Hillary Clinton’s email scandal has been a much greater campaign distraction than she likely anticipated.
Politico published a deep dive Tuesday that delved into how her staffers have dealt with the fallout, and some of it doesn’t sound good for Clintonworld.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Annie Karni interviewed aides, donors, and friends close to Clinton, many of whom expressed concern about how the scandal is affecting her campaign efforts.
Since the news broke of Clinton using a private server for email while she was secretary of state, her poll numbers have dropped, as Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has made gains and clamors have grown for Vice President Joe Biden to enter the race.
Here are some highlights from the Politico story:
- Clinton seemed reluctant to accept blame for the scandal: When The New York Times published a story in March detailing Clinton’s use of a personal email account at the State Department, she “was above all angry, and … defaulted to what old Clinton hands refer to as ‘pity party mode,’ dismissing the media frenzy over the emails as a whiffle-ball Whitewater while railing against the very real right-wing campaign amassed against her.” She maintained that she did nothing wrong and had to be coaxed into apologizing.
- Clinton’s staffers felt left in the dark on the controversy: One aide reportedly asked on a campaign conference call after the Times story broke: “Why does the other side always know more than we do?”
- And Clinton seemed to lay much of the blame on her team: She reportedly told one supporter this summer: “I am having two problems. On the one hand, I feel like I’m rolling out a lot of substantive programs on issues that people care about. We’re getting one day’s news coverage. But there’s nothing larger knitting it together. We’re not breaking through. … And my team needs to get their act together on the email response.”
- Clinton’s allies worry about how she’s been handling the scandal: One supporter told Politico: “It sounds crazy, but I think she simply wasn’t equipped to deal with all this. She’s never been a great candidate, OK? She needed time and campaigns don’t give you ti me. … She was blindsided, and I think only now, after all this crap, is she finally in the right headspace.” Almost every source Politico interviewed agreed that Clinton is a “mediocre candidate” who would “make a good president, if given the chance.”
- And they’re taking the controversy seriously: A family adviser called the controversy a “cancer” on her campaign and another said that Clinton is “her own worst enemy.”
- The scandal could hurt her campaign’s fundraising efforts: One “longtime contributor” told Clinton’s team: “Our experience is reaching out to friends and colleagues, and people are saying they don’t like her and don’t trust her.”
- Her campaign staffers’ emails have been set to delete after 30 days: In what Politico characterised as an unpopular move among the rank-and-file staffers who work at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters, campaign manager Robbie Mook notified employees that “their own server was programmed to purge all staffers’ emails after 30 days.”
- Clinton “exploded” after she left the set of CNN following her July interview: The interview didn’t go well. When Brianna Keilar mentioned a poll showing that people don’t trust Clinton, she got defensive and said, “People should and do trust me” and blamed the polls on a “barrage of attacks” from Republicans. Afterward, she was reportedly “incensed that her staff hadn’t come up with a better battle plan.”
- It took a lot of prodding to get her to apologise: Even when she did, she reportedly viewed it as “a meaningless Washington pound-of-flesh ritual aimed at stopping the media feeding frenzy.”
Clinton’s emails are being investigated by the FBI as part of a broader inquiry into Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state.
In March, a US House of Representatives committee requested access to Clinton’s server to ensure that she had not deleted any work-related emails. That same month, Clinton handed over about 30,000 work-related emails for the State Department to make public. Many of the emails contained information retroactively marked “classified” or “top secret.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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