WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was urged last March, before two Democratic debates and the Illinois primary, to have Clinton “separate big time” from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, politically toxic in the wake of the Chicago police shooting scandal and school closings.
Emanuel’s woes in Chicago were part of the fight between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as each were competing for voters across the country animated by the Black Lives Matter movement, spawned by police shootings in several cities.
The appeal came in a March 5, 2016 email to Podesta from Neera Tanden, a Clinton ally who runs the Center for American Progress, a think tank Podesta founded. The email is part of the trove of hacked Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks.
“I got into it w Ben jealous last night and he was all obsessed w how Hillary hasn’t condemned Rahm,” Tanden said of the former NAACP leader who backed Bernie Sanders in the primary. “I’m sure you guys are all over this for the debate but just thought I’d send in that they may well go there for the debate. My rec is to separate big time.”
Emanuel – who knew he was a problem for Clinton – removed himself from the Clinton campaign trail. It was not until Thursday that he appeared on her behalf for the first time, at a rally across from the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Emanuel joined other Illinois Democrats to blast Donald Trump.
However, Democratic Senate nominee Tammy Duckworth, who is in the marquee Illinois race, was not there, continuing to keep her distance from the unpopular Emanuel. Emanuel knew also not to show up at the fundraiser President Barack Obama headlined for Duckworth last Sunday on the South Side.
Friday night was a different matter.
Emanuel, who has maintained contact with Bill Clinton — and was with him at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia — was scheduled to join the former president at a high-dollar fundraiser in Chinatown to benefit the Hillary Victory Fund, the Sun-Times has learned.
According to the invitation, the contribution levels for the event, aimed at Asian American and Pacific Islanders donors, ranged from $1,000 per-person to $27,000 to be a chair, which included a VIP reception with the former president.
Emanuel was Obama’s former chief of staff and was a top advisor in the Clinton White House.
Tanden was tracking Illinois developments as Sanders was surging.
As I reported on Thursday, she wrote on the afternoon of March 12, in another hacked email: “Can Obama even hint of support of Hillary before Tuesday? Really, just a directional nod would be helpful. Like if he just is asked a question or tweets an innuendo — how did he vote in the primary?”
Clinton ended up narrowly winning the primary. She has been way ahead of Trump in every Illinois poll since they clinched their respective nominations.
Former Obama top strategist David Axelrod has been willing to call balls and strikes in interviews, sometimes to the irritation of his friends and acquaintances who are still in the Obama White House or working on Clinton’s election.
Tanden was one of them.
In a June 17, 2015 email to Podesta, with the subject line “David Axelrod” Tanden wrote, “i emailed him to yell at him about his continual quotes. I very clearly said I was not emailing on behalf of anyone else, I’m just frustrated. He responded w a lot of bs. But I thought I should let you know.”
I asked Axelrod on Friday for his reaction and he told me in an email, “I know that my comments have probably irritated people on all sides from time to time, just as I was irritated with friends occasionally when I was involved in campaigns. It’s just that my emails and private expressions of frustration weren’t shared with the world. To me, this is a (big) nothing burger.”
In an April 14, 2015 email, Dennis Cheng, Clinton’s national finance director, asked Podesta to call Michael Sacks. Sacks is chairman and CEO of GCM Grosvenor and is close to Emanuel. Sacks is an investor in the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times and is a member of the Obama Foundation board.
“He was the top raiser for Rahm, very close to Obama, big donor in Chicago. He’s a bit tired from Rahm’s campaign, but in for HRC. … It would be good for him to hear from you.”