Clinton campaign says it got ‘an assist’ from Bernie Sanders at the debate

Hunter Walker
·White House Correspondent

LAS VEGAS — John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, thinks it got help from an unlikely source during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate at the Wynn Las Vegas.

Podesta told Yahoo News he thought Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) “gave us an assist” by declaring there had been “enough” coverage of the scandal surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. Speaking in the spin room after the debate, Podesta suggested Sanders’ comments about Clinton’s email would benefit both candidates.

”I thought he was gracious and I thought that he probably gave himself an assist and he gave us an assist, which is that he reflected, I think, where, again, most Democratic voters are,” Podesta said. “Like, let’s talk about the real issues and lets get off of this.”

Clinton was initially asked about her emails by debate moderator Anderson Cooper. She noted it was a “mistake” to use a personal email address for official State Department business. Clinton also said she has been as transparent as possible about the issue and emphasized the fact she is testifying about the emails in front of the House Benghazi committee later this month. In light of those things, Clinton suggested she was eager to move on to “talking about the issues that matter to the American people.”

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Sanders, who has been gaining on Clinton in the polls but is still firmly in second place, stepped in and said he also would prefer to discuss “issues.”

”Let me say something that may not be great politics, but I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” he said.

Clinton and Sanders subsequently shared a laugh and a handshake.

Yahoo News asked Podesta whether the Clinton campaign was “grateful” to Sanders for his comments.

”I thought he was gracious and I respect him for it,” Podesta said of Sanders. “I thought that … he reflected my view, which is, I’m sick of talking about the damn emails.”

Sanders also discussed his comments about Clinton’s emails as he dealt with a veritable press stampede in the spin room after the debate. He described his remarks as “kind of a spontaneous response.”

One reporter asked Sanders whether he felt like he had given a “big gift” to Clinton. Sanders insisted he wasn’t weighing in on the questions over Clinton’s email use and was simply suggesting the issue has been incorrectly covered by the press.

”I don’t know that I gave her a big gift, but what I said was true. Look, this country faces enormous crises,” Sanders said. “You have heard me say this before, that the media does not do a good job in focusing on what the American people want to see focused on. They want to know why they are getting poorer and everybody else is getting richer.”

Sanders alluded to the investigations into the emails being conducted by Congress and the FBI. He argued it would be best for reporters to let the “process” continue on its own and focus on “real issues of why the American middle class is disappearing” in the meantime.

“You know and I know that if I had attacked Hillary Clinton viciously it would be on the front pages of every paper. You would run it over and over again,” Sanders said, adding, “That’s not what the American people want. So what I was saying very simply is, ‘Enough of the emails.’ There is a process, we’ll see what happens.”

Sanders was also asked what he would say to his supporters who think there are “legitimate” questions about Clinton’s emails. He stressed that his comments were focused on what he sees as excessive coverage of the issue.

“I gave my view and there may well be legitimate concerns. What I said is that there is a process underway. I didn’t say forget it, forget the issue, ignore the issue,” Sanders explained. “There is a process. What I said was to you, to CNN, and to CBS, and to NBC.”