Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta maintained friendly relations with a powerful D.C. elite dedicated to pushing the interests of the business elite in communist Cuba. While Podesta declined the occasional mojito party, Clinton largely catered to the desires of these advocates publicly.
These revelations are part of the publication of thousands of emails from Podesta’s personal account, posted online by the organization Wikileaks. They reveal suspect operations by the Clinton Foundation, lucrative ties to the Russian government, and multiple instances of unethical collusion between the Clinton camp and mainstream media journalists.
The relationship between Podesta, the Clinton campaign generally, and the heads of the Engage Cuba coalition – an advocacy group dedicated to promoting profitable business partnerships with the Castro regime, a serial human rights violator – is particularly notable in light of Clinton’s attempt to smear Republican rival Donald Trump for refusing to do business with Cuba after commissioning a report on the business climate there.
Multiple Wikileaks-published emails reveal that among those having the close ear of Podesta and company was Luke Albee, a senior adviser at the Engage Cuba Coalition and former chief of staff to Senator Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Democrat’s amicable relationship with the Castro regime goes back many years, and he has been one of the most vocal public advocates for accepting the legitimacy of Raúl Castro’s dictatorship. Notably, Leahy was responsible for a deal in which the U.S. government allowed a Cuban spy detained in an American prison to impregnate his wife in Cuba through a costly artificial insemination process that involved transporting his sperm from the U.S. to Panama.
Albee appears to have emailed Podesta semi-regularly with his opinion on developing relations with Cuba. One exchange is particularly notable because it appears that Podesta and Clinton senior foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan executed Albee’s suggestion exactly as proposed.
“Have you guys thought about having HRC [Hillary Clinton] go give a Cuba speech in Miami?” Albee asked on June 10, 2015. “The numbers on Cuban Americans and where they are have shifted dramatically. we have commissioned a bunch of polls on this,” Albee continues. “She would be seen as future oriented, ‘brave’ even though she wouldn’t be brave to do this… and it would drive Rubio Cruz and other nuts.”
The suggestion is couched in an invitation to a “cool party worthy of someone like you [Podesta]– plus you can wear your best, cool summer shirt.”
The email chain then shows Podesta and Sullivan discussing the speech idea among themselves. “Kind of like the Miami idea,” Podesta says.
“I love this,” Sullivan replies. “Was cheering on mute when you raised this morning.”
Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Miami on July 31, 2015 in which she called a refusal to cooperate with the communist Castro regime “Cold War deadlock” and called for “embracing fresh thinking” with regard to profiting alongside the Castro regime.
A separate email in the same month (dated June 30, 2015), shows Albee making another request: a meeting with Valerie Jarrett.
“Can you help me and my two partners get an audience with Valerie Jarrett so we can talk through harnessing the business community on this?” Albee asks. “We are up to 46 co-sponsors on the travel bill — and are going to need help getting it over the line.”
Unlike the Clinton speech in Miami, there is no direct evidence that this meeting ever happened. What followed in the months after this request, however, was a stream of American politicians making it to Cuba to discuss the possibility of expanding the opportunities for American business elites to take advantage of the Castro regime.
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cuba in August 2015, along with a delegation that included multiple prominent Democrats – including Patrick Leahy.
By October, a variety of Democratic politicians had organized trips to Cuba. Ohio State Rep. Sean O’Brien and Congressman Tim Ryan visited the island that month to discuss ways of helping Ohio business leaders make more money there. have so many opportunities down there for our businesses to go and do work, and make money, and bring some of those revenues back here,” Rep. Ryan said at the time.
Democrats were hardly alone. In December of that year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott made a similar trip, looking for profit opportunities in what had been until very recently a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism. Nothing had changed in the behavior of the Cuban government when the Obama administration removed this designation, and Havana to this day maintains close ties to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
While Podesta appears open to many of Albee’s requests in the latest Wikileaks email dump, there is proof that, on at least one occasion, Podesta said “no” to Albee.
“Can we put you behind the Mojito bar for a while?” Albee asked, referring to the bar at a party hosted by the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think I’m here on the 16th,” Podesta responded.