Leaks show Clinton inner circle grappling with email issue
WASHINGTON >> Hacked emails show that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was slow to grasp the seriousness of the controversy over her use of a homebrew 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 optimistically 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 became the leading example of Clinton’s penchant for secrecy, which has persisted as a theme among her campaign critics and rivals throughout her election season. Clinton did not publicly confirm or discuss her use of the email server until March 10 in a speech at the United Nations, nearly one week after AP revealed the server’s existence.
WikiLeaks began releasing on Friday what it said were years of messages from accounts used by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. He has acknowledged his emails were hacked. Podesta warned that messages may have been altered or edited to inflict political damage but has not pointed to any specific case of this.
Months after Merrill’s message, the campaign was still preoccupied with emails. In May 2015, 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 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 from AP. 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.
On Tuesday, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak dismissed the accusations as untrue.
“We are watching very carefully the election campaign in this country,” Kislyak said at a discussion of bilateral affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s campus in Washington. “We don’t interfere (in) the internal affairs of the United States, neither by my statements nor by electronic or other means.”