State Dept ‘cleared’ reports on Clinton emails while in close touch with her team - #PodestaEmails

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton © Brian Snyder
The State Department was in touch with Hillary Clinton’s team mere hours before releasing one of the first revelations of her Benghazi emails. That media report puzzled Clinton’s staff, coming just before she launched her campaign, newly leaked emails show.

“You may have already heard from other channels, but NYT will have a story tomorrow on HRC's Benghazi emails. Unclear to me how NYT got, assume from Gowdy. Better now than April,” Clinton's communications director Jennifer Palmieri said in a March 2015 email to campaign chairman John Podesta. 

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Palmieri was referring to a March 2, 2015 article in the New York Times, which shed light on Clinton’s use of a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state. For one of the first times, the report suggested that Clinton might have violated federal requirements for government officials.

The chain of emails that WikiLeaks released in its 26th batch of what has been dubbed the “Podesta emails” show communication between Clinton’s team and the State Department, right before the Times published its report.

It appears the State Department and its former spokeswoman Jen Psaki personally “cleared” and made changes to the report.

“Hi guys – Jen just cleared. She made the highlighted change – just rephrased a line about NARA updates state is undertaking. Yes on your point re records - done below. And yes will let you know -- should be in the new few minutes,” State Department press aide Lauren Hickey sent to Clinton’s aide Heather Samuelson.

On that day, Clinton's traveling press secretary Nick Merrill also emailed Jennifer Palmieri his response to Michael Schidt, the author of the Times report.

"Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials,” he wrote. “For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes.”

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Later that March, Clinton’s team had to go back to the emails issue, discussing responses to Schmidt’s comment request, as the Times was “preparing a story on how Clinton’s top advisers at the State Department used their private email accounts for some of their email correspondences with her.”

Merrill forwarded Schmidt’s email to Palmieri and the team, saying that some of his questions “are a little ridiculous to say the least.”

He also referred to Psaki, saying that “Jen” believed it was “fairly irresponsible” for the Times “to cherry pick leaked emails and write it up as representative.”

“We should warn Monica. Huma, unless you want to Nick or I can,” Clinton aide Philippe Reines said in his email.

Regarding a response to Schmidt, Reines wrote that there was “a lot to respond to here.”

“First and foremost the premise is wrong,” he added. “There is nothing wrong with anyone having personal email addresses or her emailing someone's private account or vice versa. Maybe she was wishing (longtime aide) Jake (Sullivan) a happy birthday. Or I was sending her a note about her mom. ... We're allowed to have personal lives."

Clearly, the response to the Times and its further stories created was seen as “a problem” in Clinton’s team and required a “proper” solution.

“Strikes me as a big problem that the NYT is having selected emails leaked to them and I I think we should do a call to discuss the proper way to handle,” Palmieri wrote.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson John Kirby refused to comment on the emails, saying that he was not going to “talk about leaked documents and emails that were allegedly stolen.”