On Tuesday, two weeks before voters cast their final votes in the US presidential race, Donald Trump told reporters from Reuters that new revelations from WikiLeaks necessitated a separate investigation of President Barack Obama.
The WikiLeaks email to which Trump was referring was a March 2015 exchange forwarded to Clinton attorney Cheryl Mills from Nick Merrill, who now acts as Clinton’s press secretary. Several Clinton aides were discussing Obama’s having told press that he learned about Clinton’s private server from news reports. Mills responds, “we need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say state.gov.” In other words, Obama had emails from Clinton’s private server — suggesting that he should have known or did know about her server before the public.
“That’s why he stuck up for Hillary,” Trump told Reuters’ Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson, “because he didn’t want to be dragged in. Because he knew all about her private server. This means that he has to be investigated.”
At a campaign stop in Sanford, Florida, later on Tuesday, Trump said that Obama was caught up in the “big lie” surrounding the server.
It’s important to note that evidence Obama had received emails from Clinton’s private server emerged well before Tuesday. In January, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that 18 emails between the president and Clinton were turned over to the government when she submitted her work-related emails to State last year. Those 18 emails were not made public because the White House asserted his executive privilege in keeping them private.
What’s new about the release from WikiLeaks is two-fold. First, the unclear meaning of “we need to clean this up,” which can be read nefariously (as implying that information would be hidden from the public) or as benign (suggesting that Clinton’s team and/or the White House needed to clarify Obama’s comments). Interpretations of the statement will no doubt vary by political party.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump