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Bernie defended Clinton on her leaked emails — but he couldn't resist taking one shot

(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImag)

About one year ago, Bernie Sanders memorably told Hillary Clinton during a primary debate that the American people were “sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

It appears he still thinks they are. In an interview with the Washington Post published on Monday, Sanders downplayed talk that the Clinton campaign had disrespected the Vermont senator in internal emails hacked by WikiLeaks. (Some of the emails showed Clinton allies cursing at Sanders endorsers and referring to his proposals as emerging from a “leftie alternative universe.”)

“Trust me, if they went into our emails — I suppose which may happen, who knows — I’m sure there would be statements that would be less than flattering about, you know, the Clinton staff,” Sanders told the Post. “That’s what happens in campaigns.”

Sanders has a point. One of the challenges in evaluating WikiLeaks’ massive dump of the emails from John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, is that we don’t really have anything to compare it to. There is no trove of the emails from Donald Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway (or Corey Lewandowski or Paul Manafort). We do not have the internal exchanges of Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager — though, as Sanders suggests, they might be fascinating to see.

Sanders on Clinton’s team: “The way they do politics is very different”

The Podesta emails have revealed a lot about Clinton’s campaign operation. They show that her speeches and positions were subject to extensive internal debates, and suggest how crass political considerations often influenced her ultimate positions.

That’s certainly interesting, but it’s hard to contextualize. In the absence of a similar trove of leaked internal emails, it’s impossible to know what here reflects normal political maneuvering — and what represents something genuinely unique to Clinton’s team.

In his interview with Wagner, Sanders says that the Podesta emails don’t reveal anything disqualifying about Clinton. But he also hints that her campaign had an operation whose internal process differed dramatically from his, appearing to cite an exchange in which a half-dozen political staffers debated whether to include a joke about her emails.

Here’s Sanders:

The way they work is very, very different than the way we work. We did not have a committee deciding what kind of jokes I would be telling. In fact, we usually had me scrambling to write my speech on a yellow piece of paper, which I finished three minutes before I would go up there

They were much more prepared and much better organized and careful about what they were saying or not saying. … The way they do politics is very different.

Since endorsing Clinton in July, Sanders has praised Clinton for agreeing to a progressive platform, papered over their policy disagreements, and admitted that she won “fair and square.” But old wounds don’t heal overnight, and Sanders still clearly believes he was playing on an uneven playing field in the Democratic primary.