Leaked documents published by Wikileaks show that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has advocated in private for free trade and open borders in a way that could be at variance with public pledges she has made to voters.
In the latest dump of documents that appears designed to influence the November 8 election, excerpts from paid speeches Clinton made to business groups show she told bankers behind closed doors that she favored "open trade and open borders" and believes Wall Street executives themselves should help write financial reform laws.
Clinton's campaign blamed the leaks on Russia, noting that U.S. intelligence agencies for the first time earlier on October 7 fingered Russia for being behind most of the recent leaks aimed at disrupting the election, including those coming from Wikileaks.
"Earlier today, the U.S. government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized Wikileaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump's candidacy," Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said in a reference to Clinton's Republican-nominated rival for the presidency.
"We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by [Wikileaks founder] Julian Assange, who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton."
The sometimes blunt leaked statements, which were mostly made in 2013 and 2014 before Clinton officially began her run for the presidency, could provide fodder for those who say her statements criticizing Wall Street or questioning free-trade efforts are not genuine.
Wikileaks said the private speeches, which Clinton herself has refused to release to the public, netted her at least $26.1 million in speaking fees.
The speech excerpts were included in e-mails exchanged among Clinton's political staff, including campaign chairman John Podesta. Wikileaks did not say where it got the e-mails and transcripts or who hacked Podesta's e-mails. The breach covered years of messages, some sent as recently as last month.
From the e-mails, it appears campaign staff had read all Clinton's past speeches and identified passages that could be problematic for the candidate if they were to become public.
One excerpt put Clinton squarely in the free-trade camp, a position she has retreated on significantly during the 2016 campaign.
In a talk to a Brazilian bank in 2013, she said her "dream" is "a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders" and asked her audience to think of what doubling American trade with Latin America "would mean for everybody in this room."
Trump has made opposition to trade deals a cornerstone of his campaign in a populist stand which has put pressure on Clinton to spurn free-trade deals she supported in the past, like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Podesta posted a series of tweets on October 7 after the documents were leaked, calling the disclosures a Russian hack and raising questions about whether some of the documents could have been altered.
"I'm not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump," Podesta wrote. "Don't have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked."
Podesta's comments came just hours after U.S. officials publicly accused the Russian government of directing cyberattacks on U.S. political targets in an attempt to interfere with the elections.
Commenting on the leaks, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said: "It's not hard to see why she fought so hard to keep her transcripts of speeches to Wall Street banks paying her millions of dollars secret."
Clinton in her speeches to Wall Street audiences said both Democrats and Republicans depend on the world's largest concentration of billionaires for campaign contributions, and the government should not attempt to reform the financial sector without input from Wall Street.
"You are the smartest people," she said.
Clinton also revealed in a 2013 speech to a housing group that she believes political leaders often must take two different positions on issues -- a public one and a private one -- as they angle to make deals and enact laws.
"It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be," Clinton said. "But if everybody's watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position."
With reporting by AP and Wall Street Journal