America’s most connected political reporter Mike Allen was my guest this morning at the start of the last sprint in the presidential campaign. His assessment of the likelihood of Congressional hearings into the questions raised by the FBI report? “100%”
To me footnote qqq on p. 26 is one of the more intriguing of the many stories buried in the report: The footnote references “BlackBerry backups provide by Cooper” –an aide to Bill Clinton. What backups? Where are they now? Are they being produced via FOIA? Does that mean some of the missing 13 Blackberries, 2 iPads and 1 laptop had their contents saved somewhere?
The entire Allen conversation:
HH: It’s time for Mondays with Mike, America’s most connected political reporter. You ought to be following Mike Allen on Twitter, @MikeAllen. Good morning, Mike. Where do we find you today?
MA: You find me in San Francisco, California. Last night, I saw Tucker Bounds from Sidewire, a great place to have online conversations, checking out my native land, your native land.
HH: Well, I am also in California, so both you and I are up at 3:30 in the morning to bring the good news of the beginning of the presidential campaign to all of the world. So thank you for getting up early, Mike. Mike, the headline of the day, CNN/ORG poll, Donald Trump – 45%, Hillary Clinton – 43%, Gary Johnson – 7%, Jill Stein – 2%. And here is the key takeaway in the internals. Enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about voting for president among Trump voters, 58%, among Clinton voters, only 46%. What’s your reaction to this poll?
MA: My reaction is that this race is tight and going to stay tight. There can be differences between, tiny differences in how they move around, but we have a race. And in that, we see Trump having a sort of built-in, Trump’s floor is staying. Trump’s floor is not falling off. And I think people know that some external event in the world, some big event in the campaign, neither one of these people have a lock on the imagination of the American people.
HH: Agreed. Now I began the show by reading the amazing piece by Amy Chozick and Jonathan Martin over the weekend in the New York Times. “Where Has Hillary Been?” is the headline, “Ask The Ultra Rich.” It’s kind of repulsive to have to pay $2,700 dollars to have your child ask a question of Hillary Clinton or $10,000 dollars to get a picture with the family. I think she is repelling people by virtue of this campaign when she could be gathering them in, whereas Donald Trump by staying out of trouble for a month has closed the gap. What’s your assessment of the dynamic?
MA: I don’t get as excited about that idea of the August stops. You know how much fundraising George W. Bush did, Hugh. I was on George W. Bush’s plane in his pool. You know how much fundraising President Obama did. Nothing unusual about these. What this has been paired with, the fundraising is perfectly typical. What’s unusual is that the Clinton campaign calculated that Donald Trump was not particularly helping himself on many days that was true, and they figured it’s not going to help us to be out there all the time. So they had planned to be out there more. They could have been out there more. They figured Donald Trump is taking care of himself, like we don’t need to help.
HH: I don’t think fundraising upsets people. I think exclusively hobnobbing with the ultra-rich does, and the level of detail, about $2,700 to have your child ask a question if they were under 16 is about the protective bubble, and sort of the identification with the ultra-rich is what may be, and it begins with a story about Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Jimmy Buffett singing with Hillary Clinton, Hey Jude. It just, Mike, to me, it’s…
MA: Well, and this is where Hillary Clinton needs to watch out, and you and I have talked about this over many months and even years, and that is what is her vulnerability? Looking out of touch. And that’s the real problem with the email story, is that it just didn’t sound like something that normal people would do. It sounded like something that the Clintons would do that others wouldn’t. As you read through the PDF that the FBI posted on the eve of Labor Day Weekend, sort of the classic document dump on Labor Day, you read through the 58 pages that the FBI put out in two files, and a couple things that you pick up on there. One is that when Hillary Clinton’s staff would go to get her a new Blackberry, she’s Secretary of State, remember. Where would they go to get a new Blackberry? They’d go to the AT&T store.
MA: Now there’s no way that people thought that that was okay. Like you don’t go to the AT&T store when you’re Secretary of State if you think that this is the way that you should be doing it. And kind of a funny note that was in there, was it said, and I think probably a lot of your listeners can relate to this, they would get her a new, fancier model of Blackberry, and then they would have to get the old one back, because she was more comfortable with it. The point is that if you look ahead at these debates, what could really hurt? Hillary Clinton isn’t going to make some big mistake saying that, Gerald Ford-type mistake, suggesting the Soviets weren’t in Eastern Europe. No, her vulnerability is looking like she’s different, not one of us, and this is where the August scheduled framed the way the New York Times did, hurts.
HH: Yeah, privileged beyond anyone’s understanding. Let me go to the FBI report. There are three things that stood out to me – the devices, Blumenthal and a few weird details. First of all, 13 Blackberries, 5 iPads, 1 laptop, of those, all 13 Blackberries are missing, 2 iPads are missing, the laptop is missing. All of them have this classified information on them. All of had confidential, and all of them had very interesting information on them. Mike Allen, John O’Neill, who was the senior al Qaeda FBI agent forced in part out of the Federal Bureau of Investigations in 2000 and then he went to work at the World Trade Center and he died in the attack, because he lost a briefcase with sensitive information in it. I think the implications of losing or losing track of 13 Blackberries, we know 2 of them were hammered to smithereens, 2 iPads and 1 laptop hasn’t sunk in, yet. Do you think that’s significant detail?
MA: I think that the people, the view of that is so baked in, I can’t see the new details changing someone’s mind. I can’t see, if I’m a voter, one of the rare voter who is persuadable, I can’t see that being dispositive for me. It’s, I think if you either are suspicious of the Clintons, it gives you plenty to chew on. If you are for Hillary Clinton, you’re going to say why are we still talking about this, like we know, let’s move on. Like there’s so few voters that are movable. Those who are, it’s hard to see them being moved on this. And I agree with the point that somebody made on behalf of Hillary Clinton yesterday, that this is the kind of thing that once someone is president, it vanishes. And everything that you said is true, and if you’re a voter in Florida or Ohio who hasn’t made up your mind, I can’t see them saying oh, yes, Trump for me. And this is where Donald Trump has made a mistake, is that how close the race is, he could be running away with this. But there is, there are things that he has said and done that has just disqualified himself with enough people that that’s why this race is locked in this narrow way.
HH: If he listens to Kellyanne Conway, he may yet become ahead in Pennsylvania, which will throw everything into chaos. Second thing, Sidney Blumenthal. I tried to explain to the audience why he creeps me out. But on Pages 25 and 26, he’s sending, he is obtaining and sending her classified information from sources in the United States intelligence community that raises a whole host of questions that involve, you know, who was he talking to, who’s leaking him this information. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, since he’s representing other people, maybe to foreign governments, etc., do you expect Blumenthal to be part of any Clinton administration? Because that’s a scary prospect to me.
MA: I don’t see Sidney Blumenthal going on in the inside. I think that he will keep Secretary Clinton’s ear, and Hugh, you know the history. Over centuries, there is a long tradition of whispers to our presidents and our leaders, and you and I get emails from people who might surprise other people. We all have people that we talk to, and they may not be someone, I agree with you that I’m not sure that we’re going to see him going for a Senate-confirmed job, but again, this is something that surprises no one. This is someone who if you’ve followed the Clinton presidential administration, you knew this. So it’s not going to either suddenly cause you to embrace Secretary Clinton or say oh, that really surprises me. I’m suddenly a Trump guy.
HH: Well, Jason Chaffetz joins me next hour, and I’m going to ask him about Footnote QQQ. And this is one of those details. There are lots of details in this report. They did the Friday dump. It notes that the FBI obtained 177 of Blumenthal’s emails from the emails provided by Williams and Connolly as part of the Clintons’ production to the FBI. Now here’s the key quote. “The FBI recovered two additional memos during the investigation from Blackberry backups provided by Cooper.” That’s Justin Cooper, who is Hillary’s tech aide and Bill Clinton’s tech aide. He had Blackberry backups. That’s the only reference I can find in the report to that. I think there are a number of stray details in here, like the fact that there are Blackberry backups somewhere, Mike Allen. Do you expect Congress, led by Jason Chaffetz, between now and November, to hold hearings on these documents and the questions they raise?
MA: 100%. And you’re just scratching the surface of some of the details that are in there. How about the holy cow moment, and it wasn’t a cow, but it was a holy blank moment.
MA: …in the FBI interview by someone with access to the equipment who then after, and this was after the New York Times story revealing the existence of the private server had popped, went ahead and deleted another Clinton email archive. Also in there, Hugh, you saw all the equipment wasn’t initially turned over.
MA: Some of the equipment was. Then the FBI learned of related hardware, and then they were like oh, yeah, here, have that, too.
HH: There is an amazing assortment of stuff I believe that Congressman Chaffetz will be diving into, including Gilbert Chagoury and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and many other things. But Mike Allen, between now and eight weeks, do you have any predictions? We’ve got 30 seconds.
MA: It’s going to be a quick graphic in the Wall Street Journal shows that the person who led in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll at Labor Day, going back to ’92, always won. President Clinton by 18 points, President Clinton by 12 points, President Bush by 3 points, President Bush by 2 points, President Obama by 3 points, President Obama by 4 points. Right now, Hillary Clinton is up 9 points in that poll, but as you said at the top, it’s closing. We have a race.
HH: Mike Allen, always great to talk to you. Follow him on Twitter, @MikeAllen, America. Don’t go anywhere.
End of interview.