Wary of loss in Illinois primary, Clinton hit up Obama: WikiLeaks

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President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention earlier this year. | Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Follow @lynnsweetWASHINGTON — When Bernie Sanders was unexpectedly surging in Illinois polls, the Hillary Clinton camp was worried about losing the March 2016 Illinois primary and was appealing to President Barack Obama for help, a newly released hacked email of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta reveals.

WikiLeaks has been posting a trove of hacked emails from Podesta, who also led Barack Obama’s presidential transition team and did a stint in the Obama White House.

The correspondence, from various private Podesta accounts, provides rare insights into an eight-year span, from Obama starting his first presidential term to Clinton’s current presidential campaign to succeed him.

The Podesta hacks go through the beginning of 2016.

In a Feb. 18 note sent to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s personal gmail account, Podesta said he “got in and got out without questions about you or ongoing proceedings. I think that’s best for both of us. Haven’t seen local press.”


Follow @lynnsweetA May 5, 2015, email details a minute-by-minute schedule for a meeting between Podesta and Fred Eychaner, the Chicago businessman who is one of the largest Democratic donors in the nation. The meeting, at 35 E. Wacker Dr., was to “encourage him to help the primary campaign as much as possible.” Eychaner did turn out to be one of the major donors and fundraisers for Clinton.


Polls were showing Sanders catching up to Clinton before the March 15 faceoff in Illinois, prompting Podesta, who grew up in Chicago, to agree with a top Clinton ally that the White House needed to weigh in.

Even a “hint of support,” would be useful, Neera Tanden wrote to Podesta on March 12. Tanden runs the Center for American Progress, a think tank Podesta founded.

Tanden also worked a stint in the Obama administration and was a natural bridge between the Clinton and Obama camps.

On the afternoon of March 12, Tanden wrote, “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?

“Maybe they don’t want to do this, but the stakes are pretty damn high in this election for him. Though I don’t know how most people are going to take these clashes between Bernie supporters and Trump’s people,” Tanden wrote.

That was likely a reference to outbursts on March 11 between protesters and Donald Trump supporters at a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago that Trump pulled out of because of the disruptions at the UIC Pavillion.

A few hours later, Podesta replied, “Why don’t you push [top presidential adviser] Valerie [Jarrett] a little bit.”

Podesta also was a senior counselor in the Obama White House and knows Jarrett, but apparently, at least in the email chain WikiLeaks posted, he was fine with Tanden pushing the Illinois ask.

Obama did take the highly unusual step of taking sides in an Illinois House primary – not the presidential contest — endorsing Juliana Stratton over incumbent Ken Dunkin for an Illinois House seat. Dunkin lost.

Obama signaled his backing for Tammy Duckworth over Andrea Zopp in their primary when Obama took Duckworth with him on Air Force One to Springfield on Feb. 10, when he delivered an address to the Illinois General Assembly.

Clinton won Illinois with 50.56 percent to Sanders’ 48.61 percent of the overall vote — the “beauty contest.” Of the 102 elected delegate spots in Illinois, Clinton won 52 and Sanders 50, almost a tie.


In November 2014, before Bernie Sanders was running in the Democratic primary or even thought of as a serious rival, Clinton’s team asked Bill Daley to push Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is also the chair of the state Democratic Party, to move back the March primary to April or May, according to a leaked email.

It never happened.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote to Podesta about getting Daley involved, suggesting he contact Madigan’s chief of staff Tim Mapes and Mike McClain, a Springfield lobbyist.

“They will receive a bonus of 10% extra delegates if they move to April and 20% if they move to May. Mapes has said repeatedly they don’t care about that.

“As we discussed, they don’t really care about being helpful and feel forgotten and neglected by POTUS. 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.”

Tweets by @lynnsweet

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