- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2016

When more than a dozen emails were revealed last year to have gone missing from Hillary Clinton’s private sever, her advisors braced for the blowback by suggesting the State Department relay the news first to reporters they considered “friendly,” leaked emails reveal.

In private messages exchanged within Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle and published by WikiLeaks on Friday, advisors to the Democratic candidate for president are seen discussing ways to minimize harm as they prepared for lawmakers to learn that 16 emails between Mrs. Clinton and longtime confidant Sidney Blumenthal had seemingly disappeared from the email server she used while secretary of state.

The Clinton camp had already supplied the State Department with more than 55,000 emails to be handed over to the House Select Committee on Benghazi when it learned in June 2015 that Mr. Blumenthal had given investigators 16 emails between him and Mrs. Clinton that were absent from the initial cache.

Early in the afternoon of June 24, Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s national press secretary, sent an email to colleagues informing them that news would break imminently about the missing emails.

“In preparation for the possibility that the State Department may acknowledge as soon as today that there were 16 Sid emails missing from the 55k pages of material produced by HRC, I wanted to circulate the below draft plan for responding to the inquiries that Nick will get. Thanks,” he wrote, according to the leaked email.

Nick Merrill, currently Mrs. Clinton’s press secretary, weighed in two hours later.

“The plan at the moment is for them to do this tomorrow, first thing in the morning,” he responded, according to a leaked email. “They do not plan to release anything publicly, so no posting online or anything public-facing, just to the committee. That said, they are considering placing a story with a friendly at the AP (Matt Lee or Bradley Klapper), that would lay this out before the majority on the committee has a chance to realize what they have and distort it.”

“On that last piece, we think it would make sense to work with State and the AP to deploy the below (Brian’s talking points). So assuming everyone is in agreement we’ll proceed.”

The following day, both Mr. Klapper and Mr. Lee shared a byline on an Associated Press article titled “State Dept: 15 emails missing from Clinton cache” that included quotes from Mr. Merrill included in the leaked email chain, as well as comments from Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chaired the Benghazi panel and has been among the most critical members of Congress with respect to Mrs. Clinton’s email habits.

The leaked correspondence doesn’t necessarily reflect any wrongdoing on the part of the Clinton camp or others but highlights the routine, inner-workings of a campaign grasping for positive coverage when its candidate found herself in the cross-hairs of a congressional inquiry in the midst of running for office. As formerly the nation’s leading diplomat, however, the emails immediately raised questions concerning Mrs. Clinton relationship with the State Department upon leaving office and any existing rapport with reporters.

“[T]he Department maintains respectful contact with its former Secretaries of State … as a courtesy,” Mark Turn, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, told LawNews.com.

The email chain published by WikiLeaks is included in more than 10,000 messages released by the antisecrecy group after hackers breached the personal email account of John Podesta, the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. The Obama administration believes the Russian government is responsible for recent cyberattacks that have targeted U.S. politicians, and Mr. Podesta said earlier this week that he’s spoken with the FBI over the incident.

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