Veil lifted on secret Clinton speeches
Washington — Hillary Clinton told bankers behind closed doors that she favored “open trade and open borders” and said Wall Street executives were best-positioned to help reform the U.S. financial sector, according to transcripts of her private, paid speeches leaked Friday.
The leaks were the result of another email hacking intended to influence the presidential election.
Excerpts of the speeches given in the years before her 2016 presidential campaign included some blunt and unguarded remarks to her private audiences, which collectively had paid her at least $26.1 million in speaking fees. Clinton had refused to release transcripts of the speeches, despite repeated calls to do so by her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The excerpts were included in emails exchanged among her political staff, including Campaign Chairman John Podesta, whose email account was hacked. The WikiLeaks organization posted what it said were thousands of Podesta’s emails. It wasn’t immediately clear who had hacked Podesta’s emails, though the breach appeared to cover years of messages, some sent as recently as last month.
Among the emails was a compilation of excerpts from Clinton’s paid speeches in 2013 and 2014. It appeared campaign staff had read all Clinton’s speeches and identified passages that could be potentially problematic for the candidate if they were to become public.
One excerpt put Clinton squarely in the free-trade camp, a position she has retreated on significantly during the 2016 election. In a talk to a Brazilian bank in 2013, she said her “dream” is “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders” and asked her audience to think of what doubling American trade with Latin America “would mean for everybody in this room.”
Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has made opposition to trade deals a cornerstone of his campaign.
Podesta posted a series of tweets Friday night, calling the disclosures a Russian hack and raising questions about whether some of the documents could have been altered.
“I’m not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump,” Podesta wrote. “Don’t have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.”
Podesta’s comments came just hours after U.S. officials publicly accused the Russian government of directing cyberattacks on political organizations and American citizens in an attempt to interfere with U.S. elections.
The joint statement from the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Homeland Security Department cited disclosures of “alleged hacked emails” on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks as being “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”
The statement didn’t refer by name to the affected political institutions, but federal authorities are investigating cyberattacks on the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement, “It’s not hard to see why she fought so hard to keep her transcripts of speeches to Wall Street banks paying her millions of dollars secret.”
The emails released Friday included exchanges between Podesta and other Clinton insiders, including campaign manager Robby Mook. Most were routine, including drafts of Clinton speeches, suggested talking points for campaign surrogates and suggested tweets to be sent out from Clinton’s account.
The excerpts include quotes from an October 2013 speech at an event sponsored by Goldman Sachs, in which Clinton conceded that presidential candidates need the financial backing of Wall Street to mount a competitive national campaign.
“Running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it,” Clinton said. “New York is probably the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle, and it’s also our economic center. And there are a lot of people here who should ask some tough questions before handing over campaign contributions to people who were really playing chicken with our whole economy.”
In the same speech, Clinton was also deferential to the New York finance industry, exhorting wealthy donors to use their political clout for patriotic rather than personal benefit. She also spoke of the need to include Wall Street perspectives in financial reform.
“The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry,” Clinton said.
In an April 2013 speech to the National Multifamily Housing Council, Clinton said politicians must balance “both a public and a private position” while making deals. Clinton gave an example from the movie “Lincoln,” and the deal-making that went into passage of the 13th Amendment, a process she compared to sausage-making.
“It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be,” Clinton said. “But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
Clinton’s speeches often touched on technology and privacy. In an April 2014 speech to JPMorgan, she denounced National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden for going abroad, saying, “if he really cared about raising some of these issues and stayed right here in the United States, there’s a lot of whistleblower protections.”
But she told her audience that her time in the public eye left her sympathetic to privacy concerns.
“As somebody who has had my privacy scrutinized and violated for decades, I’m all for privacy, believe me,” she said.
Speaking on international affairs, Clinton’s comments were largely in line with her positions as secretary of state, if sometimes more blunt.
“The Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on Earth over the course of the last 30 years,” she told the Jewish United Fund at a 2013 dinner.
The speech transcripts were produced under an agreement Clinton routinely imposed on any organization that hired her to speak. The contracts, such as ones crafted by the Harry Walker Agency, required the organizations to hire, at their own expense, a stenographer who would provide the transcripts to Clinton and not keep copies for themselves.
In some cases, the contracts themselves were obtained by news organizations under public records laws because Clinton was being paid to speak by public universities or colleges.
Associated Press writers Ted Bridis and Stephen Braun contributed to this report.
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