Hillary Clinton's Response to a Bank Robber in a Hillary Mask: 'Should I Be Flattered?'

The latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails released in response to a VICE News FOIA lawsuit shows some of the current presidential candidate's lighter moments.
October 31, 2015, 1:00am
Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA

When a masked gunman wearing a Hillary Clinton mask robbed a bank in Virginia in December 2010, the former Secretary of State wondered if she "should be flattered… even a little bit?"

"Do you think there could be copycats? Do you think the guy chose that mask or just picked up the nearest one? Please keep me informed as the case unfolds—" Clinton wrote. "On another matter, can you believe [Republican Congressman from Indiana] Dan Burton will be the chair of one of the House subcommittees [Europe and Eurasia] we'll have to deal w [sic]? Irony and satire are the only sane responses."

Clinton's reaction to the news was disclosed in an email, one of 7,000 pages of communications the State Department released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by VICE News. The emails were sent between 2009 and 2012, and are the sixth release the State Department has made in response to a court order in VICE News's FOIA lawsuit that called for monthly releases of the documents.

The fact that Clinton's response is several sentences is notable given that a majority of her responses in other emails released by the State Department contain just a few words, such as "Pls [please] print."

David Kendall, Clinton's attorney, conducted some research and discovered, according to an email marked "attorney-client privileged/confidential" that the masked Hillary-masked gunman was the first bank robber to choose a Democrat.

"By my quick research, former President Nixon masks lead the way (perhaps not surprisingly) with 11 reported instances, followed by masks of the second President Bush (5 reported instances), and those of President Reagan (3)," Kendall wrote.

As for Burton's elevation to chairman of the subcommittee, Kendall said there was only one "rational response": "strong alcoholic drink!"

Burton suggested in the late '90s that then–President Bill Clinton's White House counsel Vince Foster, who committed suicide, was murdered. He said of Bill Clinton, according to a report in Salon, "If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened [regarding Foster's death], [Clinton would be] gone. This guy's a scumbag. That's why I'm after him."

In another email dated April 3, 2012, Clinton's senior advisor apologized profusely for keeping Clinton waiting.

"I know it's your least favorite pastime," Philippe Reines wrote. "ENTIRELY my fault for not playing it much safer in case the time shifted. After all these years, I know better."

To which Clinton responded, "Here's my question: on this new [Black]berry can I get smiley faces?"

"For email, no, I don't think so — you need to type them out manually like :) for happy, or :-I I if you want to express anger at my tardiness. For text messaging, the chart might be there in the lower right, next to where you type the message. If it's not, I THINK that if you type :) it MIGHT automatically convert it into a symbol," Reines responded.

Clinton's emails did touch on far more serious topics, such as settlements in Israel, the surge in violence in Afghanistan, and updates on Benghazi, Libya, which included an urgent request for baby milk, medicine, gas, and diesel. Clinton responded by asking Huma Abedin, her deputy chief of staff, "Can we arrange shipments of what's requested?"

Another email, dated February 7, 2012, sent to Clinton and several of her aides by Anne Marie-Slaughter, the State Department's former director of policy and planning, asked whether NATO and the Arab League could agree on a joint military strike to stop the slaughter of civilians in the Syrian city of Homs.

"I know all the barriers/obstacles/etc, but couldn't NATO and the Arab League meet together and decide on a joint military strike to stop this?" Slaughter wrote. "NATO would be there b/c of Turkey. Isn't this a case of better to ask forgiveness than permission? Argument would be that situation has changed radically since Saturday."

Clinton did not respond.

Another email Clinton received five days later from her advisor Jacob Sullivan, marked "sensitive but unclassified," contained updates on the conflict in Syria.

Sullivan wrote, "See last item: AQ [Al Qaeda] is on our side in Syria. Otherwise, things have basically turned out as expected."

Thousands of Clinton's emails contain copies of news reports and commentary about news reports on a wide range of domestic and international issues that the Democratic presidential frontrunner received during her tenure.

One email dated March 15, 2012 was highly critical about NBC News coverage of a story, the content of which is unclear. But it does note that in order to rebut the story the State Department would have had to provide emails to "prove our side, which I'm sure would have to go through rigorous legal vetting."

"This was clearly an agenda-laden job that brian Williams and kate snow didn't seem to comfortable with," wrote Caitlin Kevorick, then a senior State Department aide [all sic]. "It was bad. There's no question, but toria's [Victoria Nuland, State Department spokesman] tone and poise were incredibly clutch. They used a bunch of broil of S [Secretary Clinton] without saying anything to me, despite my grilling, but the broil [sic] is public footage and it never blames S [Secretary Clinton] if anything it shows her 'fix it now" mentality and that this can't be tolerated … Surprisingly the person who was the worst during the day was [NBC News reporter] Andrea Mitchell who teased the piece on her show."

Clinton's emails also included an April 13, 2011 bullet point list of "disruptions that may impact your remaining tenure" written by Alec Ross, Clinton's senior advisor for innovation, several of which were borne out:

  • Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates' designation of cyber-space as a theater of war will be validated as nations build their defensive and offensive capabilities in a cyber-space arms race. Resulting asymmetries in capability will stress relations with emerging powers.
  • Technology/social media would devolve power from governments and large institutions to individuals and small institutions, enabling almost leaderless political movements. We saw this with Tunisia and Egypt, and now in Syria.
  • Powerful "virtual organizations" would emerge with globally distributed members and followers instead of paid staff, and a Web address instead of a street address. We saw this with Wikileaks.
  • Authoritarian regimes would respond to increased Internet access by tightening restrictions on free expression and heightening surveillance for the purpose of squelching dissent. We see this throughout the Middle East, and much of the Caucuses and Southeast Asia.

Many of the emails were heavily redacted, including one about Wikileaks and another about Occupy Wall Street, which VICE News' FOIA attorney, Ryan James, will challenge after the State Department releases all of Clinton's emails at the end of January.

Clinton turned over about 30,000 of her emails to the State Department late last year. A State Department spokesman said Friday more than 200 of Clinton's emails in the latest batch were retroactively classified, bringing the total to about 700. Since last August, reviewers from five of the 17 intelligence agencies have been poring over Clinton's emails in an effort to identify any information in the communications that they believe is classified and should be withheld from disclosure.

The White House has now weighed in and said it would seek to block the release of some of emails Clinton exchanged with Obama, citing "longstanding policy" to keep presidential communications secret while Obama is still in office, according to a report published by The New York Times, citing a White House official.

The New York Times first revealed in March that Clinton had exclusively used a private email account to conduct official government business during the four years she served as the nation's top diplomat. Open government experts suggested that Clinton's decision to use her personal email was an attempt to thwart FOIA requests. Clinton's work-related emails are considered government records and are supposed to be preserved on the State Department's servers in accordance with the Federal Records Act so that journalists, historians, and the public can access them.

Clinton said that she had decided to use a private email account to conduct official business because it was "convenient." She has also repeatedly denied that she sent or received classified information over her email account, which was connected to a private server operated out of her home in New York.

Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold