Wikileaks Reveals How Wall Street Buys Influence in the Democratic Party
The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani discusses the important revelations in the leaks of Clinton’s Wall Street speeches, John Podesta’s emails, and internal Democratic Party memos
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
WikiLeaks has finally released its long awaited trove of Clinton emails that it promised to be a bombshell or October surprise that could shake the presidential race. Well the emails quite haven’t lived up to that but they along with Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches leaked by hackers Guccifer2.0 and DCLeaks do give us a candid look at Hillary Clinton and her close advisors when they’re not in the public eye. On Tuesday the chairman of democrat, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign John Podesta said, the FBI is investigating the hack of his emails published on WikiLeaks. Speaking to reports aboard a campaign plane, Podesta said the FBI probe is part of a broader investigation in the hacking of democratic computers.
JOHN PODESTA: I’ve been contacted by the FBI. They are investigating the matter. It is a criminal breach under our federal statutes to hack into my private email account. But beyond that I don’t have a circumstance other than we did hear from law enforcement authorities that they confirm that it was part of the ongoing investigation of Russia hacking into democratic organizations.
NOOR: Well now joining us to discuss this is Zaid Jilani. He’s a reporter for the Intercept. Previously worked as a reporter and blogger for Think Progress, United Republic, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Alternet. Thanks so much for joining us.
ZAID JILANI: It’s great to be here.
NOOR: So it doesn’t look like these leaks are going to change the election although perhaps they might have changed the primary against Bernie Sanders if they were released this spring. Both Clinton and Podesta have pointed the finger at the Russians. Meanwhile publications like The Atlantic and The Washington Post, say these leaks just affirm what we already know about Hillary Clinton. That she’s a pragmatic politician. Give us you overall response to what these leaks can teach us about Hillary Clinton.
JILANI: Yea well I think the leaks are basically a dump of a campaign email address. Basically John Podesta’s personal email which he was using for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. So we got all sorts of information. I mean it’s everything from recipes that he was planning in terms of the cooking he was doing, to actually some really great insight into sort of the mindset that the Clinton campaign had in addressing multiple issues as well as a little bit of a peak into the long sought issue over her paid speech transcripts.
Hillary Clinton made millions of dollars in giving paid speeches primarily to private corporations and public corporations in private speeches since leaving her office as Secretary of State. Until now we haven’t seen excerpts of any of those speeches that she gave despite asking her campaign to ever produce those. But within these hacked emails we do see excerpts that they’ve prepared in response to inquiry actually from us. They prepared these excerpts two days after we had approached Clinton and asked her in person about these transcripts. So for the first time we got a look at a lot of what she was saying in these paid speech transcripts which is pretty interesting.
NOOR: So that earned you and your colleague Lee Fang some ire from the Clinton campaign and people close to her. They were really upset that you were asking about this. But it’s interesting because in those speeches she gave some more corporate positions. She sort of promised to champion Wall Street. She sort of spoke out against the Dodd Frank reforms. She said Wall Street needs to regulate itself. Can you comment about that? At the same time, she also praised single payer in the form it’s being in place in Canada as well, which she’s been publicly against. Seems like she’s taken a more conservative approach publicly than in private.
JILANI: I think probably the most revelatory thing about these speeches were things that she was saying that were dissonant with what she was saying in public during her campaign. So as you mentioned, she had mentioned some of the benefits of establishing a single payer and national healthcare program which is something that she campaigned very vigorously against, against Bernie Sanders denouncing his plan as something that would dismantle American healthcare as we know it. But she also as I think, took a different tact on for example, some financial issues.
For example, she had mentioned that in some of her speeches I believe at Morgan Stanley, she had praised the Simpson-Bulls plan which is a deficit reduction plan that was put together by a bipartisan commission a few years ago that would actually reduce social security benefits. It would cut the corporate and individual income tax rates and that is something that she never did during our campaign. During her campaign she said she would protect social security, she would expand social security benefits.
So I think yea, what we saw in these features was sort of a different side to her. Something that she was playing more to the audiences that she was talking to at that time. I think a lot of those audiences wanted to hear that. Now does that mean that what she said in these speeches is the truth and what she said on the campaign trail, that wasn’t true. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It’s more that she showed that she’s willing to say one thing to one group of people and another thing to another group of people so that we’re not entirely sure what she actually believes and what she will advocate for and I think a lot of people can say that this is a very typical politician thing to do, so on and so forth. You know that may be the case though. A lot of politicians but we still have to have the evidence to prove it and I think that’s a lot of what this provided.
NOOR: And from the leaks we also learned that Wall Street donors complained about Elizabeth Warren’s influence. We also learned what trade unions were asking for. This was specifically to the committee for the democratic house membership that fundraises for them. Can you talk a little bit about that?
JILANI: Yea. So there were a series of hacks that resulted in leak emails and leaked documents. One of the other related hacks was of the DCCC which is sort of the fundraising arm of the House democrats and they’re sort of, every 2-year campaign cycle. Part of what we found in that was that there were sort of meeting notes. Notes taken at meetings between the head of the DCCC, it was a congressman out west Ben Lujan and various interest groups. So he met with Goldman Sachs, with General Electric, various labor unions with the financial interests group called SIFMA and basically heard their concerns out. It’s really interesting. A lot of — especially the banks were complaining about Elizabeth Warren, what she was saying, what she was doing.
At one point, the head of the DCCC shows them a news article saying hey she doesn’t speak for us, trying to throw her under the bus to try to appease them. It’s interesting you know. I think that a lot of what that shows us is just what is it that donors seek when they think about contributing to the DCCC. All these people that they met with were donors. They had all given, I think no less than 5 figures within the last campaign cycle. So it shows you how money buys access and with access it’s what you do with it. You ask for various messaging items. You ask for policy items. If they don’t give it to you, they may not want to give you money.
For example, SIFMA which were the financial lobbyist, told the DCCC that they didn’t like the messaging around financial issues that they couldn’t contribute at that time. That’s a very blatant example of what an interest group wants and if they don’t get it, they’re not going to give you money. This is something that I think a lot of people intuitively understand happens but we often don’t get the details as to how it happens. I think that’s really important.
NOOR: Finally, in part of the report that was made for you that was leaked, I guess made in response to some of your questions, it also discussed a part in her Goldman Sachs speech when she talked about how a no fly zone which she has supported publicly including in Sunday’s debate, she acknowledged it would kill a lot of Syrians and that it would not be easy to implement this in Syria. She talked about some of the dangers, especially for Syrian civilians. She said a lot of civilians are going to die trying to take out these air defenses which she hasn’t been as public about. Can you talk a little bit about that?
JILANI: Well I think it’s really interesting in the sense that she has in terms of her public statements, always been in favor of either some kind of no fly zone, a safe zone which would require ground troops, to basically intervene in Syrian civil war to try to create a safe territory for civilians would require directly combating or at least threatening to combat the Syrian military as well as now the Russian military. I think that she’s never, at least in public, even said any level of skepticism about that plan. However, in this speech she even referred to people who are prosing this plan as glib in saying that it’s actually very complicated because of the geography of Syria and sort of the nature of what a military intervention to establish a no fly zone would entail.
I think it’s really fascinating that the only skepticism we’ve seen from her was in a paid speech and a private speech that she didn’t want to make public. The question is, did she change her mind sense then? Is the position she’s establishing now a more of a political position in that she actually understands all the drawbacks of doing this? I mean I think it raises a lot of interesting questions and it’s really up to Clinton to sort of explain that to people because I think a lot of the objections that she raises within that speech were common objections that still apply now and that people would still utilize now to talk about a lot of the drawbacks of using a policy like a no fly zone in Syria.
NOOR: And I wanted to get your response and reaction to Clinton and Podesta sort of not wanting to discuss the content of these leaks but saying the Russians are behind it and you know others have said that the Russians are manipulating these leaks. They’re changing the content of some of the leaks and their goal is to influence the presidential race to take down Hillary Clinton. How do you respond to allegations like that?
JILANI: Well I mean I think what’s interesting is that initially when the latest round of the hacks related to Podesta’s email were released, we saw that messaging from a lot of democrats including Tim Kaine, the vice presidential nominee was saying they can’t verify the authenticity and that’s what the campaign official line is. However, they’ve never pointed to any specific email or leak and said that was false. In fact, Clinton was asked about a specific part, a transcript of some of her paid speeches during the town hall on Sunday and she did seem to confirm its authenticity.
So you know I think largely their response has been very political. I mean they’re trying to figure out a way to just attack the messenger and not discuss the content of the material within which I think I think is a very different thing than understanding the truth of what really happened which I think is an interesting question but we don’t really have all the facts to answer that question yet.
NOOR: Alright, well said Jilani. Thanks so much for joining us. We’re going to link to all of your reporting at the RealNews.com. Thanks so much.
JILANI: Thank you.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
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