CNN’s Dan Merica: Nothing to See in Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton’s Private Speech Transcripts

CNN reporter Dan Merica would like you to think that there is nothing to see in Wikileaks’ release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta — including the transcripts of her private paid speeches.

In a Tuesday article co-bylined with Tal Kopan bearing the vanilla headline “What we’ve learned from the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign (so far),” Merica’s main takeaway from the leaked emails and campaign documents is how hard-working and “methodical” Clinton appears. Nothing about scandals. Nothing about the troubling internal audit of the Clinton Foundation. Just a boring look at an impressively “deliberate” campaign. There is a word for this type of news story.

Merica is a CNN Politics producer and has covered Clinton on the campaign trail since the Democratic primary. His name is seen several times in the Podesta emails, suggesting a friendly, if not collaborative, relationship with Clinton and her staff.

In September of 2015, Nick Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary, was supposed to call Merica call Merica ahead of his writeup of an interview remark from Clinton, according to the campaign’s Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri. “Nick is calling dan Mercia [sic] who tweeted aboit it,” she wrote.

Merrill described a chummy exchange between Merica and Clinton in February 2016: “Dan Merica asked her if she was jealous that she didn’t get [Chris] Christie’s endorsement, to which she responded with a prolonged smile (you could see the gears turning), and then said ‘Dan, I really like you. I really really like you.’ They are basically courting each other at this point.”

Merica RSVPed “yes” to an off-the-record dinner at Podesta’s New York home which took place three days before Clinton’s campaign launch.

In Tuesday’s explainer, Merica and Kopan declare that “secret transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches behind closed doors on Wall Street have failed to turn up any positions widely different than what she says in public.”

A cursory look at Wikileaks news coverage shows this idea is false. Here are just a few issues Merica and Kopan overlook:

ON TRADE: The article makes no mention of international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a bill to “fast track” executive authority to negotiate those kinds of deals. Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle and Charlie Spiering reported on the Clinton campaign’s reluctant move to imitate Bernie Sanders’ populist opposition to TPP, though Clinton was on record saying the prospective deal “set the gold standard in trade agreements.”

[H]er campaign manager Robby Mook [admits] that Hillary Clinton would not be “comfortable” coming out against TPP during the campaign, even though she had to do it for votes.

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 [Dan Schwerin] makes it very clear: The draft letter he was circulating “assumes that she’s ultimately going to support both TPA and TPP.”

In one of Clinton’s private speeches, she told Brazil’s Banco Itaú, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” This directly contradicts Clinton’s official immigration policy page’s promise to “protect our borders and national security.” More disturbingly, that admission contradicts the implicit promise of her candidacy. Her long-term agenda would mean surrendering the sovereignty of the nation she hopes to govern.

ON MONEY IN POLITICS: Clinton released a policy memo in 2015 to reform and strongly enforce campaign finance laws:

Americans are understandably cynical about a political system that has been hijacked by billionaires and special interests who will spend whatever it takes to crowd out the voices of everyday Americans. And with the rise of unlimited, secret spending in our political process, it is virtually impossible for anyone to really know who or what is influencing our elected officials. On issues from climate change to equal pay and immigration reform, voters won’t believe Washington will work for them unless we take on the power and stranglehold that wealthy interests have over our political system.

Finally, for our campaign finance system to have meaning, Clinton believes we must vigorously enforce our campaign finance laws. [emphasis original]

On both counts, Wikileaks shows Clinton contradicting this position privately. On the first point, a “flag” from Clinton’s speeches in a campaign memo reads: “Hillary Clinton Said Politicians Treat NYC Like An ATM And ‘Political Givers’ Need To Tell Politicians ‘Here Are Things I Want You To Do For The Country.'” On enforcing campaign finance laws, Hillary for America’s top staffers openly and often discuss how they can “coordinate” with friendly Super PACs wielding much larger war chests from donors.

ON TRANSPARENCY: Clinton’s inner circle contradicted Clinton’s public explanations of an unsecured homebrew email server through which she conducted all her business as Secretary of State — in apparent violation of federal records keeping laws. As Clinton insisted publicy that she had turned over all work-related emails, Podesta himself asks about withholding messages to and from President Obama after Congress subpoenaed Clinton’s emails.

And in a paid speech, Clinton admitted that as a politician, “you need both a public and a private position.” This may seem like a point so obvious it does not even need to be spoken, but the obvious implication undercuts CNN’s thesis — that Clinton’s public and private beliefs are consistent.

A massive portion of the Podesta emails are spent organizing phone calls. What we see even in campaign memos and speeches, even emails, is still filtered by the knowledge that people could see this content who are not meant to see it. The public is still far from understanding the “real” Hillary Clinton. For instance, an FBI interview released on Monday suggests that the kind, soft-spoken grandmother persona which Clinton projects to the public is nothing like the Clinton that her security agents see.

Finally, Merica and Kopan remind their readers that revelations from the Podesta emails “have been overshadowed by Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, and the release of a hot-mic recording of Trump bragging about sexually aggressive behavior.”

Perhaps in their social circles, yes, but the public’s interest in Wikileaks greatly eclipses establishment journalists’ interest in Trump. And they will likely ignore attempts, like this article’s, to proclaim “nothing to see here.”


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