ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Hillary Clinton has been dealing with a scandal of her own. WikiLeaks has published her campaign chair John Podesta's personal emails. They reveal some embarrassing things about the Clinton campaign, and NPR's Scott Detrow has been reading through those emails. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey there.
SHAPIRO: What's so embarrassing about these emails?
DETROW: Well, there - there's no big picture scandal like on the level of the 11-year-old "Access Hollywood" tape that's shaken up the Trump campaign, but there's a lot in here that fits into existing criticisms of Hillary Clinton.
Take the Trump speech that Sarah was just talking about. As Trump railed on the media, he talked about a WikiLeaks revelation about Donna Brazile. She's the interim chair of the DNC, but she's also worked as a longtime CNN commentator. There is an email in WikiLeaks where Brazile sent the Clinton campaign a question that Clinton might be asked in an upcoming town hall.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: The emails show that the Clinton machine is so closely and irrevocably tied to the media organizations that she - listen to this - is given the questions and answers in advance of her debate performance with Bernie Sanders.
DETROW: Now, it wasn't a debate. It was a town hall. But Clinton was asked a near identical question at the Town Hall, and this gives Trump a credible anecdote as he defends himself against a wave of critical stories.
SHAPIRO: Trump also likes to bring up supposed conversations that the Clinton campaign has had with the Justice Department. Trump says the department fed information to the campaign about investigations. One do these emails show in regard to that?
DETROW: Well, it's not quite that. The Trump campaign says the WikiLeaks email show exchanges between the Clinton camp and the Department of Justice about that FBI investigation into Clinton's private server. The email in question is several months before that investigation even began.
Press Secretary Brian Fallon refers to a conversation he had with, quote, "DOJ folks" about legal proceedings surrounding the open records release of Clinton's emails. Again - not a conversation about an investigation, but when Trump's argument is that the FBI didn't recommend charges for political reasons, you know, any contact between the campaign and the Justice Department becomes fodder for Republicans.
SHAPIRO: What else stands out to you in these emails?
DETROW: There was another email that the Trump campaign really latched on and made headlines over the last days. It's a little complicated, so we'll walk through it. It has to do with insults against Catholics. This is a conversation from 2011 - so far before there was any Clinton campaign. It's between Podesta, communications director Jennifer Palmieri and John Halpin, who works at the Center for American Progress which Podesta headed.
Halpin makes some insulting comments about Catholicism. He says it has backwards gender relations and systematic thought. And then Palmieri writes back saying that she imagines high-profile conservatives who are Catholic - the quote is, "think it's the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion."
Now the Trump campaign is trying to make hay of this, saying it insults Catholics. This is a time where the Trump campaign's really trying to rally its base and get people behind them, so they focused on this. Palmieri says she is Catholic and that she doesn't remember this email exchange at all.
SHAPIRO: Many people in the Clinton campaign are suggesting that this hack can be tied to Russia and that the documents might be altered. Do we know if the documents are actually genuine?
DETROW: There's not been a declarative statement about any of the documents that have made news saying this is absolutely forged. But the Russia tie certainly is real. Several outlets are reporting the FBI is blaming Russia for this hack just like federal investigators have focused on Russian ties for the other hacks of the DNC and other political groups.
The Clinton campaign is trying to focus on that and the fact that Russia's trying to influence this election and also focus on the fact that Trump advisers like Roger Stone have been cheering this hack, even tweeting hints about it coming beforehand.
Again, to take a cynical political view of this for a moment, though, it's much preferable for the Clinton campaign in their view to talk about that aspect as opposed to explaining some of the embarrassing revelations coming out about these emails.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Scott Detrow talking about the latest Clinton campaign emails to come out via WikiLeaks. Thanks, Scott.
DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.