By Abigail Tracy
For months, Julian Assange has teased an “October surprise” that would derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Now, Assange, the founder of the activist online publishing platform Wikileaks, is finally delivering on his promise. Mere days after publishing excerpts from what appear to be Clinton’s paid Wall Street speeches, Wikileaks released another trove of stolen e-mails from the account of Clinton’s campaign manager and longtime confidant, John Podesta.
The latest leak, which primarily consists of e-mails from 2015, illuminates the inner workings of Clinton World and the machinations of the former secretary of state’s presidential campaign. Many key exchanges focus on Clinton’s weaknesses, notably the perception of her as an entrenched politician with ties to big banks and the establishment at a time when many Americans were clamoring for change. Others focus on her campaign strategies, her rivals, and the broader Clinton ecosystem—including the family’s namesake foundation.
While the Trump campaign was quick to jump on the leak, not all of the purported Podesta e-mails have turned out to be authentic. At a rally in Pennsylvania, the Republican nominee read from one alleged e-mail with the subject line “The Truth,” about the Benghazi attack, which was quickly debunked as a piece of Russian propaganda. Wikileaks, which has obtained several of its leaks from a hacker believed to be a front for Russian intelligence, has frequently been accused of acting in coordination with the Kremlin to tilt the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. “It is absolutely disgraceful that the Trump campaign is cheering on a release today engineered by Vladimir Putin to interfere in this election, and this comes after Donald Trump encouraged more espionage over the summer and continued to deny the hack even happened at Sunday’s debate,” Glen Caplin, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, said in a statement Monday. “The timing shows you that even Putin knows Trump had a bad weekend and a bad debate.”
But regardless of the motivations behind the Wikileaks dump, many of the leaked e-mails do appear to be genuine, based upon the reactions of the Clinton campaign, and do have the potential to slow the former secretary of state’s momentum at a time when she is surging in the polls. And while nobody has yet unearthed a truly devastating document among the more than 2,000 e-mails, the hack does provide a window into the the presidential hopeful’s ordinarily insular campaign.
Below are six of the most interesting takeaways:
Chelsea Clinton’s Feud with Doug Band
A series of exchanges from 2011 reveal a burgeoning dispute between Doug Band, a longtime Bill Clinton aide, and Chelsea Clinton about the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Band’s consulting company, Teneo. “Doug apparently kept telling my dad I was trying to push him out,” Chelsea wrote to Podesta, The New York Times reports. And in a separate conversation, Band argued that he “deserves a tad more respect” from the former first daughter, whom he referred to as a “spoiled brat”.
The Clinton Campaign Wanted to Be More Like Sanders’s
During Clinton’s primary battle with Sanders, her staffers pushed for a more lighter, more inspiring campaign message after the Vermont senator won by a landslide in the New Hampshire contest. “Message needs to be more positive, upbeat, hopeful,” an adviser wrote to Podesta, the Times reports. “Bernie is saying we can change the world. Her message is ‘No, we can’t because . . . ’” the aide continued in reference to Sanders’s grass-roots driven, populist campaign.
Clinton Wanted to Strongly Rebuke Clinton Cash Claims
Throughout the election, Clinton critics have claimed that the Democratic nominee nurtured a “pay-for-play” culture during her State Department tenure and gave preferential treatment to major Clinton Foundation donors. This narrative and line of attack was most forcefully advanced by Clinton antagonistPeter Schweizer, whose 2015 Clinton Cash purported to expose the Clinton’s alleged venality. An e-mail exchange between longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin and Podesta reveals that after the book hit the market, the Democratic nominee wanted to forcefully address its allegations with a video response. “She believes she needs to do this video because her integrity is being attacked and she is the only one who can say she [didn’t] make a decision as [secretary of state] based on a donor,” Abedin wrote, CNNreports.
Opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline
The Wikileaks e-mails reveal how the Clinton campaign, which has continually been accused of political opportunism, explicitly debated when would be the best time to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. “She risks looking very political, especially on this,” Joel Benenson, a chief campaign strategist, wrote. Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallonsuggested that it might be best to leak the change in position on the controversial oil pipeline, which he said in an e-mail, “might achieve the same effect of getting her on the record on this issue, but with less perception that she is putting a finger to the wind.” Ultimately, however, Clinton announced her new position during a community meeting held in Des Moines, Iowa, the Times reports.
Taking Hits at President Obama
At one point during Clinton’s bid for the Oval Office, Abedin floated attacking President Barack Obamaas a potential campaign strategy. In a June 2015 e-mail, she wrote, “She smacked down P.O.T.U.S. on trade and then kept kicking for a bit. Worth looking at the transcript but this seemed to really work for this crowd.”
Former Blink-182 Lead Singer Wants to Know More About U.F.O.s
Podesta is known for his alien obsession and trying to explain the unexplained, and apparently exchanged e-mails with Tom DeLonge, the band leader known for hits like "What's My Age Again?", about government disclosures of U.F.O. sightings. The e-mails reveal that the duo's shared interest even led Podesta to collaborate on a documentary with DeLonge about the topic, The Wall Street Journal reports.
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