Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal email address to conduct State Department business didn’t just generate a rolling public relations disaster for her presidential campaign; it also appears to have fueled acrimony between members of her inner circle.
In one particularly candid exchange (sic throughout) released on Oct. 25 by Wikileaks, Neera Tanden––long a close confidant of Clinton’s––vented to Podesta about a crisis facing Clinton’s then-nascent campaign.
It was about 10:30 p.m. ET on March 2, 2015, the day The New York Times published a major, front-page story on Clinton’s use of a personal email address as Secretary of State.
“I highly recommend. . .she start making some other, more positive news soon,” Tanden wrote.
“Really? That’s great advice,” Podesta retorted.
Then Podesta ripped some of Clinton’s other close aides: Philippe Reines, a top State Department aide to Clinton; Cheryl Mills, a lawyer who has long provided legal services to the Clintons; and David Kendall, another attorney and longtime Clinton advisor.
“Speaking of transparency, our friends Kendall, Cheryl and Phillipe sure weren’t forthcoming on the facts here,” Podesta griped.
Then Tanden appeared to zero in on Mills as deserving blame for the email disaster.
“This is a cheryl special,” Tanden wrote. “Know you love her, but this stuff is like her Achilles heal. Or kryptonite. she just can’t say no to this shit. Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”
“Unbelievable,” Podesta replied.
“I guess i know the answer,” Tanden then wrote. “they wanted to get away with it”
Then Tanden followed up with this:
“A thought that I’m sure has occurred to you hours ago: the archives request them and she complies immediately (avoids subpeonas),” she wrote. “don’t yell at me.”
The hacking group has been slowly releasing tranches of emails it says are from the inbox of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman and longtime advisor. The Clinton campaign has not confirmed or denied the validity of the Wikileaks emails, and says it believes the Russian government initially acquired them in hopes of changing the outcome of the U.S. election.
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Clinton campaign spokesman Glen Caplin criticized Trump for “cheering on WikiLeak's Russian-directed propaganda.” The Clinton campaign has previously asserted, without conclusive evidence, that Russian intelligence services somehow gave Trump a heads-up regarding the Wikileaks emails.
“Trump’s actions as Putin’s puppet have gone from bizarre to disqualifying,” Caplin said.
Still, the frustration that Clinton’s political allies felt for her team at the State Department was plenty understandable. Since the publication of the initial New York Times story, the Clinton email scandal has dogged her campaign and hobbled her efforts to present herself as trustworthy and honest. Anti-Clinton protesters at the Democratic National Convention––some of whom were delegates for Bernie Sanders––pointed to the email scandal as a reason to oppose her nomination.
These emails suggest that as soon as the story broke, Clinton’s team knew the disaster was just beginning.