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In The Latest Clinton Emails: Appointment Jockeying And More On Libya

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigns in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucuses.
John Locher
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigns in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucuses.

On the eve of the Nevada presidential primary caucuses, the State Department released an additional 1,116 pages of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails.

Portions of 64 documents were retroactively classified as confidential, according to a State Department official. That's the lowest level of classification. The latest batch of emails did not include any Secret or Top Secret documents, according to the official.

Friday night's release brings the total number of emails posted on the department's website to nearly 47,000 pages. The court-ordered release of emails, which Clinton controversially stored on a private server, is nearing its end. The State Department says it will release a final batch of emails on February 29. The court had initially set a January deadline for making the emails public.

Clinton's private email server has become a major campaign issue for Republican presidential candidates. On Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that, "every court-ordered release of Hillary Clinton's emails is yet another reminder of just how recklessly she handled classified material and jeopardized national security."

The latest round of emails illustrate how much jockeying, negotiating, and case-making go into appointments in the early months of a presidential administration. Throughout all of 2009, Clinton was involved in email chains about various diplomatic openings.

"Cheryl — Senator Kerry had the opportunity to sing Happy Birthday to the Secretary earlier this week but neglected to tell her that he would be very interested in seeing [REDACTED] considered for Ambassador to Vietnam," Kerry aide David McKean wrote to Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, in October 2009.

"First, what, if any connection, does [REDACTED] have w Vietnam? And, second, what is [REDACTED] relationship w Kerry?" Clinton asked Mills, after seeing the request.

(The redaction of most of the proper nouns in these exchanges – the potential nominees; the positions they were or weren't up for – make the emails a little hard to follow.)

Clinton and other top State officials also appeared to negotiate with the White House over appointments.

"What about [redacted]? Clinton emailed Mills in May 2009. "Or should we take care of the guy they wanted for [redacted]?" Mills responded.

"Don't go wobbly on me!" Clinton replied.

There's frustration in the appointment process. "Puzzled and disappt." Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski wrote Clinton when a candidate she preferred wasn't selected for a USAID position. (But, Mikulski assured Clinton, "Am not ballistic.")

But also, joy: "DAMN – I LOVE YOU!" Capricia Marshall wrote Mills in an email forwarded to Clinton, after she was nominated for Chief of Protocol.

The appointment and confirmation battles continued into 2010. In an email with the subject line of "Azerbijan," (sic) Clinton wrote top aides in April: "what is the holdup in getting an ambassador there?"

Other emails address events in Libya.

In the early days of the 2011 airstrike campaign against Libya, Clinton appeared very engaged in how the media was covering the military effort. "Do you have any updates – especially from the UAE? What is the situation in Libya post strikes?" she wrote on March 20.

"As far as we know, there were no "civilian deaths,' she emailed on the same day, after aides forwarded her an Associated Press article. "Can we get a statement from the Libyan opposition to that effect w thx for helping them and request for their Arab brothers to help as well?"

"One lesson learned," Clinton wrote after high-level aide Jacob Sullivan forwarded her what he deemed a "positive report." "When it comes to Al-Jazeera news coverage, it helps having Qatar involved."

In October, Clinton complained of "a few factual errors" in a Washington Post story about her efforts in organizing the international coalition that intervened in the country.

And one year later, after the attacks on the American compound in Benghazi, Clinton and Sullivan emailed back and forth about how the incident had become a political issue.

Clinton forwarded a message from her friend and former aide Sidney Blumenthal, who wrote, "Romney has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal playing off Stevens' murder to say Obama has put 'security at risk,' etc."

Clinton and Sullivan then discussed a campaign ad on the attacks. "Did you watch? Not about the whodunit issue," Sullivan wrote. "This is about Obama going on the View rather than meeting with world leaders.

"But the subtext is his absence or negligence re terrorism and leadership," Clinton responded.

"It's just interesting that Sid's first message focused on a potential Republican narrative about how we knew in advance and were incompetent, whereas this goes to the broader issue of leadership in the war on terror," Sullivan wrote back.

"But we'll likely see both attacks in debate, on the stump and in ads," said Clinton.

Four years later, that's still the case.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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