Three months after Hillary Clinton announced her presidential bid last year, a key ally, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, wrote to a top Clinton campaign aide, in a purportedly hacked email released on the WikiLeaks website.
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Granholm offered, as she put it in her subject line, “a humble suggestion” to the campaign.
“Perhaps she makes beds in a hotel for a day. Perhaps she buses tables at Denny's or works behind the counter at McDonald's or Chipotle's!” Granholm wrote in the July 12, 2015 message to Charlie Baker, the campaign’s chief administrative officer. “Perhaps she works in a nursing home. Or is a janitor in a school cafeteria. Or works at a daycare center.”
She added, “You get the idea -- have her pick some low wage service jobs that she's actually willing to spend 6-8 hours doing (any shorter and she'd be criticized for not putting in a full day). Our base would go wild for it -- an acknowledgement that she is determined to ‘see’ real people, despite her own good fortunes.”
Granholm, who in August was named a co-chair of the team planning a potential White House transition should Clinton win in November, wrote the purportedly hacked email one day before the Democratic presidential candidate was set to deliver a speech in New York outlining her economic vision.
“She could acknowledge flat-out that she's been in a security/privilege bubble, and is determined to break out of it,” Granholm wrote of her suggestions for humanizing Clinton.
“Just a thought,” she concluded in the purportedly hacked email that was forwarded to Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, who later sent it to the campaign's communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, and its chairman, John Podesta.
The message is one of more than 10,000 posted on the WikiLeaks website this week that are purported to have been hacked from Podesta’s inbox. The Clinton campaign has not confirmed or denied the authenticity of the emails or commented on any content in them.
Podesta earlier this week released a statement that blamed the Russians for what he called "the illegal hack”: “It is now clear that the illegal hack of my personal email account was — just like the other recent, election-related hacks — the work of the Russian government," the statement said. "This level of meddling by a foreign power can only be aimed at boosting Donald Trump and should send chills down the spine of all Americans, regardless of political party.”
The emails seem to paint a picture of a candidate and campaign that has been micromanaged, highly scripted and poll-tested from the start.
Many of the messages, if authentic, would appear to demonstrate the huge size of Clinton’s campaign team. Based on these emails it is not uncommon for six or seven of Clinton’s senior staff, including Podesta, Mook and three or four members of her communications team to weigh in on, edit and re-edit a single proposed tweet, let alone scrutinize proposed, formal campaign statements.
The purported emails show that staff even prepared, edited and circulated comments that were to be given to reporters off the record, meaning remarks that reporters are not supposed to print or repeat.
One message has a debate-preparation memo from December 2015 that is 164 pages and includes not only full-sentence written responses to over 50 possible questions for the candidate but also gives cues such as “smile.”
In another purported message, Podesta appears to write to Clinton herself advising that she phone prominent Latino politicians and describing point-by-point how the conversations could go. “1) You really enjoyed seeing Cindy at the Chambers event and appreciate her support. 2) Ask him how he's been doing 3) Ask about his views on the race and what she should be doing in Colorado 4) Ask that he consider publicly supporting you,” the document reads.
In that same email, Podesta also refers to the Clinton family's vast network and orb of influence as “Clinton World.”
And in another message, a staffer appears to suggest to Podesta that the campaign should set up specific chants from the crowd at a Clinton rally: “Wonder if tomorrow night, we should be more purposeful about generating the ‘U-S-A, U-S-A' chants during her riff about the need for togetherness and unity … with people holding the little American flags.”
“I really like that,” Podesta replies.
One memo attached to an email from March 2016 is titled “Concept Paper” and outlines a proposal to “use young elected officials and entertainers to build a ‘grassroots’ movement of under 40 voters as a vehicle to migrate support for Bernie into activism for Hillary.”
“The group should be branded separately from the campaign so people who engage with it feel like they created and own it,” the memo says.
As the Democratic primary race with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was tightening in early 2016, Clinton's team weighed options for responding to Sanders’ arguments that she was too close to Wall Street, including whether to focus on her plan for regulating the finance industry or trying to debunk Sanders' claims.
Others suggested Clinton should veer away from the topic completely because polls showed her losing that argument to him. “Bernie wants a fight on a Wall Street. We should not give him one. Our polling shows this is one of our weakest areas,” one consultant, Mandy Grunwald purportedly wrote.