Our report today about Philippe Reines’ use of a personal email account to conduct official business draws from 72 pages of emails between the Clinton acolyte and reporters in March and April of 2010.
Besides revealing that Reines lied about using his Gmail account in the course of his work for the State Department, the cache of correspondence—available in full on Gawker and DocumentCloud—offers a rare insight into the otherwise hidden machinery of Washington’s notoriously self-involved press corps.
Here are some highlights:
Reines Challenged a Politico Reporter to a Lie-Detector Test
Sometime in March 2010, Reines appears to have asked another Clinton aide, Caroline Alter, to forward several heated exchanges he had with two Politico reporters, Glenn Thrush and Ben Smith (the latter of whom is now editor of BuzzFeed), when Reines was working for Clinton when she was a U.S. Senator—all so that Reines could forward those exchanges to Times reporter Mark Leibovich, who responded with: “For purely voyeuristic reasons, that’s some great reading!”
The spat was over Caroline Kennedy’s brief flirtation with taking over Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, which she vacated to move to the State Department. Here is Reines’ exchange with Politico’s Glenn Thrush, who accused Reines of asking Clinton supporters to throw cold water on Kennedy’s candidacy. Reines responded by cc-ing Thrush’s editors and challenging him to a lie-detector test. (Like the other emails in this post, we’ve formatted the exchange to read more easily).
From: Glenn Thrush
To: Reines, Philippe (Clinton)
Sent: Sun Dec 21 22:16:33 2008
Subject: I don’t think
The story about u guys ordering anti ck [Caroline Kennedy] proxies to shut up is true
And I’ve heard u r one of the hrc people urging people to be tough on caroline
Just giving u a heds up
I love the ‘heads up’ at 10pm, which I take to mean I’ll read this tomorrow
So you’re contention is that I am chastising people for their negative comments and simultaneously encouraging them? Utterly absurd and completely untrue.
You’re about to move squarely into the realm of reporting blatant lies without any regard for the truth.
And the worst part is Glenn, I suspect you know that - but in your desperation to meet your monthly quota of ‘news’ you just don’t care.
Couple of things:
—its interesting you would assume I would ambush you with something like this when I never have and never would do such a thing. Apparently three years of working with me hasn’t taught u a thing. Sad.
—it’s true and you know it
—I was giving you a head’s up that I was reporting this, earlier in the process than anyone else have and you reward me by Emailing my boss. I’m surprised u didn’t call your Mikey to put it in Playbook.
Ahhh, whatta mensch.
Reines (cc’ing Jim VandeHei, John Harris, and Mike Allen):
So there’s no misunderstanding here Glenn, I’m cc’ing your bosses, as well as “my Mikey” sine you needlessly referenced and belittled him.
You can pretend all you want that you have credible sourcing. What you can’t pretend is that there is any better source on my own actions or thoughts than me. And i’m telling you that it doesn’t get more wrong than this, and you’re trafficking in lies.
But if you’re still not sure, how about we all conduct a little test and make this a teaching moment. Since Politico in the past has often covered the mechanics of reporting, this could be good for all involved, a story about bullshit sourcing, people who intentionally lie out of self gain or malice. How about Politico finds a polygraph expert, must be a million here in DC. I’ll submit to it, your source can submit to it, and while we’re at it, you can too. No question about this topic will be off limits As long as one of your editors supervises the test on your source, I don’t need to know.
Whomever is lying to Politico, pay. Both for the cost, and in print. Politico wins either way, and has a rather interesting story in the process. And the truth prevails.
I’m as serious as a heart attack about this. Put up or shut up.
Thrush (also cc’ing VandeHei, Harris, and Allen):
Thanks for focusing on an inflammatory typo
How time did you spend on this?
Reines (still cc’ing the aforementioned trio):
This is simple Glenn
Yes or No
You have nothing to lose here. At worst, you scratch one more source off your credibility list.
Only they have something to lose. Or if I’m lying, I have a ton to lose. You can use a barrel of ink to burn me for making a stink and then lying about it.
You guys could milk this for days
So again: Yes or No
I can be anywhere in 30 minutes
Around the same time, Reines was arguing with Smith about a Page Six item Smith had picked up, which claimed that Clinton returned a $2,300 donation from Kennedy out of spite over Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama in the Democratic primary. Reines explained that the donation had been returned because it was to Clinton’s general election fund, which would not be able to spend money after she lost the primary. Or, in Reines’ charming formulation: “BECAUSE IT WAS A GENERAL ELECTION CONTRIBUTION YOU MORON.”
After much antagonistic back-and-forth—at one point a bemused Smith wrote, “you are truly impossible to deal with”—Reines apologized, blaming his frustration on a long international flight.
From: Reines, Philippe (Clinton)
Sent: Tue 12/30/2008 12:0S PM
To: Ben Smith
Subject: DOES ANYBODY
Do their own reporting anymore?
Page Six is wrong
And now you are because you can’t even bother to email and say “Hey, is this true?”
Smith (in response):
I checked opensecrets!
so why’d she return caroline’s money?
BECAUSE IT WAS A GENERAL ELECTION CONTRIBUTION YOU MORON
It was returned along with EIGHT THOUSAND other people on 8/28 the day it legally HAD TO
Her primary contribution went nowhere
You’re the fourth person today doing a correction (I hope). Daily News is doing one, LA Times doing one.
I mean, come on people
you are truly impossible to deal with.
I am impossible?
We’re going to send each other 30 email about this, when 1 from you and 1 reply from me would have done the trick
You people are literally like a herd, nobody thinks for themselves. You all go to such great lengths to have things multiple sourced
EXCEPT when someone else has reported it, then it just gets repeated and repeated
On 6/29/07 she and her husband wrote a single check to HCFP for $9200
They each double maxed
And they each got their GE portion returned on 8/28/08 - it’s clearly marked as such
We kept the $4600 primary part
But everyone loooves the story that we returned the money in spite, so that’s what you see
Huh. Doesn’t seem to show up in the database
but that aside — i’m confused. It was earmarked for the general? She hadn’t maxed out in the primary. I hadn’t realized you guys raised the second $2300 from people without raising the first.
I’m happy to send you an Image of the check as long as you treat it OTR since it has their personal Info on it
nah, that’s fine. and I’m sorry you guys or the FEC entered the data wrong. But no need for insults.
Since when are you so sensitive?
And no need for the passive aggressive response
i’m not sensitive. and it wasn’t meant to be _passive_ aggressiv. when you’re an asshole on the record, it typically goes on the record.
Then post every word I sent you Ben, not the one out of 500 that suits your need
Reines (two hours later):
I’m sorry Ben, you’re right. Was out of line. My apologies. Just been frustrating playing whack a mole with this, feels like the epitome of people assuming the worst of us, not giving her the benefit of the doubt when in fact it was a machine that cut 7,850 checks automatically.
But you weren’t the trigger, should have made my point more constructively, you would have been open to the explanation without the ranting.
I think you were the recipient of my displeasure with Delta Airlines for the 15 hour flight I endured overnight from the Middle East.
Have a Happy New Year
Well, at least I can’t have you arrested when the flight lands.
My checking the vox that I’d come in contact with livestock almost took care of that.
Reines Begged New York Times Reporter to Criticize Politico Reporter for Criticizing Reines
Among the stranger discoveries in these emails is the heretofore unknown relationship between Reines and New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, one of the more popular political writers in Washington. We quoted from their exchanges about Politico at length in our other post today, but perhaps the most revealing—in terms of how Reines works with Leibovich—occurred in an April 15, 2010 exchange in which Reines asks Leibovich to note that Politico’s Ben Smith is obsessed with criticizing him:
From: Mark Leibovich
Subject: can i use this on the record???
Sent: April 15 2010 11:28 AM
1) I told Laura Rozen Friday afternoon that the chances are “Less than none.” And that “Something being a sexy media story shouldn’t be confused with truth.”
I have to live with Laura so don’t want to call her out by name, but if you want to say:
When asked on Friday afternoon by Politico whether there was any chance Clinton would be nominated, Reines said, “Less than none.” And added, “Something being a sexy media story shouldn’t be confused with truth.”
BUT, if you are mentioning Ben Smith and the PJ line a sentence or two later — which you should — then need you to somehow note that he saw in PJ’s statement what he wanted to (basically took advantage of him), and that point I picked up the phone to the WH so we could all shut them down finally
Can’t you in passing note that Smith has taken “an unusual interest in hitting” Reines
I’m just doing a really fast, punchy ticktock of the episode
Now wait, Is that “sexy media line” something you said to laura, or are saying to me??
I said to Laura
I just don’t want Laura named. I need to keep my beef with them contained to Ben, not some crazy man exploding at Politico
And btw, you should call Ben out for calling it a trial balloon - the Wh told him HRC was never anything more than than their imagination
Wait, I thot you had a beef with thrush too???
(As far as we can tell, Leibovich did not comply with Reines’ request to bash Ben Smith.)
We wanted to give Leibovich the opportunity to comment on his—friendship? acquaintance? camaraderie?—with Reines. Here’s what he told us:
Thanks for reach-out.... I’ve known Philippe for a dozen years or so, pretty much always HRC-related. He’s like a lot of people I’ve come to know around DC..I see him around at things, deal with him as needed. We have breakfast about once or twice a year. I’ve always gotten along with Philippe. I’d call him a professional friend.
Leibovich is, among other things, the author of a (very entertaining) book about D.C. culture called This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Gilded Capital, the thesis of which is that “far from being hopelessly divided, [Washington] is in fact hopelessly interconnected.” So we asked him to dwell on the meta-meta-meta-ness of his professional friendship with one of the city’s more ruthless operators (who has devoted his professional career to one its most calculating politicians). Leibovich’s response:
Reading all that, in the cold light of day 5-plus years later, I’d put it in the “Excuse me while I become everything I mock” category. Thankfully, I’ve become a purely detached professional in these intervening/maturing years and am now fully beyond reproach.....
The New York Times Promised to Cover Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding Positively
In April 2010, as Chelsea Clinton was gearing up for her wedding to Marc Mezinsky, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor approached Reines with a proposal to feature the ceremony in the paper’s Vows column. Apparently anticipating that Reines might be apprehensive about letting the press into such a private and sensitive occasion, Kantor sought to assure him that the coverage would be “classy” and “respectful,” not “bitchy or snarky.” While it goes without saying that, as Kantor puts it, the Vows column “is not meant to embarrass the bride,” that doesn’t mean it has always been a positive venue. One wonders how Kantor would have, say, relayed the presence of a long-time aide to convicted sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein at the nuptials in a classy, respectful way.
From: Jodi Kantor
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 1:30 PM
To: Philippe Reines
Subject: unusual question
Can I sound you out on an unusual proposition? The paper has asked me to look into writing a Vows column about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.
I bet your immediate instinct goes something like: no, no, a thousand times no. But consider this: it could be a way for the couple to share a tiny it about their wedding in a classy, respectful way. The Vows columns all follow the same format: a little something about the couple and their courtship; a few descriptive details about their wedding. There is never anything bitchy or snarky in a Vows column, as my editor put it, it is not meant to embarrass the bride.
The column would run in the usual Sunday Styles space a week after the wedding. I’d have to attend the ceremony/reception for just a little bit, and we’d keep the whole thing secret until publication.
Thanks for giving this some thought, and let me know if it’s something we can discuss.
All the best,
Reines (at 1:31 p.m.):
My immediate instinct is to let the bride decide. I’ll forward your note to her.
Kantor: (at 1:33 p.m.):
Great. Needless to say, if she has questions, we’ll keep them totally off the record.
(A Times spokesperson tells Gawker that Kantor did not, in the end, attend Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.)
Jake Tapper Blasted NBC’s Coverage of Hillary Clinton Campaign
Way back in 2008, NBC News and MSNBC were the subject of intense criticism from Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and many third party commentators) over allegations that the networks’ coverage of Clinton was unfair and sexist. Two years later, the journalist Jake Tapper—then at ABC News and now at CNN—emailed Reines to complain about Clinton’s scheduled appearance on NBC’s Sunday politics show, Meet the Press. The network’s coverage in 2008, he argued, was “completely unfair and sexist.”
From: Tapper, Jake
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18 57:37 +000
So I guess all is forgiven if a network is completely unfair and sexist in its campaign coverage as long as they’re willing to buy new furniture.
Reines: Virginia already used the joke, and it wasn’t all that funny the first time
Tapper: Hers didn’t mention NBC’s sexist and unfair coverage of the campaign
Reines: Credit to her for not living in the past
Tapper: Wow. Ok.
Reines: Or when we do you would you like me to say to NBC, You’re right, ABC was the network that aired the heinously anti-WJC 9/11 series, I don’t know why we’re doing them.
Tapper: And ask Jay Carson no one was tougher on that movie in news coverage of it than me!
Reines: This isn’t worth arguing about. When you get new chairs, I’m sure the WH will send a cabinet member too
Tapper: Just reminding you that some of us were fair to Madam Secretary.
(Through a CNN spokesperson, Tapper declined to comment.)
This post is updating.