Clinton campaign manager John Podesta apparently thinks Eric Garner’s death was justified


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just nabbed the endorsement of DeRay Mckesson, an influential voice in the Movement for Black Lives. But her 2016 campaign manager, John Podesta, once believed that police actions were justified in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, according to an email published by Wikileaks.

Garner, the 43-year-old unarmed black man who died in July 2014 on a Staten Island street corner after New York police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, became a lightning rod for Black Lives Matter protests nationwide. But if a leaked email conversation with Herbert Sandler, a retired New York banker and philanthropist, is any indication, Podesta apparently disagreed with a widely held opinion that New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo — who used the chokehold maneuver on Garner — had acted excessively.

"I just saw the film," Sandler wrote in an email to Podesta on Dec. 4, 2014, in reference to smartphone video footage that shows Garner pleading with Pantaleo, "I can't breathe."

"I do not agree with you," he told Podesta.


Responding a day later, Podesta wrote, "You and the rest of the world. I'll go back and look at the whole film rather than a six second clip."

The emails were exchanged in the few days that followed a Dec. 3, 2014, decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Pantaleo. The non-indictment sparked nationwide protests, including massive demonstrations across New York City.

Sandler, a bundler for a Clinton super PAC, explained in the email his reason for believing New York Police Department officers were wrong in the Garner case:

Guy stopped for selling loose cigarettes. Surrounded by at least four police officers. One officer seizes him in an illegal choke hold to take him down (illegal under clearly known police department rules). I saw no threatening gestures by Garner which suggested the need to take him down. Even if the choke hold were not illegal, the actions by the four officers was clearly excessive.

Emails from Podesta's personal Gmail account have been part of the latest data dump by WikiLeaks, revealing previously private conversations between the campaign manager and other staffers about strategy around the Movement for Black Lives. The aforementioned email isn't the only one showing how the Garner case has been discussed in the Clinton inner circle.

It's entirely possible that Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff who is reportedly on the short list to be Hillary Clinton's top aide, has changed his mind about the Garner case. The matter, which has been the subject of a federal probe, languished amid disagreements between civil rights lawyers at the U.S. Department of Justice and investigating agents from the FBI over whether there is evidence of Pantaleo criminally violating Garner's civil rights.

Clinton, a former U.S. Senator from New York, made criminal justice reform a centerpiece of her 2016 campaign. Her platform calls for curtailing use of force by police in an effort to address the seemingly unending use of excessive and lethal force against African-Americans.

But it may be difficult for some of Clinton's supporters — those who believe there is a systemic problem in how officers police POC communities — to square Podesta's views with Clinton's platform. Erica Garner, the eldest daughter of Eric Garner, who is adamantly not a Clinton supporter, raised questions about Podesta's email via Twitter on Thursday.

"The [personal] equals policy," Garner tweeted to Podesta's Twitter account on Thursday, in an apparent expression of her doubts about the Clinton campaign's sincerity on criminal justice issues.

Mckesson, the BLM activist who endorsed Clinton in an op-ed Wednesday, said he recognizes that politics requires compromise. "But we never compromise on our values and beliefs," he wrote in the op-ed. "I will vote for Clinton and plan to continue to challenge her on her platform and these commitments when she's in the White House."

Here's hoping he and other supporters really do stay on Clinton about policing reforms in light of the apparent inconsistencies in message among her inner circle.