Missing From Hacked Emails: Hillary Clinton Herself

On some days like today the chicanery is just too much.

WSJ – Missing From Hacked Emails: Hillary Clinton Herself

One person conspicuously absent in thousands of stolen campaign emails is the Democratic nominee

One person conspicuously absent so far in the thousands of hacked emails showing the internal workings of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid is Hillary Clinton herself.

Time and again, it is Mrs. Clinton’s top aides who in a round robin of emails debate and shape major campaign speeches and strategy. When Mrs. Clinton is heard from, it typically is second hand: through an email sent by a confidante to other aides.

In the few missives that have emerged directly from Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee usually makes arrangements for issues to be discussed in meetings and phone calls—and that is when she will make the final call on how to proceed.

It is a process that seems to be working. She beat back a strong primary challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and, with less than a month before Election Day, she consistently leads Republican rival Donald Trump in national polls and most swing-state surveys.

Another effect, though, is that there is little, if any, written record of Mrs. Clinton’s directives or her decision-making process during this campaign. Future releases of the stolen emails could show more, but the practice may not be accidental.

Mrs. Clinton was preparing to launch her campaign last year when news broke that she had used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

While that controversy swirled and Republicans combed through Mrs. Clinton’s State Department emails, many campaign decisions apparently were being made without leaving much of an electronic paper trail, the emails released so far suggest.

While not confirming the emails are authentic, a Clinton aide said Sunday: “I suspect our internal decision-making is unremarkable compared to other well-functioning campaigns. Other campaigns just haven’t been targeted this way by the Russians and had their deliberations aired publicly.”

The emails, hacked from campaign chairmanJohn Podesta’s private account, depict an operation that treats Mrs. Clinton as something of a board chairman or perhaps a sitting president. There is a formality to dealings with the ex-first lady and secretary of state. Her own campaign manager, Robby Mook, has sent her notes addressing her as “Madame Secretary.”

Even her advisers sometimes struggled with the question of what, exactly, their candidate believes, multiple email exchanges show.

In a February email, the campaign’s polling expert, Joel Benenson, noted the “simplicity and focus” of Mr. Sanders’s message and suggested that Mrs. Clinton needed to convey something more uplifting and understandable.

“Do we have any sense from her what she believes or wants her core message to be?” Mr. Benenson wrote. Mr. Benenson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In his critique of a proposed messaging strategy, Mr. Benenson added: “It is still not clear what her singular message is.”

Conference calls with Mrs. Clinton have been highly scripted, emails show. Staffers planned out the agendas of calls in advance, according to the messages.

Calendar invitations included among the Podesta emails show calls with Mrs. Clinton that routinely included a wide circle of advisers. One call from March 2016 included 24 advisers, consultants and staffers.

In another call, six aides helped Mrs. Clinton prepare for a 2015 MSNBC forum, with the agenda dictated in advance, according to an email.

It is a structure that seems built for a candidate who has served at the highest levels of government and has long been reliant on staff for logistical support and policy advice.

One of her closest confidants, Huma Abedin, said in an interview: “It does take a village to support Hillary Clinton.”

Yet the campaign Mrs. Clinton has waged has also failed to persuade many Americans that she is someone who says exactly what she means.

The emails suggest a reason for that: the painstaking thought that her staff pours into 140-character tweets, speeches and policy positions.

A Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found that people see Mr. Trump as the more honest and straightforward of the two by 4 percentage points.

Questions about authenticity and why many voters don’t feel a connection to Mrs. Clinton surfaced repeatedly in emails among her advisers. At times even Mrs. Clinton seemed to bristle over the rehearsed quality of what she said on the stump.

Two months after she entered the race, her chief speechwriter, Dan Schwerin, wrote in an email: “HRC just called me and expressed a fair amount of frustration with how things are going. She said we’ve given a series of very good policy speeches and in between we just keep giving her poll-tested lines that don’t work.”

Mr. Schwerin didn’t respond to a request for comment.

An ongoing project of Mrs. Clinton’s circle has been to display a warmer persona with which voters could identity.

During the first months of the campaign, her staff sought to emphasize that voters at last were seeing “the real Hillary Clinton.”

In June 2015, campaign aides pulled together talking points highlighting that message to prepare Mr. Podesta for a magazine interview.

“*YOUR goal is to push that HRC is more aware than anyone in history of what it means to be President and in this campaign voters are seeing who she really is—from her bio, to the issues, to the style of the campaign,” the memo sent to Mr. Podesta said.

“For 20 years people have said, if voters got to see the real Hillary Clinton, she’d get elected and in this campaign it seems that is coming through,*” the memo added.

Jennifer Granholm, a Clinton ally and former governor of Michigan, suggested in a July 2015 email that the campaign counter the perception that Mrs. Clinton is “out of touch” or “in a bubble” by having her actually do other people’s jobs for several days. Mrs. Clinton could bus tables at a Denny’s or work behind the counter at a Chipotle or stand in for the janitor in the school cafeteria, Ms. Granholm wrote.

“She could acknowledge flat-out that she’s been in a security/privilege bubble, and is determined to break out of it,” Ms. Granholm suggested.

Mrs. Clinton’s base would love it, the former governor added. “She’ll talk to workers while she’s there,” Ms. Granholm wrote. “She’ll see real people.”

Ms. Granholm didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The presidential nominee and her team, with three weeks to go in the campaign, seem to have rejected the idea.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com, Colleen McCain Nelson atcolleen.nelson@wsj.com and Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

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