WikiLeaks: ‘The Boss Won’t Be Comfortable’–How Clinton Campaign Flipped-Flopped on TPP

Inside the latest batch of Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails by WikiLeaks is a stunning story of how the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign staff forced her through the uncomfortable process of flip-flopping against the Trans Pacific Partnership.

In the emails is a bald admission from several campaign staffers that the Democratic presidential nominee flip-flopped on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). That admission is coupled with the revelation of how exactly—over a months-long period—her campaign staff helped her maneuver through her position change on the explosive issue. And all of that is mixed together with the admission in writing in these emails by her campaign manager Robby Mook that Hillary Clinton would not be “comfortable” coming out against TPP during the campaign, even though she had to do it for votes. These emails indicate just how seriously her team of political operatives took the issue—and how they viewed it, as Mook said in one email, as an “annoying” issue in terms of timing—in terms of not infuriating labor unions, which by and large oppose such trade deals. Clinton has had a rocky relationship with Big Labor, as other emails have shown her campaign staff’s frustration with union bosses like the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka.

Clinton’s pollster John Anzalone admitted in the clearest possible language that the goal in manicuring Clinton’s newfound position against TPP was for political purposes to get on the side of voters. In one email, Anzalone detailed how it’s clear that Clinton would lose an “integrity gold star” by not “staying pure” in her support of the TPP and the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast track congressional consideration of TPP and other deals. He also noted that Clinton previously supported the deal in her book Hard Choices, and hinted at the 45 times she previously promoted the deal as reported by CNN. The thinking of coming out against TPP was that it would get Clinton “right with voters” and “right with labor,” as the general public and labor unions both oppose trade deals like TPP, regardless of her actual position on the deal.

“I talked to Marlon [Marshall, Clinton’s director of state campaigns and political engagement] today about this,” Anzalone wrote to Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook on April 13, 2015, around 2:45 p.m. He went on:

Naturally we should not be making this decision in a policy vacuum or just because we are concerned about a story of her changing her mind or taking on Obama. It is so much bigger than this. Getting on the wrong side of Labor on the only issue they care about has ramifications on the ground in these early states. I say we suck it up and be as definitive as possible from the beginning that we don’t like these deals. We will be right with voters and right with labor. We get no integrity gold star for staying pure on this issue because of one line if friggin Hard Choices or because this is a key issue for a lame duck president.

A previous email exchange in March 2015 detailed how Clinton’s staff believed she intended to support both TPA and TPP. The email from her lead speechwriter makes it very clear: The draft letter he was circulating “assumes that she’s ultimately going to support both TPA and TPP.”

“All, I want to share our draft letter on trade,” Clinton speechwriter Dan Schwerin wrote to Podesta and Mook among others on the Clinton team. Schwerin continued:

As you’ll recall, the idea here is to use this to lay out her thinking on TPA & TPP ahead of action on the Hill and a joint letter by all the former Secretaries of State and Defense. This draft assumes that she’s ultimately going to support both TPA and TPP. It focuses on what needs to happen to produce a positive result with TPP, and casts support for TPA as one of those steps. It also says that we should walk away if the final agreement doesn’t meet the test of creating more jobs than it displaces, helping the middle class, and strengthening our national security. We’ve tried to speak directly to the most prominent concerns expressed by Labor and Hill Dems, including Warren. Of course, if we go ahead with a meeting with HRC to lay out the pros and cons and then come to a different conclusion, this letter would change dramatically.

To set the scene here, at this stage of the game, Congress was soon going to be considering the highly controversial TPA fast track authority. Fast track greases the skids for congressional approval of trade deals, lowering U.S. Senate vote thresholds to 51 votes rather than 60 votes needed to pass them. It also eliminates the ability for Congress to amend trade deals, and forces Congress to consider trade deals in a certain amount of time after the president introduces them onto the fast track. It is widely understood that passing TPA is absolutely necessary to passing any multilateral global trade deal, as no deal would muster 60 votes in the Senate or survive a grueling amendment process where opponents could run out the clock. Killing TPA would have killed TPP, but technically speaking TPP can still be killed—even though it still hasn’t been—in a much harder way on the fast track.

Congressional passage of TPA last year inspired a surge in populist nationalism that served as the backbone of the presidential campaigns of eventual GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and of Clinton’s primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. From both sides, Clinton—the former Secretary of State, former U.S. Senator and former First Lady who’s married to a former president known for backing globalist trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—has taken incoming on trade policy. The issue nuked the last man standing against Trump in the GOP primaries, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose ambivalence was part of what cost him the nomination. And it certainly had the potential to derail Clinton in her battle against Sanders.

These emails indicate that her staff understood that Clinton was in favor of TPP. Specifically, in her book Hard Choices—as Anzalone referenced in that April 13, 2015, email—Clinton praised the TPP as beneficial to American workers. Hillary Clinton wrote:

One of our most important tools for engaging with Vietnam was a proposed new trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would link markets throughout Asia and the Americas, lowering trade barriers while raising standards on labor, the environment, and intellectual property. As President Obama explained, the goal of TPP negotiations is to establish ‘a high standard, enforceable, meaningful trade agreement’ that ‘is going to be incredibly powerful for American companies who, up until this point, have often been locked out of those markets.’ It was also important for American workers who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field. And it was a strategic initiative that would strengthen the position of the United States in Asia.

That was in addition to at least 45 other times she praised and promoted TPP, as reported on June 15, 2015, by CNN’s Jake Tapper and his reporting staff. Clinton would not actually officially oppose TPP until October 2015, stating according to CNN in an Oct. 7, 2015 interview with PBS’ sJudy Woodruff: “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.”

That means a months-long internal process eventually led to her coming out against the deal she originally supported and helped negotiate—and concerns as to whether she is truly against it remain. In fact, Trump surrogate and TPP opponent Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on Thursday morning railed against Clinton on the issue on Breitbart News Daily—saying that if Clinton wins she will “make a few cosmetic changes, say the thing is fixed, and try to move it [the TPP] through Congress.”

“As Secretary of State, she helped write the dadgum thing. So give me a break. She’s praised it,” Sessions said.

Mook forwarded that Anzalone email on April 13, 2015, to Podesta around 10 p.m. that evening, saying that he agreed with Anzalone—but that Clinton herself would not be “comfortable” locking herself in against TPP.

“John articulated my thoughts better than I did…but I know the boss won’t be comfortable putting her foot down,” Mook wrote to Podesta.

All of this discussion that day—April 13, 2015—came in response to an email that Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan sent shortly after 8 a.m. on the different mechanisms to come out against TPP:

For TPA/TPP, we have three options.

*1. The Podesta/Jake option leads with supporting giving the President authority but indicating concern with the open-ended grant of authority. Podesta would add a bracketed sentence declaring opposition to the Wyden bill.*

I called Senator Wyden. I told him I believe that President Obama should have the authority to negotiate a good TPP deal that delivers for the middle class, but I don’t support extending that authority for years beyond this administration and this trade agreement. [And therefore I can’t support his bill.]

But the key question for me is not the procedure – it’s what’s in the final agreement. It has to pass two tests: First, does it protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home than it displaces? And second, does it also strengthen our national security? If the agreement falls short of these tests, we should be willing to walk away. The goal is greater prosperity for American families, not trade for trade’s sake.

There are a number of pivotal questions to be decided in the coming months: from improving labor rights, the environment, public health, and access to life-saving medicines; to cracking down on currency manipulation and unfair competition by state-owned enterprises; to opening new opportunities for our family farms and small businesses to export their products and services overseas. Getting these things right will go a long way toward ensuring that a final agreement will be a net plus for everyday Americans.

We also have to get dispute settlement provisions right. So-called “investor-state dispute settlement,” or ISDS, lets individual companies bring cases to enforce trade agreements. In the past, ISDS has benefited some American companies by letting them challenge unfair actions by foreign governments. But as I warned in my book, *Hard Choices*, we shouldn’t allow multinational corporations to use ISDS to undermine legitimate health, social, economic, and environmental regulations, as Philip Morris has tried to do in Australia.

So I’ll be watching closely to see how negotiations develop.

*2. The Jen P. option would lead with TPP and then come to procedure.*

The key question for me is not the procedure – it’s what’s in the final agreement. It has to pass two tests: First, does it protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home than it displaces? And second, does it also strengthen our national security? If the agreement falls short of these tests, we should be willing to walk away. The goal is greater prosperity for American families, not trade for trade’s sake.

There are a number of pivotal questions to be decided in the coming months: from improving labor rights, the environment, public health, and access to life-saving medicines; to cracking down on currency manipulation and unfair competition by state-owned enterprises; to opening new opportunities for our family farms and small businesses to export their products and services overseas. Getting these things right will go a long way toward ensuring that a final agreement will be a net plus for everyday Americans.

We also have to get dispute settlement provisions right. So-called “investor-state dispute settlement,” or ISDS, lets individual companies bring cases to enforce trade agreements. In the past, ISDS has benefited some American companies by letting them challenge unfair actions by foreign governments. But as I warned in my book, *Hard Choices*, we shouldn’t allow multinational corporations to use ISDS to undermine legitimate health, social, economic, and environmental regulations, as Philip Morris has tried to do in Australia.

So I’ll be watching closely to see how negotiations develop.

As for process, I called Senator Wyden. I told him I believe that President Obama should have the authority to negotiate a good TPP deal that delivers for the middle class, but I don’t support extending that authority for years beyond this administration and this trade agreement. [And therefore I can’t support his bill.]

*3. The Robby option would lean more heavily and decisively against TPA and TPP.*

I called Senator Wyden. I told him I can’t support his bill. I don’t support a broad grant of trade authority that extends for years beyond this administration and this trade agreement. I think this President should have the authority to drive a hard bargain on TPP, but this broader bill doesn’t work from my perspective.

As for TPP, I’m going to set a very high bar. It has to pass two tests: First, does it protect American workers, raise wages and create more good jobs at home than it displaces? And second, does it also strengthen our national security? If the agreement falls short of these tests, we should be willing to walk away. The goal is greater prosperity for American families, not trade for trade’s sake.

There are a number of pivotal questions to be decided in the coming months: from improving labor rights, the environment, public health, and access to life-saving medicines; to cracking down on currency manipulation and unfair competition by state-owned enterprises; to opening new opportunities for our family farms and small businesses to export their products and services overseas. Getting these things right will go a long way toward ensuring that a final agreement will be a net plus for everyday Americans.

We also have to get dispute settlement provisions right. So-called “investor-state dispute settlement,” or ISDS, lets individual companies bring cases to enforce trade agreements. In the past, ISDS has benefited some American companies by letting them challenge unfair actions by foreign governments. But as I warned in my book, *Hard Choices*, we shouldn’t allow multinational corporations to use ISDS to undermine legitimate health, social, economic, and environmental regulations, as Philip Morris has tried to do in Australia.

So I’ll be watching closely to see how negotiations develop.

In response to Sullivan’s email, Anzalone wrote that he favored quote number three—Mook’s approach. And in his email, he noted that Clinton may face “historical blowback on her past position” due to her flip-flopping on TPP.

Anzalone wrote in an email that included Sullivan, Podesta, Jennifer Palmieri, Mook, Joel Benenson, Mandy Grunwald, Jim Margolis, Dan Schwerin, Kristina Schake, Marlon Marshall, and Amanda Renteria:

I am for three because it sends the strongest signal not only Labor but to where voters are on trade. They feel they always get the raw end of the deal. I am less concerned about historical blowback on her past position than this issue eating us alive for being on the wrong side and giving Progressives a real reason to try and push someone more weighty into the primary. There are no other issues that Labor cares about. This is it for them and they actually have voters on their side.

Margolis replied that he supported a mix of options two and three.

“I’m for principle first, process second,” Margolis wrote. “So I’d go Jen, with the harder hit at the end from Robby. Closing with ‘I called Senator Wyden. I told him I can’t support his bill.”

Mook greenlighted the Margolis plan, writing “I’m good with Margolis’ plan” before a discussion ensued—initiated by Benenson—about how Hillary Clinton was having trouble with labor unions.

“We clearly need a bigger strategic discussion about how to deal with labor as a constituency,” Benenson wrote.

Mook assured the team that was under way, as Renteria and Marshall were heading up an effort to do just that. “Marlon and Amanda are putting together a plan to reach out quickly whenever she steps out on this to frame for them on our terms,” he replied.

Back on March 25, 2015, Schwerin circulated that internal draft letter on trade policy that assumed she would support TPP and TPA.

March 25 Letter by Breitbart News on Scribd

Later, on April 5, 2015, eight days before this effort to begin coming out against TPP slightly—a process that would take until at least October and to some is still ongoing—the Clinton team revised her position, circulating a new letter on trade that included her opposing ISDS, or Investor State Dispute Settlement, a hot-button issue for unions. The email chain was discussing how Congress was soon going to be considering TPA.

In that April 5 email chain, Mook specifically noted he was worried that unions would be shaming Clinton off the bat in her campaign.

“The timing is so annoying,” Mook wrote of congressional TPA consideration. “Steps right on launch. Would be a shame to have labor booing her right out of the gate.”

Along with the April 5 chain there were two separate revisions to the draft trade letters that were circulated—one on April 5 and another on April 6.

April 5 Letter by Breitbart News on Scribd

April 6 Letter by Breitbart News on Scribd


Before getting to that April 13 point where they seem to eventually start shifting against TPP and TPA, another leaked email chain from April 11 indicates that the Clinton campaign staffers were still hand wringing—searching for a way to get to a “pure dodge” in the media.

At 2:09 a.m, on April 11, Jake Sullivan circulated draft remarks from Clinton he pitched as the “Podesta approach” on trade:

Look, I’m focused on the final deal, and whether it will measure up. If it does, I’ll support it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

TPA is about Senate procedure – and in any event it’s just a draft proposal making its way through a Senate committee. I want to focus on the substance: will TPP be a good deal, or not? We haven’t seen the details so we can’t answer that question yet.

Let me say this about TPA. I believe that President Obama should have the negotiating authority to conclude a transpacific agreement that works for the American middle class and advances American leadership. But I don’t believe we should give an open-ended fast track to the next president. I hope I’m the next president, and I think I should have to justify fast track to the new Congress. And if a Republican is the next president, I certainly don’t want to give fast track to them now – heck, that’s why I voted against fast track for President Bush.

These are all procedural issues. The key for me is whether the final deal passes two tests: pass two tests: First, does it raise wages and create more good jobs at home than it displaces? And second, does it also strengthen our national security? Let’s wait and see that final deal.

At 6:28 a.m., Palmieri wrote back saying that she was looking for more of a “dodge” than what Sullivan pitched:

Boo!

My impression of the Podesta approach was more of a dodge then what you have here.

For example, if she weighs in on length of the TPA I think that will be viewed as passive opposition. Now what you propose would be more popular with dems and labor and closer to her view – so maybe okay, just want to consider that dynamic.

Think this is worth getting on the phone today to discuss.

At 6:53 a.m., Sullivan responded that what he pitched was something that would be “sustainable” if the campaign couldn’t get away with a “pure dodge”:

This is a alternative if we can’t do pure dodge. Which I don’t think we can.

It says, I want him to have negotiating authority but not republicans. I’ve never supported republicans getting negotiating authority. (And if I’m elected I’m prepared to make my own case.). So what about Wyden hatch? I don’t like that part but my real focus the final deal.

This feels more sustainable than full dodge.

Let’s do call later today?

By 9:33 a.m. that day, Mook was pushing for another campaign call.


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