Hillary Clinton’s top aides feared progressive hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren would shun the former first lady and instead endorse Sen. Bernard Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, emails show, confirming that the Clinton campaign was well aware of its potential liabilities among liberals.
Emails released Monday by WikiLeaks show Clinton campaign officials openly worrying about a potential Warren endorsement of Mr. Sanders, a move that would have reshaped the Democratic primary and dealt a serious blow to Mrs. Clinton’s chances. The October 2015 discussion focused on whether the former secretary of state would back a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, a 1933 law that separated commercial and investment banking. It was repealed in 1999.
At the time of the conversation, Mr. Sanders was pushing a new form of the law to prevent another financial meltdown, but Mrs. Clinton opposed the idea.
“I am still worried that we will antagonize and activate Elizabeth Warren by opposing a new Glass Steagall. I worry about defending the banks in the debate” with Mr. Sanders, Clinton adviser Mandy Grunwald wrote on Oct. 2, 2015. “I understand that we face phoniness charges if we ‘change’ our position now - but we face political risks this way too. I worry about Elizabeth deciding to endorse Bernie.”
Clinton campaign financial adviser Gary Gensler replied that he’d recently spoke with Mrs. Warren about Wall Street reform, though the emails did not detail their discussions.
But other messages show Clinton allies worried about alienating Mrs. Warren years before the presidential campaign began. In November 2014, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin told other allies of the former first lady that it was imperative the two women discuss economic policy.
“They do not want intermediaries discussing the relationship or the potential policy differences as they feel that is happening too much. They want to have a direct conversation about economic policy,” Ms. Abedin wrote.
Ultimately, Mrs. Warren withheld an endorsement until the primary effectively was over, and then formally backed Mrs. Clinton.
More broadly, the Clinton campaign seemed skittish about fighting Mr. Sanders on the issue of Wall Street reform.
“Bernie wants a fight on a Wall Street. We should not give him one. Our polling shows this is one of our weakest areas,” Ms. Grunwald wrote in January 2016.
Over the weekend, WikiLeaks released private emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta that included excerpts of Mrs. Clinton’s paid speeches to top Wall Street firms. In at least one of those speeches, Mrs. Clinton told wealthy bankers she has “both a public and a private position” on Wall Street reform, underscoring progressives’ doubts that she’s truly interested in taking on powerful banking interests if elected president.