A top aide calculatingly inserted a passage critical of the financial industry into one of Hillary Clinton’s many highly-paid speeches to big banks, “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,” he wrote in an email posted by Wikileaks.
In late November 2015, campaign speechwriter Dan Schwerin wrote an email to other top aides floating the idea of leaking that passage, which had come in a speech Clinton gave to Deutsche Bank in October 2014 in return for $260,000.
“I wrote her a long riff about economic fairness and how the financial industry has lost its way,” for that purpose, Schwerin wrote. “Perhaps at some point there will be value in sharing this with a reporter and getting a story written. Upside would be that when people say she’s too close to Wall Street and has taken too much money from bankers, we can point to evidence that she wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power.”
Another email, from among the thousands posted by Wikileaks over the past week from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account, shows how panicked members of the Clinton campaign intervened at the last minute to cancel a paid Bill Clinton speech to Morgan Stanley because it was timed too close to the launch of her campaign — against the initial wishes of the candidate herself.
In the passage that Schwerin wanted to leak from Clinton’s speech to Deutsche Bank, she quoted Chicago Mercantile Exchange president Terry Duffy warning that “some Wall Streeters can too easily slip into regarding their work as a kind of moneymaking game divorced from the concerns of Main Street.”
In his email to his fellow aides, however, Schwerin recognized that the press response might not be entirely in the campaign’s favor. “Downside would be that we could then be pushed to release transcripts from all her paid speeches, which would be less helpful (although probably not disastrous). In the end, I’m not sure this is worth doing, but wanted to flag it so you know it’s out there.”
Clinton Press Secretary Brian Fallon liked the idea, noting that a few outlets including the Associated Press and the New York Times were starting to write articles about Clinton’s Wall Street relationship. “I think we could come up with a vanilla characterization that challenges the idea that she sucked up to these folks in her appearances, but then use AP’s raising of this to our advantage to pitch someone to do an exclusive by providing at least the key excerpts from this Deutsche Bank speech,” he wrote back. “In doing so, we could have the reporting be sourced to a ‘transcript obtained by [news outlet]’ so it is not confirmed as us selectively providing one transcript while refusing to share others.”
Mandy Grunwald, a senior adviser to the campaign, worried that a strategic leak would backfire because the Deutsche Bank passages were not harsh enough and people would start looking for other speeches: “I am concerned that the passage below will exacerbate not improve the situation.”
The leak never happened, and the speech remained secret until one hacked Podesta email turned out to include an 80-page list of what the campaign viewed as potentially damaging excerpts from Clinton’s paid speeches.
The way Bill Clinton’s paid speech was cancelled is described in a separate email exchange. In early March, Robby Mook sent an email to Clinton aides with the subject line “WJC Speeches” noting that “Morgan Stanley is coming down” — an apparent reference to the cancellation of a Clinton speech at Morgan Stanley.
Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin asked if the campaign was involved in the cancellation. When Mook noted that Podesta had intervened, Abedin protested that Hillary Clinton disagreed with the cancellation and that she would lie to her about the reason.
“HRC very strongly did not want him to cancel that particular speech,” she wrote. “I think if John is getting involved in this scheduling matter, he must feel strongly. I will have to tell her that WJC chose to cancel it, not that we asked.”
Mook wrote back to Abedin seeking to justify the move: “Yes the issue is that if we’re announcing on the 12th/13th and he’s speaking to a wall street bank on the 15th, that’s begging for a bad rollout.”
Seven hours later, Abedin wrote back insisting again that Hillary Clinton did not want her husband to cancel the paid speech: “John and Robby — HRC is reiterating her original position. She does not want him to cancel.”
Mook then put his foot down, and launched into a long explanation of why Bill Clinton should not do the event — a notably political, not principled, objection.
“I know this is not the answer she wants, but I feel very strongly that doing the speech is a mistake — the data are very clear on the potential consequences. It will be three days after she’s announced and on her first day in Iowa, where caucus goes have a sharply more negative view of Wall Street than the rest of the electorate. Wall Street ranks first for Iowans among a list of institutions that ‘take advantage of every day Americans’, scoring twice as high as the general election electorate,” Mook wrote.
Seeking to cushion the blow, he noted that he understood the hardship it would put on the Clintons — who are multimillionaires.
“I recognize the sacrifice and dissapointment [sic] that cancelling will create, but it’s a very consequential unforced error and could plague us in stories for months. People would (rightfully) ask how we let it happen,” he wrote. “I would suggest that if she is determined to keep this speech that she talk with John becuase [sic] this is a very big deal in my view. Let me know if I can provide more information or otherwise be helpful.”
A day later, Abedin wrote back, noting that her boss had given in: “Robby — Just raised with her again. We are good to cancel esp if WJC is ok with it. Just needed a cool down period.”
The identity and motive of the hacker who gave these emails to Wikileaks is a subject of debate. U.S. intelligence agencies have declared — without providing any public evidence — that the Russian government was involved. And the Clinton campaign has similarly declared that the Russian government is doing this to support Donald Trump. All we know for sure, however, is that there have been no similar releases of hacked emails from the Trump campaign, and that thus far no evidence has emerged that would call into question the authenticity of any of the documents posted by Wikileaks.
Here is the full text of the “long riff” from the Deutsche Bank speech Schwerin said he wrote with future readers in mind:
…Now, Jacques was talking about Eleanor Roosevelt, and I hope a lot of you have seen the extraordinary Ken Burns documentary series on PBS about the Roosevelts. It’s just riveting. And you should see it if you haven’t, because it tells stories and shows pictures that have never been seen before of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.
But Eleanor Roosevelt in particular is someone that I admire as one of my predecessors, and I adore the book that Jacque’s mother-in-law has written about the relationship that she and her late husband, who was Eleanor’s personal physician, had with Eleanor Roosevelt.
And you look at the documentary and you really are struck once again how every generation has to do what it can to make sure that economic opportunity is broadly shared and upward mobility remains at the core of the American dream and experience.
I mean, Teddy Roosevelt said it well. His commonsense slogan, the square deal, captured the American imagination and still resonates today.
Just think about the changes that were going on at the turn of the last century: technological transformation, growing economic inequality, the steady accumulation of vast power and wealth in the hands of a select few.
Roosevelt was a Republican from the party of big business, but he resisted both the elites who sought to protect their gilded age advantages and the rising tide of populist anger that threatened to sweep the nation. Instead, he stood up for the level playing field, no special deals, just a fair shot for everybody willing to get out there and work hard.
I think that’s a message worth recalling today when so many hardworking American families, and I add European families feel like they’re falling further and further behind, while they see, in their view, the playing field becoming more unlevel, and feeling as though it doesn’t matter how hard they work because the game is rigged against them.
Now, to me this is not just about fairness, although I think that’s an important principle. We now know, based on research done by the IMF and others, that income inequality holds back growth for the entire economy. There is no more important driver of growth around the world than the purchasing power of American consumers. That is once again becoming clear as we move forward more dynamically than a lot of our friends and allies are economically.
Stagnating wages translate into fewer customers, and that’s not a new insight. Just ask Henry Ford who first articulated it.
And it’s no surprise that many Americans feel frustrated, some even angry, as you probably see in news coverage. And a lot of that anger has been directed at the financial industry.
Now, it’s important to recognize the vital role that the financial markets play in our economy and that so many of you are contributing to. To function effectively those markets and the men and women who shape them have to command trust and confidence, because we all rely on the market’s transparency and integrity.
So even if it may not be 100 percent true, if the perception is that somehow the game is rigged, that should be a problem for all of us, and we have to be willing to make that absolutely clear. And if there are issues, if there’s wrongdoing, people have to be held accountable and we have to try to deter future bad behavior, because the public trust is at the core of both a free market economy and a democracy.
So it is in everyone’s interest, most of all those of you who play such a vital role in the global economy, to make sure that we maintain and where necessary rebuild trust that goes beyond correcting specific instances of abuse of fraud.
Last year, the head of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Terry Duffy, published an op-ed in the *Wall Street Journal* that caught my attention. He wrote, and I quote, “I’m concerned that those of us in financial services have forgotten who we serve, and that the public knows it. Some Wall Streeters can too easily slip into regarding their work as a kind of moneymaking game divorced from the concerns of Main Street.”
We heard a similar point from a more global perspective this spring at a conference in London on inclusive capitalism organized by my friend, Lynn Rothschild, who’s here with us tonight. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, offered what we in America might call straight talk about how the financial industry has lost its way and how to earn back public confidence.
And I think his words are worth both quoting and thinking about. Here’s what he said. “The answer starts from recognizing that financial capitalism is not an end in itself, but a means to promote investment, innovation, growth and prosperity. Banking is fundamentally about intermediation, connecting borrowers and savers in the real economy. In the run-up to the crisis, banking became about banks not businesses, transactions not relations, counterparties not clients.”
And then Mark Carney went on to outline proposals for stronger oversight, both within the industry and by government authorities, but he noted “Integrity can neither be bought nor regulated. Even with the best possible framework of codes, principles, compensation schemes and market discipline, financiers must constantly challenge themselves to the standard they uphold.”
So this is a time when for all kinds of reasons trust in government, trust in business has eroded. And I believe that it has to be rebuilt, not only by those in offices in Washington or Albany but by so many of you.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented, principled, smart people who make their living in finance, especially when I was Senator from New York. Many of you here were my constituents, and I worked hard to represent you well. And I saw every day how important a well-functioning financial system is to not only the American economy but the global economy.
That’s why as Senator I raised early warnings about the subprime mortgage market and called for regulating derivatives and other complex financial products because even among my smartest supporters and constituents I never understood what they were telling me when they tried to explain what they were.
I also called for closing the carried interest loophole, addressing skyrocketing CEO pay and other issues that were undermining that all important link between Wall Street and Main Street.
Remember what Teddy Roosevelt did. Yes, he took on what he saw as the excesses in the economy, but he also stood against the excesses in politics. He didn’t want to unleash a lot of nationalist, populistic reaction. He wanted to try to figure out how to get back into that balance that has served America so well over our entire nationhood.