Leaks: Clin­ton camp grap­pled with server

Baltimore Sun - - BUSINESS MARYLAND NATION - By Michael Biesecker, Julie Bykowicz and Chad Day

WASH­ING­TON — Pur­port­edly hacked emails show that Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign was slow to grasp the se­ri­ous­ness of the con­tro­versy over her use of a pri­vate email server and be­lieved it might blow over after one week­end.

Two days after The As­so­ci­ated Press was first to re­port in March 2015 that Clin­ton had been run­ning a pri­vate server in her home in New York to send and re­ceive mes­sages when she was sec­re­tary of state, her ad­vis­ers were shap­ing their strat­egy to re­spond to the rev­e­la­tion.

Among the emails made pub­lic Tues­day by Wik­iLeaks was one from Clin­ton cam­paign spokesman Nick Mer­rill, who sug­gested that the is­sue might quickly blow over.

“Goal would be to cau­ter­ize this just enough so it plays out over the week­end and dies in the short term,” Mer­rill wrote on March 6, 2015.

It did not, and it has per­sisted as a theme among her cam­paign crit­ics and ri­vals.

Wik­iLeaks be­gan re­leas­ing Fri­day what it said were years of mes­sages from ac­counts used by Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta.

Months after Mer­rill’s mes­sage, the cam­paign was still pre­oc­cu­pied with emails. In May2015, Clin­ton spokesman Brian Fal­lon alerted other staffers that the Jus­tice Depart­ment was propos­ing to pub­lish Clin­ton’s work-re­lated emails by Jan­uary in re­sponse to re­quests by news or­ga­ni­za­tions. Fal­lon, a for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman, wrote that un­spec­i­fied “DOJ folks” told him there It’s not clear who hacked John Podesta’s emails. was a court hear­ing planned soon in the case. The name and email ad­dress of the per­son who shared the in­for­ma­tion with Fal­lon had been deleted.

Don­ald Trump on Tues­day called Fal­lon’s email “un­be­liev­able,” and his sup­port­ers said it showed col­lu­sion be­tween the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Clin­ton’s cam­paign.

The dates of court hear­ings would have been pub­licly posted in ad­vance on the court’s docket. Fal­lon did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. The Jus­tice Depart­ment de­clined to dis­cuss Fal­lon’s email.

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear who hacked Podesta’s emails, though U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials last week blamed the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment for a se­ries of breaches in­tended to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Podesta on Tues­day ac­cused long­time Trump aide Roger Stone of re­ceiv­ing “ad­vance warn­ing” about Wik­iLeaks’ plans to pub­lish the pur­port­edly hacked emails and sug­gested the Repub­li­can can­di­date is aid­ing Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in U.S. pol­i­tics.

The Rus­sian Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton has de­nied any role in the cy­ber at­tacks, tweet­ing that U.S. of­fi­cials are just “whip­ping up” an­tiRus­sia hys­te­ria.

The mes­sages stolen from Podesta’s ac­count de­scribe how Clin­ton’s clos­est ad­vis­ers con­sid­ered re­spond­ing to key events dur­ing the cam­paign.

In emails from March 2015, Mer­rill sug­gested a strat­egy — ul­ti­mately nixed by Clin­ton her­self — of hav­ing co­me­dian Larry Wil­more and Bill Clin­ton joke dur­ing an event for the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive char­ity in Co­ral Gables, Fla., be­fore hav­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton join them on stage.

In the end, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s team drafted talk­ing points Clin­ton used at the news con­fer­ence at the United Na­tions.

Clin­ton said she “fully com­plied with ev­ery rule that I was gov­erned by” and that “there is no clas­si­fied ma­te­rial” among her workre­lated emails. Both of those state­ments were later proved false.

As the email con­tro­versy es­ca­lated in the sum­mer of 2015, Clin­ton her­self seemed slow to grasp the con­tin­u­ing po­lit­i­cal dam­age. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Jen­nifer Palmieri in August ex­pressed con­cerns that Clin­ton wasn’t “in the same place” on the is­sue as some on her cam­paign staff.

At the time, the po­lit­i­cal aides were work­ing out de­tails of re­veal­ing that Clin­ton had di­rected her staff to hand over her server and a thumb drive with copies of her emails to the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Palmieri was writ­ing other cam­paign aides to ar­range for a Univi­sion re­porter to ask “a few ques­tions on emails” dur­ing an in­ter­view that would oth­er­wise fo­cus on col­lege af­ford­abil­ity.

“As you all know, I had hoped that we could use the ‘server mo­ment’ as an op­por­tu­nity for her to be viewed as hav­ing take a big step to deal with the email prob­lem that would best po­si­tion us for what is ahead,” Palmieri wrote.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/GETTY-AFP

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