The State Department released some 3,000 pages of Hillary Rodham Clinton's email correspondence Tuesday, but the documents hardly provide her critics the revealing look inside her tenure that they were seeking.
The emails, the first batch from a pool of more than 50,000 pages turned over by the candidate from her private email server, suggest Clinton mostly avoided email. Her use of it tended to involve mundane scheduling matters and keeping close track of what the media were saying about her.
The latest messages go beyond the initial 850 pages of emails released in May that were tied to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the subject of a continuing Republican-led congressional inquiry. All of the emails released Tuesday were written in 2009, the year Clinton began serving as secretary of State.
Instead of revealing details about policymaking, political strategy and the like, there were lots of ho-hum exchanges between Clinton and her staff. “Did you see the photo in the NYPost of Bill and me from yesterday?” she wrote advisor Huma Abedin that August. “It was after lunch but I didn't see anybody w a camera so obviously a long lens from afar.”
In one December exchange with a top aide, Philippe Reines, she expresses concern about sitting for a joint interview with Henry Kissinger, which might raise unflattering comparisons about the two secretaries’ access to their presidents.
“I see POTUS at least once a week while K saw Nixon everyday,” she notes, calling it a potential issue. “Of course, if I were dealing w that POTUS I'd probably camp in his office to prevent him from doing something problematic. Do you see this as a problem?”
In November she forwards advice to her aides from someone she calls an “observer” about how she’s scheduling her time, and agrees with the person’s assessment that she might need more “more strategy time.” She does not address another point, in which he or she says the president’s delay in formulating an Afghanistan strategy “is looking Carterlike to US adversaries.”
Also in November, Clinton emailed Reines asking that he request a correction not of a news story involving her service at State, but one that noted how much she outspent a Republican opponent during her initial 2000 Senate campaign. “Which is so misleading since he had a less than five month campaign,” she notes of the race from nine years earlier. In another exchange she wonders if a favorable Time magazine story on her was as good as the cover photo.
Removed from the Senate only a year, Clinton still took a keen interest in its affairs and seemed to cultivate her relationships with lawmakers. In one exchange, a friend notes that he recently had dinner with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, now a presidential hopeful. “Lindsay [sic] always talks about how much he likes you,” the friend said.
In November, an aide kept Clinton informed of Senate votes on the president’s proposed healthcare law. After it cleared one Senate procedural hurdle, she cheered: “Finally!!!”
At one point, Clinton and Abedin trade notes about the Hamptons, the posh New York beach community where Clinton vacations. But what they say is a mystery. The entire text, beyond the subject line, is redacted. The department redacted heavily from the messages, including in one case labeling as classified an entire draft news release.
Other nuggets from the exchanges reveal that Clinton was not particularly adept at using a fax machine and that a predecessor, Colin Powell, checked up on her after she tripped and fell by making a joke involving fellow diplomat Richard Holbrooke.
In another exchange, she strategized with staff over the logistics of interacting with White House advisor David Axelrod over email.
One theme from the earlier Libya emails that reemerged with Tuesday’s disclosures was the extent to which Clinton received advice from Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime confidant. A constant stream of advice flows from him to Clinton.
Blumenthal, for example, advises that “the danger of attributing any and all change in the world to [President Obama’s] charisma is that the bad will get assigned as well as the good.”
Another one of Clinton’s most trusted political advisors, Mark Penn, also weighs in with advice, though Clinton is clearly aware of her staff’s opinion of him. In passing on his suggestion that the administration sharpen its Afghanistan policy, she encourages advisors to “overlook the source” and heed it.
The emails are being disclosed after the Democrat acknowledged that while she served as secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, she used a private email account — not one issued by the federal government.
The State Department plans to release the rest of the emails, which total more than 50,000 pages, in monthly batches until mid-January. The steady trickle of disclosures will thus continue until just before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary — both scheduled for early February — and could be a setback for Clinton as she seeks the Democratic nomination, though she is the heavy favorite.
Republicans continue to express suspicion about the process through which emails are being released. They want an independent investigator to determine which emails should be disclosed to the public. After the latest batch was released by the administration Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement, “These emails ... are just the tip of the iceberg and we will never get full disclosure until Hillary Clinton releases her secret server for an independent investigation.”