SAN FRANCISCO — Hillary Clinton's campaign accused Republican Donald Trump's campaign Thursday of increasingly close involvement with the release of stolen emails that detail the internal and sometimes unflattering workings of the Democrat's inner circle.
The anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks has a huge trove of emails hacked from the personal account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and is releasing batches of the communications in the final four weeks of the presidential campaign. The Clinton campaign had refused to authenticate communications released so far and accuses Russia of being behind the hack and WikiLeaks of doing Moscow's bidding.
“We're not going to let it throw us off,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters on a conference call. “I think it's important for Americans again to reflect on why this is happening, who perpetrated it and for what purpose,” he said.
“This is getting closer and closer to the Trump campaign itself,” Mook said, citing the admission from Trump supporter and former adviser Roger Stone that he had “back channel” discussions with WikiLeaks.
Mook said he expects to see more evidence of coordination or collaboration intended to benefit Trump's candidacy. He spoke from the campaign's Brooklyn headquarters. Clinton is in California for two days of fundraising.
“I think its important to always recognize the context of this situation, and that is that the Department of Homeland Security took the unprecedented step of saying ... beyond any doubt that this hack and then the leaking of the emails was perpetrated by the Russian government for the purpose of intervening in the election and trying to affect the outcome in favor of Donald Trump,” Mook said.
The correspondence reveals a campaign that has struggled all year to improve a flawed candidate. As far back as March, aides were keenly aware that she was resistant to the media, perhaps out of touch with regular Americans and unable to convey a clear message to voters.
Republicans have said some of the emails show corrupt dealings among the campaign, the Clinton family charity and outside advisers and donors.
The email dumps have provided plenty of fodder for Clinton critics to seize upon, and the sixth batch, released Thursday morning, was no different.
In one March 2015 email chain, for example, Clinton aides were discussing how well Clinton knew Loretta Lynch, who the following month would become the U.S. attorney general.
“She knows Loretta,” wrote close Clinton aide Huma Abedin. “Not an extremely close relationship and don’t remember the last time they connected. … Regardless, definitely a cordial relationship.”
That could reignite criticism of a private airport meeting that Lynch held with former President Bill Clinton held in Phoenix shortly before the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Hillary Clinton in relation to her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Across Podesta’s inbox there was concern about how Clinton was handling revelations about her server. In early September 2015, he exchanged messages with Neera Tanden, head of the liberal Center for American Progress, who weighed in on a Clinton interview with ABC News anchor David Muir in which Clinton expressed remorse for her decision.
“This apology thing has become like a pathology. I can only imagine what’s happening in the campaign,” Tanden wrote to Podesta. “Is there some way I can be helpful here? I know if I just email her she will dismiss it out of hand. Are there people she can hear from that will have some impact?”
Podesta responded: “You should email her. She can say she’s sorry without apologizing to the American people. Tell her to say it and move on, why get hung on this.”
The latest release also included another email exchange between advisers to Clinton discussing how to deal with pressure to release transcripts of her paid speeches. In the exchange, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon and speechwriter Dan Schwerin propose leaking the transcript of one paid speech she delivered in October 2014.
Schwerin explained to colleagues that he had written a "long riff about economic fairness and how the financial industry has lost its way, precisely for the purpose of having something we could show people if ever asked what she was saying behind closed doors for two years to all those fat cats."
Schwerin continued that the section was "not as tough or pointed as we would write it now, but it's much more than most people would assume she was saying in paid speeches."
Mandy Grunwald, a senior strategist, however, responded that she worried "about going down this road." She referred to a story by Maggie Haberman, then a reporter for Politico, in 2013, in which Haberman wrote that Clinton had praised the financial industry in paid speeches to Goldman Sachs.
"Maybe you think the Deutsche Bank speech takes the sting out of the Goldman report -- but I am concerned that the passage below will exacerbate not improve the situation,” Grunwald wrote.
The emails also allude to staff tensions, including a March 2015 missive from former State Department aide Tom Nides to Podesta, in which Nides talks about tension between Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook and longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.
“Sorry to bug you but on Friday I got a bit wigged out,” Nides wrote. “It's clear (which I assume you know) tThere [sic] is already a bunch of noise about Robby and Cheryl not getting along. Robby getting very frustrated I have zero idea what the deal is but you and I both know this is a disaster for her if it doesn't stop. This is the kind of stuff that could open the door to someone. I am sorry to dump this on you and maybe I am full of [s---] so take it for what it's worth.”
There is no response from Mook in the emails.
Matea Gold, Rosalind Helderman, Ed O'Keefe and Anu Narayanswamy contributed to this story.