As the United States' political elites and flabbergasted electorate spent the weekend reeling over a leaked 2005 video in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gloatingly discussed forcing alleged unwanted sexual advances on women, a much more opaque controversy featuring his opponent was brewing as well. On Friday, very shortly after news of the "Trump tape" broke, the notorious hacker group WikiLeaks released a slew of emails from within the Democratic candidate's campaign. The contents of Hillary Clinton's WikiLeaks emails aren't neatly packaged for the cable news cycle like the Trump controversy is, but the revelations about the former Secretary of State's views on health care, Wall Street, trade policy, and her stated strategy of maintaining "both a public and private position" on such issues are also sure to come up during Sunday night's town hall-style second presidential debate.
The intended target of this hack was Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who, so far, has neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the emails. The internal communications do not appear to reveal any unscrupulous activity — a portion of them even display the staff debating which joke Clinton should tell at a Democratic Party dinner in Iowa — but the most controversial and potentially damaging among them contain apparent excerpts of transcripts of paid speeches Clinton delivered to wealthy bankers at financial firms. These are the documents that primary opponent Bernie Sanders implored her to publicize before she won her party's nomination, and their uncovering could validate widely held belief that Clinton is not trustworthy.
The email dump came the same day that the U.S. government publicly accused Russia of using cyber attacks to interfere with the election in favor of Trump, a charge a Kremlin spokesperson dismissed as "nonsense," Reuters reported. It's clear, though, that whatever the entity is the driving force behind the Clinton WikiLeaks hack aims to pull votes away from her. The transcripts depict a Clinton who's much friendlier to big banks than the woman on the campaign trail. "There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives," she reportedly said at one Goldman Sachs event in 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal. "You are the smartest people," she told the audience at another such event.
Romper reached out to the Clinton campaign for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Some of the excerpts of the transcripts of the speeches raise questions about whether Clinton takes up positions when they are politically viable in order to garner the most votes. Clinton is now opposed to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a trade deal that would promote closer economic relationships among 12 member countries.
But she was singing a different tune in one 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank. "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders," she is quoted as saying back the, according to BuzzFeed. "We have to resist, protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade."
Clinton's inconsistencies may be glaring to astute political spectators, but her team flagged one passage from a 2014 speech as potentially damaging because it shows that she's out of touch with the American middle class. At a Goldman Sachs-Black Rock event that year, Clinton detailed how her wealth has left her removed from the daily struggles many Americans face, according to Politico:
My father loved to complain about big business and big government, but we had a solid middle class upbringing. We had good public schools. We had accessible health care. We had our little, you know, one-family house that, you know, he saved up his money, didn't believe in mortgages. So I lived that. And now, obviously, I'm kind of far removed because the life I've lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven't forgotten it.
"The truth that has been exposed here is that the persona Hillary Clinton has adopted for her campaign is a complete and utter fraud," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said in a statement to the Politico. "How can Bernie Sanders and many like-minded Democrats continue to support her candidacy in light of these revelations?"
Speaking to The Guardian, though, Podesta himself insisted that Clinton's comments had been taken out of context, and that she has consistently said that she will "crack down on Wall Street."
Hillary Clinton WikiLeaks emails do exhibit the dark underbelly of politics, showing that our candidates do engage in a careful manipulation to acquire fundraising money, favor within affluent and influential circles, and votes. There is a possibility that the hackers doctored these documents to paint Clinton in the least flattering light, but her proximity to Wall Street off the campaign trail can't be denied.