On Friday, WikiLeaks announced that it had obtained nearly 50,000 emails from the personal inbox of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and leaked more than two thousand of them. The Clinton campaign would not confirm the authenticity of the emails, but a series of tweets by Podesta seemed to indicate that his email was compromised.
The statements by Clinton, which were gleaned from documents that have yet to be authenticated by The Daily Beast, were made in private settings to big banks and Wall Street firms. The speeches appear to paint her in the worst possible light: two-faced, out of touch, secretive and subservient to Wall Street. And in the most explicit way possible, they validate many of Bernie Sanders’ criticisms of her during the Democratic primary.
Sanders, the independent senator and self-described democratic socialist, led a credible challenge to Clinton based on frustration with Wall Street’s access to lawmakers, the revolving door between regulators and those they regulate, and how Washington’s political class has lost touch with America’s middle class.
The emails show that Sanders, who has since endorsed Clinton, had a point.
In one email from Podesta’s inbox, as first reported by BuzzFeed, the Clinton campaign appears to summarize their candidate’s most shocking statements that were made during private speeches to Wall Street firms and other business organizations.
Apparently anticipating the possibility of a leak of private speech transcripts, which were a controversial issue during the Democratic primary earlier this year, Clinton Research Director Tony Carrk put together a memo with the most damaging quotes she had made in private speeches. Ironically, these were later leaked.
“I represented and worked with so many talented, principled people who made their living in finance,” she said in one 2014 speech to Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a firm that specializes in complex securities litigation on behalf of investors, according to the email that was sent to Podesta and other senior aides.
In a series of speech excerpts from April 2013 to January 2015, Clinton said she supported open markets and open borders in the Americas; spoke of the need for a “public and private position” while “back room discussions” are taking place; and complained that conflict of interest divestments were unnecessary for politicians.
For Clinton, it is an embarrassing revelation that highlights her greatest vulnerability: the perception that she can’t be trusted, doesn’t mean what she says and is too close to the big banks—all at a time when she is struggling to generate enthusiasm among the young progressives who backed Sanders over her in the primary.
Perhaps the most damaging for Clinton—and most validating to Sanders—will be her fawning speeches about Wall Street, to Wall Street. In her remarks, Clinton appears to prove Sanders right. At a Goldman Sachs symposium in 2013, Clinton said that when she began traveling as secretary of state, people would “yell at me for the United States and our banking system” causing the financial crisis.
“Now, that’s an oversimplification we know,” Clinton assured the banking firm audience, in what is purported to be a quote from one of her speeches. “But it was the conventional wisdom.”
In another excerpt, Clinton says those who work inside a regulated industry are best poised to then regulate the industry. Too much or too little regulation is bad, she says, and those who understand the right balance are often in the industry.
“How do you get to the golden key, how do we figure out what works? And the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry,” she allegedly said.
Speaking about her prior run for president in 2008, Clinton also suggests she is beholden, in a way, to special interests such as the big banks, because “it would be very difficult to run for president without raising a huge amount of money and without having other people supporting you because your opponent will have their supporters.”
In another instance, Clinton appears to acknowledge that she’s out of touch: “I’m kind of far removed,” she said, from the struggles of the middle class and “growing sense of anxiety and even anger in the country” because of the “fortunes” that she and former President Bill Clinton currently enjoy.
She illustrates this in another speech, when she complains about the need for politicians to avoid conflicts of interest.
“There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives,” she said during a speech to Goldman Sachs, according to the leaked email. “You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary.”
The leaked Podesta emails also show Clinton attacking Sanders over a position she supposedly supports. In a 2013 speech, Clinton said single-payer healthcare systems can help reduce overall costs, but cautioned that patients might have to wait longer to receive care.
Despite Clinton’s praise of single-payer healthcare, Carrk, the campaign’s research director, blasted out an opposition research memo to senior aides on October 28th, 2015, which included criticism of Sanders for his support of a “Medicare-for-all” style plan for healthcare reform—specifically calling him out on how to pay for it.
“His plan would repeal the Affordable Care Act, as well as Medicare, TRICARE [military healthcare program], Medicaid, and SCHIP [State Children’s Health Insurance Program],” according to the memo. “His proposal would cost roughly $15 trillion. Vermont tried to implement a single payer plan but scrapped it because it would cost too much.”
Without disputing the leaks, the Clinton campaign has refused to formally authenticate them. However, the campaign did acknowledge that documents had been stolen, and went on the offensive by alleging that the Russian government has directed WikiLeaks to influence the U.S. election.
“We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a statement. “Earlier today the U.S. government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
In a series of tweets, Podesta confirmed that his email account was breached.
“I’m not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump,” Podesta wrote on Twitter, adding that he does not “have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.”