The highly selective trove of Hillary Clinton emails released by the State Department Friday revealed both the seemingly strong influence Sidney Blumenthal wielded over the secretary of state and the preoccupation with media coverage exhibited by her closest aides.
If the 296 published emails are to be considered a complete collection, they would suggest Clinton relied almost exclusively on an aide that had been banned from the State Department, Blumenthal, to provide her intelligence on a country at war.
The emails show that Clinton’s staffers often circulated and debated press clippings amongst themselves and occasionally discussed how to respond to certain media criticisms.
They also provide a narrow glimpse of how the State Department’s top ranks operated in the weeks before and after the greatest crisis of Clinton’s tenure.
Clinton asked State Dept. aides to prepare speech for Clinton Foundation
An email dated Sept. 22, 2012 shows Clinton appeared to discuss a speech for the Clinton Global Initiative less than two weeks after the Benghazi attack.
Jake Sullivan, a top Clinton aide, sent Clinton a draft of the speech that day and encouraged her to “let me know your thoughts.”
The entire speech is redacted under a FOIA exemption that allows agencies to hold back internal deliberations.
What is unclear is why Clinton was using State Department aides to prepare a speech for her family’s foundation, or why the text of that draft would be considered an internal government communication.
The day of Benghazi attacks, Clinton asked for a film she made a cameo in
Hours before the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Clinton asked a pair of her top staffers to find her a copy of the Bernard Henri Levy documentary, “The Oath of Tobruk.”
Levy had directed the film about the Libyan war, which featured a cameo from Clinton herself.
But elsewhere in the emails, Levy’s name surfaced again, although it was redacted in the version released by the State Department.
In a memo to Clinton dated March 27, 2011, Blumenthal noted that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had asked Levy, a sociologist, to use his “long established ties to Israel, Syria, and other nations in the Middle East” to assess the level of influence al Qaeda and other terrorist groups wielded in the Libyan government.
‘This will be exciting when it’s FOIA’d’
A light-hearted exchange between Philippe Reines, Thomas Nides and Caroline Adler — all top Clinton aides — revealed the staffers had FOIA in mind when emailing with their government accounts.
Describing an interview Clinton gave to Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley in which the reporter sat too close to the secretary, Reines said he didn’t “think you see that behavior among any type of mammal.”
“Was like the dental hygienist rolling around the floor to get the best access to your mouth depending on what tooth she was trying to get access to,” he wrote.
“I may go and throw up since I am laughing so hard,” Nides said.
Adler, who was copied on the chain, added, “this will be exciting when it’s FOIA’d.”
Clinton confused names of slain Americans
In the hours after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in a terrorist raid, Clinton sought advice from her aides about when to announce Stevens’ death.
But critics quickly pounced on the fact that Clinton seemingly jumbled the ambassador’s name with that of Sean Smith, a foreign service information management officer who was also killed in the attack, by referring to the slain diplomat as “Chris Smith” instead of Chris Stevens.
Blumenthal and Clinton had secret meeting just after Benghazi attack
Clinton appears to have visited Blumenthal just weeks after the Benghazi attack.
Blumenthal told his old friend it was “great to see you” on October 6, 2012, and encouraged her to “drop in again,” the emails show.
A day later, he invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to his home after the election.
“Post-election, we’d like to have you over for dinner,” Blumenthal wrote. “Bill can come too, if he’s in town. Whatever works.”
“Will do,” she replied.
The exchange was yet another illustration of the close ties between the former Clinton aide and secretary of state that has sparked controversy in recent days.
Emails between Blumenthal and Clinton made up a significant portion of the records released Friday.
In 9 months leading up to Benghazi, there’s only 35 Clinton emails
The State Department emails span most of Clinton’s final two years in office, but the cache contains long stretches of time when either no emails were sent, or none were disclosed.
In the two weeks before the Benghazi attack, Clinton and her staff either did not send each other a single email regarding the atmosphere in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans in a raid on the U.S. consulate there, or the emails during that time were not disclosed.
In the nine months of 2012 before the Sept. 11 attack, Clinton and her aides exchanged just 35 emails that the secretary of state evidently deemed fit to give the State Department.
Private server emails contained sensitive data FBI classified just hours before release
The FBI classified information in one of Clinton’s emails just hours before their release, the Associated Press reported Friday.
State Department officials told the AP Clinton’s emails from Nov. 18, 2012, contained the names of suspects that had been arrested in Libya in connection with the attacks.
Twenty-three words were redacted from that particular email published on the State Department website.
Reporters pressed State Department spokesperson Marie Harf on why information sensitive enough to be considered classified, even retroactively, was handled on a private server.
“It’s possible that the degree of sensitivity … evolved over time,” Harf said at a briefing Friday.
State Dept. made political, helpful redactions
Leaked emails published by the New York Times just one day before the State Department officially released the email trove show that the agency redacted a number of passages before publishing the documents.
The State Department had redacted parts of emails that revealed officials’ personal opinions about prominent Libyans.
The agency also removed some of Clinton’s own words, such as her suggestion to explore arming the Libyan rebels using “private security experts.”
Clinton’s attempt to warn the White House to prepare for Republican attacks on the Obama campaign using Benghazi as fodder was also redacted, although it is unclear how that information would affect national security.