from a Department of Justice source about the investigation.
The Clinton campaign also apparently got inside information from the State Department. On April 9, 2015, Deputy Communications Director Kristina Schake informed top campaign staff that a tip revealed that the “State Department may be planning to release her Benghazi emails tomorrow or Monday.”
Clinton campaign aides strategized about how best to handle the political fallout from the FBI probe. Informal adviser and Clinton friend Roy Spence suggested in October 2015 that the campaign point out that her server was not hacked while government servers were.
Podesta seemed to recognize the risk of doing that.
“Reluctant to go there,” he wrote. “Makes it seem like she consciously went to the home server for security reasons which would fall apart under scrutiny.”
The Clinton Foundation. Other than Clinton’s handling of classified emails, no other issue has been as great a drag on her campaign as the “pay-to-play” allegations surrounding the family run charity.
Doug Band, a longtime aide to former president Bill Clinton, laid out the inner workings of the “Bill Clinton Inc.” in a memo that detailed how he and another fundraiser for the foundation pushed donors to give their boss speaking gigs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and other business opportunities. It undercuts the Clintons’ self-righteous indignation over allegations that they enriched themselves with the foundation — funded, in part, by companies and foreign governments with business before the State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
One of those countries was Morocco, which donated $12 million to the Clinton Global Initiative after Clinton agreed to speak in the African country in May 2015.
“This was HRC’s idea,” longtime aide Huma Abedin wrote to Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook.
Aides thought it would look bad for Clinton to go through with the speech after she had declared her candidacy. But Abedin wrote that it would “break a lot of china” if she pulled out. “She created this mess and she knows it,” Abedin wrote.
Neera Tanden, co-chair of Clinton’s transition team and an informal adviser with a habit of writing frank and provocative emails, suggested the former secretary of state was greatly wounded by the scandal — to the point that it might not be a good idea for her to announce plans for strengthening anti-bribery laws.
“She may be so tainted she’s really vulnerable — if so, maybe a message of I’ve seen how this sausage is made, it needs to stop, I’m going to stop it will actually work,” she wrote. “So maybe it requires harder charging.”
In another WikiLeaks revelation, it emerged that female employees of the charity earned less than men. The difference was fairly small, and nothing suggests the Clintons were intentionally discriminating against women, but the gap undercuts her claim that sexism is the reason why women earn less than men, on average, throughout the country.
Hillary’s paid speeches. Under pressure from primary opponent Bernie Sanders, Clinton resisted requests to make public her paid speeches after leaving office.
WikiLeaks made it clear why.
In one speech, she said politicians must have two positions — one private and one for public consumption in order to facilitate deal-making. She also said she dreamed of a “hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”
In other speeches, Clinton defended a controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — and suggested that nobody knows more about regulating Wall Street than Wall Street executives.
Those are all statements, it is fair to assume, that would have boosted attempts by Sanders to paint Clinton as a phony progressive beholden to the interests of the rich and powerful.
Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald offered a blunt assessment: “They’re bad.”
A nasty campaign. Clinton’s surrogates have tried to convince America that Donald Trump is a nasty man who has offended people of all stripes. While Trump’s comments have been in public, Clinton advisers and supporters reserved their nastiness for email conversations they thought never would see the light of day.
John Halpin, a fellow at Podesta’s think tank — the Center for American Progress — blasted conservative Catholics for engaging in an “amazing bastardization of the faith” and said prominent converts “must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backward gender relations.”
Campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri responded, “I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable, politically conservative religion — their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.”
In another exchange, Voices for Progress founder Sandy Newman told Podesta there needed to be a “Catholic Spring” to “demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship.”
Podesta replied that an organization, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, was created for just that purpose, but added that it “lacks the leadership to do so now.”
Campaign aides also referred to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and other Hispanic party leaders as “needy Latinos,” called CNN anchor Jake Tapper a “dick,” and criticized longtime Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal.
In a December email, Podesta lamented that the San Bernardino, California, terrorist shooter was named Sayeed Farouk and not something like the TV news host reporting the incident, Christopher Hayes.
Campaign aides were not shy with insults — even about their allies. In response to tweets praising Sanders, Mook called New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio a “terrorist.”
Speaking of Sanders, the Clinton campaign discussed ways to smear him as sexist and went so far as to apparently leak an unflattering photo of the Vermont senator sunbathing. In another email, Tamera Luzzatto, a former Clinton chief of staff, called Sanders’ supporters “sometimes self-righteous ideologues.”
Even Clinton herself was not immune to staffer back-biting. Tanden complained Clinton had called herself a moderate.
“I pushed her on this on Sunday night,” Podesta responded. “She claims she didn’t remember saying it. Not sure I believe her.”
Tanden wrote, “It worries me more that she doesn’t seem to know what planet we are all living in at the moment.”
Questionable fundraising. Even staffers on the Clinton campaign were nervous about the optics of raising money from “bundlers” who were lobbyists registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Mook initially thought it was a bad idea. But Dennis Cheng, the campaign’s fundraising director, challenged that in an April 2015 email: “I feel like we are leaving a good amount of money on the table (both for primary and general, and then DNC and state parties) … and how do we explain to people that we’ll take money from a corporate lobbyist but not them; that the Foundation takes $ from foreign govts but we now won’t.”
After that email and after talking with campaign counsel Marc Elias, Mook wrote, “In a complete U-turn, I’m OK just taking the money and dealing with any attacks. Are you guys OK with that?”
Replied Palmieri, “Take the money!!”
Media collusion. Aside from the Clinton campaign, perhaps no other group comes off worse in the emails dumped by WikiLeaks than the media.
Brent Budowsky, a columnist from The Hill, frequently offered advice to Podesta. At one point, he suggested he had written pro-Sanders columns to build up credibility with his supporters so he would be in a strong position to persuade them to back Clinton after she had won the nomination.
But it is not just left-wing columnists that were imvolved; supposedly neutral news organizations were implicated. CNBC host John Harwood offered advice to Podesta and bragged of tormenting Republicans. New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich agreed to give the campaign veto power over quotes for a story he wrote for the paper’s magazine section in summer 2015. The paper said it disclosed the arrangement, but it was buried deep in the story and did not clarify the campaign had after-the-fact veto power.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who has since returned to that role, used her position as a CNN commentator to tip off the campaign about a potentially tricky question that Clinton would get about the death penalty at a town hall forum that was to be broadcast by the network.
Another email suggested the Clinton campaign had a source inside Fox News.
In December, Politico reporter Glenn Thrush sent Podesta part of the story he was working on and joked, “Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u. Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this. Tell me if I [expletive] up anything.”
This story was originally published in LifeZette on Oct. 31, 2016.