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How bad is WikiLeaks’ Podesta emails release for Hillary Clinton?

This would be huge news in any other election year—but 2016 is anything but normal.


Andrew Couts


As Donald Trump goes to battle with Hillary Clinton and his own party, WikiLeaks continues its steady release of emails allegedly stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. 

Trump supporters have lamented the mainstream media’s relative focus on a leaked 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasts about his ability to kiss and “grab” women’s genitals with impunity while putting less effort into covering the Podesta email leak. Right-wing outlets, however, have pored over the emails in search of anything that makes the Democratic nominee look bad. 

Given the disconnect in coverage across the media landscape, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about WikiLeaks’ Podesta emails. 

Who is John Podesta?

Podesta currently serves as Clinton’s campaign chairman. He also served as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton and a special advisor to President Obama. Beyond the Clinton campaign, Podesta chairs the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, and its Center for American Progress Action Fund. He is also a visiting professor at Georgetown Law.

How many emails did WikiLeaks publish? 

Thousands—and the number keeps climbing. As of Wednesday, Oct. 12, the number was just over 6,500 emails after WikiLeaks dropped the fifth batch since its initial release on Oct. 7. In addition to email messages, the Podesta leak includes thousands of email attachments.

Who leaked the emails—and are they real? 

It is not publicly known who leaked the emails, and it’s possible we’ll never find out. Ask the Clinton campaign, however, and they’ll try to make you think it was Russian hackers, whom the U.S. government recently blamed for its breach of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic Party groups. And while the FBI is investigating the breach, it has refused to point fingers at potential culprits.

WikiLeaks, for its part, has warned journalists to not trust the Clinton campaign’s assertions that the emails are the work of Russia. 

As for the veracity of the emails, that too is up for debate. The Clinton campaign has neither confirmed nor denied their authenticity, while WikiLeaks claims it has a 100 percent accurate track record for releasing legitimate documents. 

Assuming the emails are real, what have people found in them so far? 

A lot—although nothing that’s been able to truly break through to the level of the leaked Trump tape, at least not in mainstream media. Given the vast quantities of emails, however, there are new revelations being discovered every day. 

A few tidbits have percolated through the noise, however. The first revolved around portions of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks—the ones Democratic primary challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pressed Clinton to release for months—in which Clinton claimed to have a “public and private position” on issues facing the U.S., among other revelations.

Other items of interest include Podesta’s Center for American Progress advising Clinton against backing a $15 minimum wage, coordination between the Clinton camp and journalists, and former CNN commentator Donna Brazile—now interim chair of the Democratic National Committee—emailing Clinton’s communication manager language that later echoed a question in a CNN town hall between Clinton and Sanders. (CNN firmly denies that it shared town hall questions with the candidate in advance.)

In truth, this is just a small fraction of the revelations. Given the evolving nature of the findings, any attempt here to list everything that has anyone calling foul would be incomplete. 

Your best bet is to follow Politico’s fantastic running blog on the Podesta leaks, and WikiLeaks’ Twitter feed, which regularly posts what it believes to be noteworthy findings. You can also search through them yourself here.

Will the Podesta emails hurt Hillary Clinton?

Unclear! In a regular election year, a leak of this nature would stop election coverage in its tracks. But 2016 is not even close to a regular election year, and Trump’s woes continue to dominate both the coverage and the conversation around the election, which now has Clinton leading in virtually every poll.

The Daily Dot