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What we’ve learned from the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign (so far)


Washington — The emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta have offered an insight into the inner workings of the famously guarded candidate’s operation.

And it turns out, they’re not much different than the external ones.

Emails posted by WikiLeaks reveal a buttoned-up campaign that analyzes nearly every decision, mirroring Clinton’s reputation as a methodical and tactical politician.

And secret transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches behind closed doors on Wall Street have failed to turn up any positions widely different than what she says in public.

WikiLeaks has been posting the hacked emails from Podesta almost daily for a little over one week. Republican nominee Donald Trump has seized on them to portray Clinton as a corrupt candidate.

But the emails are dumped out of order, in some cases without context or knowledge of any other replies.

Clinton’s campaign has refused to weigh in on the veracity of individual email exchanges, and has accused the Russian government of orchestrating their release — a claim WikiLeaks has denied.

“There is no getting around it: Donald Trump is cheering on a Russian attempt to influence our election through a crime reminiscent of Watergate but on a more massive scale,” said Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin. “It’s time for Donald Trump to condemn this intrusion by the Kremlin and tell voters what did his campaign know and when did they know it.”

But going through the thousands of emails between Podesta, campaign staff, donors and at rare times Clinton herself, the picture of a highly methodical campaign emerges.

The Podesta emails blog

Email threads with top advisers debating finer points of the campaign are common.

In one exchange, the campaign deliberated for about 12 hours over a single tweet, about low-wage workers’ fight for a higher minimum wage.

Policy advisers and communications staffers went back and forth over how to carefully word the 140-character message to be signed by Clinton herself, including whether to include the #Fightfor15 hashtag or if that would be too strong an endorsement.

Staffers sent around multiple drafts of talking points and speeches on a variety of topics, and strategized about how to handle media interviews. In one instance, the campaign mulled how to respond to reports of her private email server use.

In another, they closely watched former President Bill Clinton’s every move on a day of campaigning to avoid unforced mistakes. In a different missive, a staffer relayed that Clinton herself was frustrated with “poll-tested lines that don’t work” on the campaign trail.

Another exchange dealt with the dicey issue of whether to allow lobbyists for foreign companies and governments to bundle for the campaign. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said he was comfortable allowing for some of them to donate and fundraise. Jennifer Palmieri replied with: “Take the money!!”

It is not uncommon for professional campaigns to be so deliberate. An academic paper studying the campaign’s use of social media in 2012 found that former candidate Mitt Romney’s team had up to 22 people signing off before a tweet was sent.

That kind of top-down approach contrasts sharply with Trump’s freewheeling, uncensored approach to Twitter, with messages sometimes coming in the middle of the night.

Clinton has a reputation of being careful and guarded, at times calculating, and the emails show a campaign that runs that way.

Wall Street speeches

Also contained in the emails have been transcripts of paid speeches Clinton gave on Wall Street.

While three speeches to investment heavyweight Goldman Sachs were the heart of an attack line for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic nomination fight, the release of the transcripts in the past week have been overshadowed by Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, and the release of a hot-mic recording of Trump bragging about sexually aggressive behavior.

During the appearances — which were more question-and-answer sessions with Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein than speeches — Clinton commented on Wall Street’s role in financial regulations, relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and how politics played into the decision to tighten regulations on the financial industry in 2010.

While the transcripts show a blunter, less reserved Clinton, much of what the former secretary of state said to Goldman Sachs and other groups appear generally in line with some of what she has said publicly.

In an October 2013 speech to the financial firm, Clinton implied that action was necessary to curb Wall Street street abuses “for political reasons.”

“There was also a need to do something because for political reasons, if you were an elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing jobs and shutting businesses and
everybody in the press is saying it’s all the fault of Wall Street, you can’t sit idly by and do nothing,” Clinton said.

Clinton, on regulations also said that “too much is bad, too little” and argued that “the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.”

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2010 in response to the great recession and looked to impose tighter regulations on financial institutions. While business leaders, especially those leading the financial firms, were generally against the measure, the decision was politically popular with Democrats who blamed Wall Street for the recession.
Throughout the appearances, Clinton takes a more pragmatic approach towards relegation Wall Street, a departure — at least in tone — from the more populist rhetoric she used during the Democratic primary.

“There should be no bank too big to fail and no individual too big to jail,” Clinton said during the fourth Democratic debate in January.
But the speeches offer no dramatic differences between what Clinton said publicly, as Sanders and other liberal Democrats suggested they might during the Democratic primary.