At today's lengthy news conference, President Trump returned to a subject that frequently occupied him at the close of the 2016 campaign — the revelations from hacked Democratic campaign emails that were released in drips and drabs by WikiLeaks. Twice, Trump contrasted his unhappiness with leaks from the intelligence community with the information stolen from Hillary Clinton's former campaign chairman, John Podesta, and from the Democratic National Committee.
“They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates,” Trump said at one point. “Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates. Can you imagine — seriously — can you imagine if I received the questions?”
Later, Trump returned to the subject, saying Clinton “should have reported herself” after CNN contributor Donna Brazile emailed Podesta some possible subjects for upcoming debates.
“Why didn't Hillary Clinton announce that, 'I’m sorry, but I have been given the questions to a debate or a town hall, and I feel that it’s inappropriate, and I want to turn in CNN for not doing a good job?'" Trump asked.
Trump, who during the campaign was often deft at alienating supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from Clinton, rarely went wrong when attacking Brazile. On Oct. 11, 2016, WikiLeaks released a hacked March 12 email from Brazile to Podesta. Titled “From time to time I get the questions in advance,” it showed Brazile sharing a question that “worried her” insofar as it could affect Clinton:
19 states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. 31 states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the U.S. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Should Ohio and the 30 other states join the current list and abolish the death penalty?
As Politico's Hadas Gold quickly untangled, the text mirrored what Roland Martin intended to use at a town hall with Clinton, aired by CNN and by Martin's TV One. At the town hall — not a debate, but an event where Clinton took questions from a studio audience — Clinton got a different version of the question. But on Oct. 31, WikiLeaks released another email from Brazile, in which she warned that a questioner at an upcoming debate in Flint, Mich., would be “a woman with a rash” affected by the city's water crisis.
“Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint,” Brazile wrote to Podesta and three more Clinton staffers. “Folks, I did a service project today. It's so tragic.”
Brazile took a fall for the leaks; she had already resigned from CNN before the first was published, but was admonished by the network after the second. But ever since, she has emphasized that she never handed over a debate question. She handed over the precis of a town hall question; she informed Podesta et al that the Flint debate would feature a personal question about the water crisis.
“It fits with a general pattern of spreading lies,” Brazile said in an email today of Trump's comments. “No one including me received advanced debate questions.”
And in his first tweets of 2017, Podesta took issue with how Trump had characterized the emails — as Podesta himself insulting his boss.