The Slatest

This Is Not the John Podesta Smoking Gun You Were Looking For

John Podesta looks on before the vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, on Oct. 4.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

At 10:57 p.m. on March 2, 2015—the day the New York Times published its story about how Hillary Clinton conducted government business on a private email server—now-Clinton campaign chairman sent an email to longtime Clinton adviser Cheryl Mills. “On another matter….and not to sound like Lanny,” he wrote, “but we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later.”

To some publications and commentators, this newly revealed email is a smoking gun, in which John Podesta is instructing Mills to delete the hell out of every possible email everywhere. One can be certain that this is the interpretation Donald Trump and his campaign will be running with during the last week of the campaign.


But what if I told you that “dump” has another meaning? Anyone who has followed the news about Clinton’s email over the past 19 months should be familiar with this alternate use of dump, seeing as how it appears in common phrases like “another Clinton email dump from the State Department,” or “WikiLeaks just dumped another batch of John Podesta’s emails.” (This March 2, 2015 Podesta email can be found in one of these very WikiLeaks “dumps.”) A “document dump” is shorthand for when documents are released to the public. To dump is to disclose, though perhaps on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend.


The reference to “Lanny” is telling. Lanny Davis, the D.C. lawyer/lobbyist/crisis communications hired gun, is a Clinton confidant whom even other Clinton confidants find annoying. He has an unflattering history of clients. But he is a crisis communications guy, and one of his preaching points is to get ahead of a story by disclosing information to prevent a little scandal from blowing up into a big one. He wrote a whole book about this in 2013. As the private server story broke in March 2015, Davis recommended disclosure. On a March 9, 2015, television appearance, Davis urged Clinton to “get every possible e-mail out.”


In a separate email thread from the night of March 2, 2015, Podesta and other Clintonites were discussing a Jeb Bush tweet that read, “Transparency matters. Unclassified ‪@HillaryClinton emails should be released. You can see mine, here.”

“Don’t even need to think like Lanny to see this coming,” Podesta wrote in a message sent about a half-hour after the “dump all those emails” one.

Podesta wasn’t excited for Hillary Clinton’s emails to be “dumped” but thought she needed to get the release over with. The campaign, and the candidate, seemed to agree.

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