Clinton allies sought Obama backing during primaries, emails show

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Allies of Hillary Clinton felt threatened by the power of Senator Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and wondered about getting some signal of support from President Barack Obama in the heat of the Democratic primaries, according to leaked emails.

Ahead of the Illinois primary in March, liberal operative Neera Tanden asked Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who formerly worked on Mr Obama’s transition in 2008, if the president could give any kind of indication that he was supporting Clinton over Sanders.

Ms Tanden asked Mr Podesta whether Mr Obama could “even hint of support of Hillary before Tuesday?”

Mr Obama stayed officially neutral in the primaries until Ms Clinton clinched the nomination in June.

Ms Tanden wrote: “Maybe they don’t want to do this, but the stakes are pretty damn high in this election for him.”

The email exchange was contained in more than 1,500 emails released on Wednesday by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

The notes were stolen from Mr Podesta’s email account as part of a series of high-profile computer hacks of Democratic targets that US intelligence officials say were orchestrated by Russia, with the intent to influence the November 8 election. Russia has denied the allegations.

In a separate June 2015 email, the Clinton campaign worried some state affiliates of the nation’s largest labour union, the National Education Association (NEA), were set to endorse Mr Sanders even though the national union had not yet made an endorsement.

On June 22, 2015, Clinton’s labour outreach director Nikki Budzinski emailed other campaign officials to let them know “NEA is concerned their VT affiliate could do a Tuesday (next week) recommendation of endorsement (with potential press release). This is not confirmed. The bigger concern is that RI and MA might go with VT as well.”

Carrie Pugh, the NEA’s political director, had similar concerns and shared them with Clinton campaign officials.

Ms Budzinski said the move in Vermont “doesn’t pose serious concern for the NEA overall endorsement” but called it an “optics problem” coming before a major meeting of NEA representatives.

“I am working with Carrie Pugh on options to head this off,” she wrote.

The NEA ultimately endorsed Ms Clinton in October 2015 despite some complaints that leaders had not taken Mr Sanders seriously enough and should have waited.

Both Mr Podesta and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio warmed to the idea of setting up a “People’s PAC” intended as a vehicle for Ms Clinton to direct support toward liberal Democrats in the House and Senate – and potentially draw Mr Sanders’ supporters to Ms Clinton.

The idea was floated in a March 2016 email from Huffington Post contributor Brett Budowsky to Mr Podesta, which he forwarded to Mr de Blasio, who responded that the liberal PAC “has a lot of merit”.

The People’s PAC never came to pass.

“I think it’s a good idea but think that our team will see it as a resource diversion,” Mr Podesta wrote to Mr de Blasio.

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