Sidney Blumenthal Gave Wide-ranging, Detailed Advice to Hillary Clinton, Emails Show

Newly released emails shed light on Hillary Clinton's stint as U.S. secretary of state, including difficulties fitting into Obama government.

Jonathan Allen and Alistair Bell
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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, June 14, 2015.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, June 14, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Allen and Alistair Bell

REUTERS - Hillary Clinton struggled to fit into the government of President Barack Obama after being appointed Secretary of State in 2009, according to emails released by the State Department on Tuesday.

They showed Clinton turning up for meetings that had been canceled and worrying about how much time she had with her new boss, revealing growing pains in the relationship between her and former election rival Obama in the early months of her time as America's top diplomat.

In an email to two aides on June 8, 2009, Clinton was unsure if the White House had held a Cabinet meeting and whether she should attend.

"I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go? If not, who are we sending?" Clinton wrote.

A State Department official wrote back that the government was holding a meeting, but not a full cabinet meeting that she needed to be at.

As Clinton sought to navigate her relationship with the Obama White House, she corresponded with several former aides and advisers to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

They included Sidney Blumenthal, a former White House speech writer, Sandy Berger, the former National Security Adviser and Mark Penn, who served as a political adviser to both Bill Clinton and to Hillary Clinton's 2008 White House bid.

As the Obama administration was conducting a review of its policy in Afghanistan, for example, Penn emailed her and advised her not to ignore the threat posed by the Taliban.

While they were fierce competitors on the campaign trail,f Clinton and Obama eventually struck up a cordial working relationship in the four years she spent as secretary of state.

As she runs for the White House again at the November, 2016 election, Clinton's relationship with her fellow Democrat will come under further scrutiny.

While she has aligned herself with the Obama administration on issues that are popular with the base of Democratic supporters such as immigration reform, she has also tried to make her own mark by distancing herself from Obama on trade.

Back in 2009, there were a few misunderstandings, according to an email Clinton sent about what she thought was a meeting at the White House.

"I arrived for the 10:15 mtg and was told there was no mtg," she wrote to aides. "This is the second time this has happened. What's up???" she asked.

The emails released on Tuesday are among some 30,000 work emails relating to Clinton that a judge has ordered to be released in batches after a controversy broke out earlier this year when she acknowledged using a personal email account rather than a government one for State Department business.

As she began her tenure, Clinton worried about perceptions that she was not meeting enough with the president, given that former President Richard Nixon used to see his secretary of state Henry Kissinger daily.

"In thinking about the Kissinger interview, the only issue I think that might be raised is that I see POTUS at least once a week while K saw Nixon everyday," she said in an email to a spokesman, using Washington shorthand for President of the United States.

"Do you see this as a problem?" she asked spokesman Philippe Reines.

Obama comparisons

Informal adviser Blumenthal showed concern in an email that the former first lady would be compared unfavorably to Obama as a public speaker.

"This speech can't afford to be lackluster. It will then be held up in invidious comparison to Obama's glittering best efforts. Your speech must have, amid the policies, a distinctive and authoritative voice," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton about an address she was going to give at a foreign policy think tank.

A controversial figure, Blumenthal has had ties to the Clinton family since Bill Clinton's White House years.

He gave Hillary Clinton detailed advice on issues ranging from British politics to Afghanistan and Iran even though he was not employed by the U.S. government.

Blumenthal seemed to act as a middle-man between Clinton and former British prime minister Gordon Brown on the Northern Ireland peace process, according to an email he sent in 2009.

Blumenthal was barred from a job at the State Department by aides to Obama because of lingering distrust over his role advising Clinton's run against Obama, according to The New York Times.

The adviser emailed Clinton on June 23 around 10 P.M. with the subject line, "Hillary: if you're up, give me a call. Sid." In the preceding days, he had sent her detailed memos on Iran's 2009 election crisis.

James Cole, a lawyer for Blumenthal, did not reply to an email requesting comment.

Blumenthal last month said he wrote to Clinton only as a friend and a private citizen.

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