Hillary Clinton’s inner circle proposed inviting a small group of reporters to lobbyist John Podesta’s home for an “off-the-record” dinner to talk about “the only people they should trust” with campaign news, leaked emails show.
“Wonder if we shouldn’t parcel out reporters for each of us to call and say the only people they should trust are those on this calls and that others from the Clinton Diaspora are just not reliable sources,” Democratic pollster Joel Benenson wrote to future Clinton campaign staffers in a March 2014 email published online by WikiLeaks.
Benenson’s email came about one month before Clinton officially announced she was running for president. Benenson now serves as the Clinton campaign’s chief political strategist.
“I had an idea along the same lines – which was for John to invite the ten to fifteen reporters who will cover HRC everyday to his house for an off the record dinner with all of us,” Jenifer Palmieri, now Clinton’s communications director, responded. Palmieri, however, still worked at the White House when she sent this email.
“We would be clear that this was a social, get to know you session, and not to expect any briefing on the campaign,” she wrote. “But we could use that setting to make clear that we are the group leading the campaign, not others.”
“That wouldn’t preclude us from making calls Joel suggests now,” she wrote, looping in Podesta and Robby Mook, Clinton’s future campaign manager. “Defer to John and Robby as to whether they think this is right moment to undertake this kind of explicit effort.”
Podesta, a long time Clinton ally and lobbyist, currently serves as Clinton’s campaign chair after spending some time working in the Obama administration on energy and environmental policy.
“I’m fine with it,” Mook wrote. “I think, though, as soon as we do it we probably need to dial up what we feed them, since these other people are giving them lots of content and they’ll just go back to them if we don’t.”
“Jen I defer if waiting a week helps us in that regard,” he wrote. “The other thing we’d need to be very careful about from a compliance perspective is that we are volunteering to help her make a final decision. We haven’t been ‘hired’ and she hasn’t decided to run. It’s very important we make that clear.”
This is just one of many hacked emails from Podesta’s Gmail account illustrating the Clinton campaign’s relationship with the press.
CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, for example, sent one email saying he was covering Clinton in the way “she wants.” In another, Harwood warns Podesta about Republican presidential contender Ben Carson.
“Ben Carson could give you real trouble in a general,” Harwood wrote to Podesta.
Haim Saban, the owner of Univision, has given the Clinton campaign lots of advice on how to attract Latino voters and keep Jewish voters from choosing Republicans in November.
“We addressed this in our meeting yesterday,” he wrote to Podesta, listing off policy positions for Clinton, “speak strongly against anti-Semitism, and boycott.. reaffirm the US commitment to Israel’s security… anything else your research tells you the Jewish community is sensitive to.”
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