Newly released emails from Wikileaks show that aides became alarmed when President Barack Obama assured the public that he had learned about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.” Cheryl D. Mills, a top aide who featured prominently in the email scandal and insisted on immunity before turning over a laptop with classified information, flagged the issue to say that Obama sent emails to Clinton’s private email. There is also an exchange of campaign officials complaining that close Clinton aides withheld the information of the email scandal because “they wanted to get away with it.” As I discussed in a recent column, these Wikileaks memos have confirmed the worst assumptions of voters about the dishonesty and evasion of their government. It has turned this into America’s Game of Thrones election.
The White House quickly corrected the President’s comments and said that, while he used the private email, he really did not realize it was not a .gov email. I am willing to accept that account for a man who is incredibly busy. However, I remain amazed that security staff did not raise any alarm over the president corresponding with the Secretary of State over a private email system.
The more interesting exchange came between Neera Tanden, another adviser, and campaign manager John Podesta on March 2, 2015. Tanden complained about the impact of the undisclosed problem and blamed Ms. Mills for another “Cheryl special.” The complaint is a familiar one: that close Clinton aides reflect the same self-defeating secrecy and evasion as their candidate, a subject of a prior column. Tanden asked “Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy,” Podesta responded simply with “Unbelievable.” Tanden then responded “i guess I know the answer. they wanted to get away with it.”
In a direct slam of Clinton’s judgment (a major campaign theme), Podesta says “We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat. Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts.” Tanden responds “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.”
Podesta also shows the coordination between the Administration and the campaign in withholding embarrassing emails. Obviously, emails with the president would be treated as presumptively classified. Podesta tells Mills “Think we should hold emails to and from POTUS. We could get them to ask for that.”