NPR logo 6 Takeaways From The New Hillary Clinton Emails


6 Takeaways From The New Hillary Clinton Emails

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton applauds after a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa,on Monday. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

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Patrick Semansky/AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton applauds after a CNN town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa,on Monday.

Patrick Semansky/AP

The big news about Hillary Clinton's emails came earlier today: 22 emails she sent on her controversial private server while at the State Department have been deemed top secret and won't be released to the public.

The State Department reiterated Friday that "these documents were not marked classified at the time they were sent," something the Clinton campaign has been arguing the whole time. Her campaign also pushed back against what is sees as "overclassification run amok."

The revelations cast a pall over the former secretary of state's campaign just days ahead of Iowa, reminding voters again about the private server she used instead of a government email address. Though her top rival, Bernie Sanders, has passed on attacking her on the emails, Republicans contended that the new information was "disqualifying."

The latest batch of the monthly releases from the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be the last — but it won't be. About 7,000 more pages are not ready for release yet and won't be until after the New Hampshire primary — despite a judge's orders.

Friday evening's email dump contained far fewer documents than normal — just about 1,000 pages. There were no blockbuster revelations in them; we've culled some of the most interesting ones below:

1. More memos and commentary from Sidney Blumenthal

Clinton's relationship with the controversial Blumenthal, a longtime aide and friend to her and her husband, was pressed repeatedly by Republicans during the Benghazi special committee hearings last year. In these newly released emails, Blumenthal again sends her many foreign policy memos — on Bahrain and Iran, Libya, Northern Ireland, and Germany. "More from our friend," she writes in a forward to aide Jake Sullivan.

But it wasn't just foreign policy observations that Blumenthal provided. During the 2012 campaign, he gave his takeaways on why President Obama bombed in the first general-election presidential debate in Denver, Colo., and what Vice President Joe Biden needed to do in his debate with Paul Ryan.

"Biden should adopt a divide-and-conquer strategy in the debate with Paul Ryan that keeps him on the defensive and undermines Romney's motives while staying substantive," Blumenthal wrote. "At the same time, Biden should force Ryan to admit his differences with Romney and that Romney embraces his right-wing panaceas. Ryan must be made into the instrument to define Romney as two-faced, hypocritical and dangerously far right. Biden can make Ryan do this work. Turn him into the witness against Romney.

2. Biden abroad: 'Like a Disney ride'

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell wrote to Clinton in August 2011 while he was in China with Biden. And it sure sounded like an amusing trip.

"At every level here in Beijing with the VP," Campbell wrote. "Its [sic] like a Disney ride with dips and spins and surprises around every bend."

"Is it sort of like W and beach volleyball?" Clinton asked.

"There's no talking in beach ball. It's unlike any diplomacy I have seen. Any possible topic or reference or poet or Irish lymric [sic] or historical reference or 60s pop culture data point can appear with little or no warning. Entertaining but unpredictable," Campbell responded.

3. More glowing praise: 'She sets a standard that lesser mortals can only dream of emulating'

Another running theme in Clinton's emails — glowing praise from aides or friends after a good television interview or other performance. This time it was her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the attacks in Benghazi that elicited cheers.

"Sorry you had to go through all this. They made my blood boil — so I appreciate how hard it must have been to sit there unphased on camera with your Transcendental Meditation instructor zen face," National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling wrote to Clinton's chief of staff. "She was a great combo of patient, emotional and fighting-back tough. Made me proud."

"If you get a chance — please tell HRC that she was a ROCK STAR yesterday. Everything about her 'performance' was what makes her unique, beloved, and destined for even more greatness. She sets a standard that lesser mortals can only dream of emulating," then-Obama National Security Council aide Liz Sherwood-Randall wrote.

Someone else passed along that her former colleague, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, also thought she did well — but glad she wasn't stepping on his spotlight anymore.

"I'm not surprised about Chuck," aide Philippe Reines wrote back. "At his core, he's a good man. A good man who is just so happy she left the Senate."

4. Observations on Obama on foreign policy

"This could be one of his best and most important speeches — and begin to redeem the promise of his Presidency," Clinton wrote about Obama's September speech before the United Nations, during which he called for a lasting Mideast peace.

In another, when an article credited the White House for first using the term "pivot" to Asia, Clinton wondered, "Remind — didn't we, not the WH, first use the 'pivot'?"

5. Tensions with the press

Reines has long had a tense relationship with the press, and when Clinton wanted him to correct "a ridiculous column" by the Washington Post's Al Kamen on how many times she had visited the White House," he unleashed on Kamen and his editors.

"This is one of those notes I wish I didn't have to write. But I do. Because even though I'm trying to let more roll off my back these days, your item is so egregiously inaccurate, deceptive, and nonsensical that I can't bite my tongue," Reines writes. "Your numbers are off by a magnitude of 20 to 30. Not merely off by 20 to 30. By a MAGNITUDE of 20 to 30."

"So I'm sure the Post, in an effort to adhere to your own lofty standards, is anxious to correct the record here — either formally, or in your next column — to address this gross deception of your own readers," he continued. "If that's not the case, please do let us know as I'm sure another outlet — such as Politico — would be interested in writing about the true facts."

6. Those pesky little things

Not every part of the job of a cabinet secretary — or president — is enjoyable. When Clinton wasn't in the office, and her staff wanted to send a letter to outgoing Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell (a former Maine senator and Senate majority leader), Clinton wrote back that she wasn't going to be in the office, "So, can someone sign just my first name?"

If Clinton does win the race for the White House, she'll have to add the annual White House Correspondents Dinner to her calendar, too. "I remember you saying once that it was one of the huge downsides of the job, having to attend and speak at four of these a year," Reines wrote to Clinton in 2011 when sending her Obama's speech.

NPR's Paulina Firozi contributed.