At issue were McAuliffe's comments in an interview on the sidelines of his speech to the Democratic convention Tuesday night. He had warm praise in that speech for Hillary Clinton as a friend "for more than half my life."
But right after that, he told Politico that he thinks Clinton would back a revamped version of the trade deal in office. President Obama's signature Asia-Pacific deal has become political poison this cycle, and Clinton reversed her earlier support for it last year.
“I worry that if we don’t do TPP, at some point China’s going to break the rules — but Hillary understands this,” McAuliffe told Politico. “Once the election’s over, and we sit down on trade, people understand a couple things we want to fix on it but going forward we got to build a global economy.”
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy had this explanation: "He was expressing a hope she will come around," Coy said after the comments blew up on Twitter and elsewhere. "But he has no expectation she will."
In the interview, McAuliffe was pressed on whether Clinton would reverse course.
“Yes. Listen, she was in support of it" originally, McAuliffe said. "There were specific things in it she wants fixed.”
The Clinton campaign has been trying for months to counter liberal suspicions that Clinton is not a true convert on TPP.
"We're against TPP before the election and after the election," Podesta said at a Wall Street Journal lunch on Tuesday.
Pushed on whether Clinton would attempt to renegotiate the trade deal as president, Podesta said flatly that she would not.
"I think we're not about renegotiation," he said. "We're not ... interested in that."
"We're interested in a new approach where our trade laws are enforced and where we have the benefit of making the other investments that are needed to ensure that people can succeed," he added.
Abby Phillip and Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.