Politics

Clintons Told to Wear ‘Body Armor’ at White House

Columnist warned of opposition to Clinton's primary bid by some in WH

Clinton Obama
President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton / AP

Bill and Hillary Clinton were told by a Democratic commentator to wear "body armor that covers their backs" at the White House when Vice President Joe Biden was considering a presidential run last year, according to leaked emails.

Brent Budowsky, an ex-Democratic aide and columnist for The Hill, told Clinton campaign chair John Podesta last August that the Clintons need to watch their backs around some Obama administration officials, according to an email included in a trove of Podesta’s communications made public by WikiLeaks on Monday.

"IMO [in my opinion] yesterday was a very good day. I am thrilled that on the email issue HRC offered a change of tone towards what I consider the strongest position, and her handling of the Biden issue was picture perfect," Budowsky wrote to Podesta on August, 27, 2015. "Advocates such as myself can take a respectful but harder line, while she took the right respectful but softer line."

"I would warn that regarding at least some Obama White House staff, when the Clintons next dine at the White House they should bring a food taster and wear body armor that covers their backs with at least some people there," Budowsky added. "I picked this up from several sources, though I will not write about this."

Budowsky was reacting to an August 26 press conference in Iowa in which Clinton said that she had "seen no evidence" that Biden would take some of her support from Democrats if he decided to run for president. Polling released the next day by Quinnipiac University found Biden outperforming Clinton against top Republicans.

At the Iowa press conference, Clinton acknowledged for the first time that using personal email for official business at the State Department had been a poor choice. The issue, which was investigated by the FBI, has continued to dog her campaign into the general election. In July, the FBI faulted Clinton and her staff for being "extremely careless" in their handling of classified information but decided against recommending that the Justice Department pursue charges in the case.

Budowsky also wrote in the message to Podesta last year that "many in the WH [White House] support HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton], at least some privately do not, and that there are a handful of individuals over there who are preternaturally Machiavellian, preternaturally stupid, and preternaturally indiscreet though IMO this is a minority view of little practical consequence to the campaign."

Podesta agreed with Budowsky in his response, though he stressed his belief that "most, including at the top are on our side."

Biden ultimately decided against running for president. President Obama endorsed Clinton in June, as it became clear that she would defeat her most formidable challenger, the self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, for the nomination.

Budowsky served as an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D., Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D., Ark.) before working as a columnist for The Hill and other publications.

Budowsky told the Washington Free Beacon in an email Monday that Democrats and everyone at the White House are now "passionately for Hillary" over Republican nominee Donald Trump.

"Anyone who agrees with my columns in The Hill and any private memos—which are 100% consistent— would be a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump," Budowsky said when asked to comment on the email exchange. "It was my impression at the time that there some in the White House who were enthusiastically for Hillary and others who were not."

"Now, everyone at the White House and all Democrats in Congress are passionately for Hillary, while the more interesting question is why some at the Kremlin appear to be passionately for Trump," Budowsky said.

Past reports and books have spotlighted frosty relations between the Clintons and the Obamas. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama competed for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

The Clinton campaign and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The leaked emails are the latest documents about the 2016 presidential election that have been published by WikiLeaks. Last week, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee and other political institutions to influence the U.S. election. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied connections between the site and Russia.