Newly released e-mails from the Clinton Library paint Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a brash and often creative political operative. As a lawyer and political adviser in the Clinton White House, Kagan often opined on touchy topics, including guns, race and Hillary Clinton’s official policy role as first lady.
In a 1996 e-mail to fellow adviser Dennis Burke, now a U.S. Attorney in Arizona, Kagan suggested ways to amend RICO laws to apply to so-called gun offenses.
“[I] don’t know if amending [RICO] to include gun offenses would be smart or stupid as a matter of politics — or as a matter of policy — but it definitely is an option,” Kagan wrote. Short for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO was originally enacted in the 1970s to combat organized crime.
President Clinton’s 1999 crime bill incorporated Kagan’s recommendation. A fax from March 8, 1999 containing talking points and a description of Clinton’s proposal claimed the legislation “[a]dds a number of firearms offenses as predicates under the RICO statute.”
“Strongly opposed by Senate Republicans and the NRA,” the document noted.
Kagan didn’t shy away from contentious internal matters either, going so far as to question Hillary Clinton’s policy role as first lady. In response to a January 13, 1998, e-mail requesting feedback on a speech that Hillary Clinton was scheduled to give on race at Gaucher College in Baltimore, Kagan pulled no punches.
“I’m generally not in favor of the FLOTUS announcing policy unless it’s in one of her areas (e.g., child care),” Kagan wrote.
Not even reporters were spared from the ire of Kagan and her colleagues.
Jonathan Chait, a reporter at the New Republic, requested comment from Kagan on President Clinton’s “new domestic policy agenda.” Kagan forwarded the e-mail to her then-boss Bruce Reed, now the executive director of President Obama’s deficit commission, saying, “[Chait] made it sound as if the article will be very positive (but of course they all do, don’t they).”
“I’ll talk to him,” Reed wrote back. “He occasionally writes for the American Prospect, so he’s another big-spender we’ve revived from the dead.”