WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A longtime friend of Hillary Clinton played an outsized role in advising her on U.S. politics and even encouraged the then-secretary of state to exert influence over senior White House staff.
The State Department released emails on Monday that showed adviser Sid Blumenthal sent Clinton exhaustive memos on both foreign and domestic issues despite holding no formal government position.
Her close links to Blumenthal, a former aide to President Bill Clinton, could rebound on the former first lady as she runs for the Democratic nomination for the November 2016 presidential election.
She is under pressure for using a private email account instead of a government one when she served as America’s top diplomat from 2009-2013. Political opponents accuse her of sidestepping laws on transparency and record-keeping.
Under orders from a judge, the State Department released a new batch of 7,000 pages of Clinton emails from that period, casting some light on how she handled her job.
Taking a more active role in advising Clinton than was previously known, Blumenthal wrote frequently with opinions on foreign issues like the Middle East but also about U.S. politics as the 2010 midterm elections approached.
Blumenthal, a former journalist, asked Clinton and her husband to take a public stance against Tea Party Republicans.
“Urgently, the momentum of the far right needs to be blunted; it must be redefined; the political discussion must be shaped and shifted,” he wrote.
Also in 2010, Blumenthal encouraged Clinton to have the White House “rein in” Obama’s senior advisor, David Axelrod, for straying too much into the foreign policy area.
“Axelrod has enough to do fixing the domestic messes he’s made,” Blumenthal wrote, telling Clinton which of her aides should speak to a senior White House staffer about the issue.
Republicans in Congress have sought to put a spotlight on Blumenthal’s influence over Clinton on Libya as it descended into chaos in 2011. They say it was inappropriate for a personal friend with no official role to be advising a secretary of state
on detailed policy matters that are often sensitive.
In May, Clinton said Blumenthal’s advice helped her avoid being “caught in the bubble” of official information.
In an August 2010 series of emails about negotiations between Palestinians and Israel, Blumenthal offered Clinton advice on dealing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Don’t operate from blank slate or allow Bibi to set the terms,” Blumenthal wrote.
As a measure of the breadth of issues on which Blumenthal was advising Clinton, in December 2009 he offered his thoughts about the implications of an assault on former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Blumenthal emphasized that he thought it would be important for Obama to call Berlusconi to “express his concern about his health and wish him a speedy recovery, if he hasn’t done so already.”
The State Department said on Monday that about 150 more of Clinton’s work emails have recently been designated as containing classified information.
Clinton has said she sent no information via email that was classified at the time and received none marked that way.
Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Erin McPike, John Whitesides, Emily Stephenson and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Howard Goller