Donald Trump

WikiLeaks Controversy Ensnares Illinois Politicians

A cache of hacked messages from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman includes correspondence with some prominent Illinois politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

This week, WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization headed by Julian Assange, has systematically released thousands of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign Chairman John Podesta. 

Among the messages in question is a forwarded email from October of 2008 that finds White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Munoz criticizing Emanuel as a potential White House Chief of Staff pick.

“So I hate to bug you with anything else knowing how much must be going on, but the Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff rumor is circulating like wildfire,” Munoz wrote in an email to President Barack Obama’s campaign that was forwarded to Podesta. “Folks know how explosive that would be in my part of the world, no?”

“The first thing we’ll get asked is why he picked someone who has been consistently hostile to immigrants, and we’ll have to respond," Munoz added.

Despite the sharp criticism, Obama appointed Emanuel White House Chief of Staff just days after the email was sent. 

In the forwarded email to Podesta, Obama campaign staffer and former Deputy White House Counsel Cassandra Butts explained how she responded to Munoz’s concerns.

“I responded to Cecilia that I didn’t know where things are in the process, and I could not speculate,” Butts told Podesta.

On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the Russian government is suspected in the hack and the White House echoed those findings. The Clinton Campaign has not confirmed the authenticity of the emails, nor has NBC News independently authenticated the emails. 

The Clinton campaign would not directly address specific emails, but issued a statement Thursday placing blame on the Russians and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“We now know the FBI believes the Russians are behind this hack and that a Trump campaign associate was back-channeling with Julian Assange,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a statement. “On Day 5 of the WikiLeaks propaganda campaign the question is what did the Trump campaign know and when did they know it?”

“The fact that Donald Trump refuses to condemn this intrusion by a foreign government, cheers it on, and even says it didn’t happen is yet another reason why he is unfit to be president of the United States,” Caplin added.

The Emanuel administration did not respond to Ward Room's request for comment.

In another email thread from November of 2008, Emanuel and Podesta discussed former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was named Obama’s Commerce Secretary the next month. Richardson later withdrew from consideration for the job due to a federal investigation.

“Did he talk to him,” Emanuel asked Podesta.

“Yes,” Podesta responded.

“Cryptic,” Emanuel said. “Are we headed toward yes?"

“He is coming for a visit,” Podesta claimed. “But looks like it.”

“That would be good,” Emanuel said. “We need plan B when [Clinton] says no.”

The mayor then seemed to recommend former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dashchle for an unspecified role in the State Department and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for an unspecified job in the Department of Health and Human Services. Napolitano ultimately went on to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security during Obama’s first term. Daschle was nominated as Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary in 2008, but ultimately withdrew from consideration due to a potential conflict of interest.

In another hacked email from 2014, Podesta urged former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, to call top Illinois Democrats to push legislation to move the state’s primary from March to a later date in an effort to halt potential Republican momentum.

Sources told Politico that Daley made the call, but House Speaker Madigan’s people weren’t interested, despite an offer that would’ve given Illinois “10% extra delegates if they move to April and 20% if the move to May.”

“As we discussed, they don’t really care about being helpful and feel forgotten and neglected by POTUS,” Clinton campaign manager wrote to Podesta in a forwarded email included in the chain. “The key point is that this is not an Obama ask, but a Hillary ask. And the Clintons won’t forget what their friends have done for them. It would be helpful to feel out what path, if any, we have to get them to yes. This will probably take some pushing.”

According to that email, the goal was to have Daley call Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes. Sources told Politico that the Clinton camp feared the state’s March primary would give a moderate Republican candidate momentum at a pivotal time.

“The overall goal is to move the IL primary out of mid March, where they are currently a lifeline to a moderate Republican candidate after the mostly southern Super Tuesday,” Mook wrote. “IL was a key early win for Romney in 12. Our preference would be for them to move all the way to May, but if they at least move to April 12 or April 19 they will have the day to themselves and presumably garner a lot of coverage. They will also be influencing a big northeast primary day on April 26."

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