In Clinton Emails Released By WikiLeaks, A Video Defense She Never Gave Emails released by WikiLeaks reveal that at the height of Hillary Clinton's email controversy, her top campaign aides drafted a video address to supporters that the candidate never delivered.
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The Video Defense About Her Emails Hillary Clinton Never Gave

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The Video Defense About Her Emails Hillary Clinton Never Gave

The Video Defense About Her Emails Hillary Clinton Never Gave

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign are dealing with a slow drip, drip, drip of revelations about the campaign's internal workings as WikiLeaks releases thousands of emails hacked from the personal account of Clinton's campaign chairman. NPR has reported on the outrage caused by private comments Clinton's staffers have made about certain groups.

With the latest release, NPR's Tamara Keith got a glimpse at the behind the scenes debate on how to deal with the controversy over Clinton's emails. And Tamara joins us now.

Good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What is it that you found?

KEITH: Well, you know, it doesn't take hacked emails to know that the Clinton campaign and Hillary Clinton herself have struggled with how to explain her use of a private email server while secretary of state. And this reached a fever pitch at the end of the summer of 2015, when she got into a heated exchange with a Fox News correspondent during a press conference. And let's just listen to a - that moment here.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ED HENRY: You were the official in charge. Did you wipe the server?

HILLARY CLINTON: What, like, with a cloth or something?

HENRY: I don't know. You know how it works digitally. Did you try to wipe the whole server?

CLINTON: I don't know how it works digitally at all. I do not have any...

HENRY: (Unintelligible) You did not try?

KEITH: So in the hacked WikiLeaks emails, which the campaign will not verify the authenticity of just as a policy, we found what we believe to be a script for a video address Clinton's campaign was considering having her give to her supporters to explain the email controversy. And this email chain starts with a draft script just three days after that widely panned press conference.

MONTAGNE: And what might Hillary Clinton have said to explain the email controversy in this - at that moment?

KEITH: Well, the script starts with her saying, quote, "Hello, I thought you might find it useful to have some answers to share with your friends if they ask about all these new stories about my email habits when I was secretary of state. So I want to take some time to try and explain it to you directly in one place at one time as best I can."

This draft then goes on to explain how she ended up using a personal account while secretary of state. She thought it would be simpler to have one address. And then it says, quote, "That's the explanation, but it's no excuse. There's a difference between allowed to do and smart to do. I shouldn't have done it this way. I should have set the standard that others were expected to meet. To do it all again, I would have used two email addresses."

The draft remarks say it was a mistake and that she regrets it.

MONTAGNE: And she never delivered those remarks at that time. How does this compare with what she did say publicly then?

KEITH: These draft remarks are clearer, more comprehensive and more personal than anything she was saying at the time. And in part, that's because she only addressed the email issue then when she was asked by reporters or in statements from her spokespeople that often got legalistic and defensive. The apology - she did ultimately apologize, but it came a couple of weeks later, ultimately, in an interview.

MONTAGNE: Do we know why she didn't deliver this apology?

KEITH: We don't. Though several days later, some of the ideas and sort of the tone from this were picked up when she was asked again by a reporter at a press conference about the emails. The campaign is only responding by pointing the finger at Russia for the hack. But in these internal email chains, there was an effort to finesse language and concern that maybe the draft was too long or that it had, quote, "distracting tangents that the press would chase." We don't know whether this would have changed anything - probably not - because Clinton is still being asked about her emails to this day.

MONTAGNE: OK. NPR's Tamara Keith covers the Clinton campaign.

Thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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