By Jonathan Easley and Katie Bo Williams - 10-28-16 06:01 AM EDT
Hillary Clinton has failed to effectively contain the damage from the release of thousands of campaign chairman John Podesta's personal emails, giving new ammunition to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
The fallout from the daily releases have raised concerns among Democrats that even if Clinton is elected president, the controversy will follow her into the White House.
The Clinton campaign has refused to confirm the authenticity of the emails and has sought to cast doubt on them at every turn, noting that the exchanges were stolen by Russian hackers and could have been doctored.
They have sought to deflect attention from the contents of the emails by describing the hacks as an unprecedented interference in the U.S. election by foreign adversaries that threatens the nation's sovereignty.
And they have lashed out at the media for covering what they describe as trivial political minutia rather than the national security implications of the hacked emails.
None of it has been enough to staunch the daily flow of new emails published by Wikileaks, or the media's interest in the contents of the emails.
Instead, interest appears to be ramping up over the final two weeks before Election Day.
Anyone with an Internet connection can dig into the thousands of pages of emails, which have revealed infighting among Clinton's top advisers, as well as new details about the millions of dollars flowing into the Clinton's charitable foundation and personal bank accounts.
The campaign took another hit on Wednesday when a close confidante confirmed the contents of one of the more damaging emails, undermining the suggestion that they may have been doctored.
The email and attached memo, penned by longtime Clinton Foundation fundraiser Doug Band, has led to renewed calls for the charitable foundation to be shuttered if Hillary Clinton takes office in January.
Democratic strategists say that while Republican nominee Donald Trump's peccadilloes have so far largely distracted from the alleged revelations, Clinton will lose that cover on Nov. 8 if she's elected president.
"That's a big part of the Clinton problem, they're so stubborn dealing with this stuff," Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said, referring to the revelations about the Clinton Foundation. "They refuse to acknowledge anything and deal with it. Basically they're strategy as far as I can see is whistle past the graveyard and just hope no one pays attention to it."
"That was easy to do because of Trump, but they won't be able to do that after Nov. 8."
The Clinton campaign's struggles to put the daily stream of new revelations behind them comes as another email from WikiLeaks shows campaign officials were blindsided by fallout from the candidate's use of a personal server while secretary of State.
"Did you have any idea of the depth of this story?" Podesta allegedly asked campaign manager Robby Mook in an email late on the evening of March 2, 2015, roughly a month before Clinton launched her bid for the White House.
"Nope," Mook responded after 1 a.m. that night. "We brought up the existence of emails in reserach [sic] this summer but were told that everything was taken care of."
Since then, it has been a steady stream of embarrassing revelations that have begun to generate rumblings of concern among Clinton's allies and have left Democrats on edge about what might come next.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed to have more than 50,000 emails from Podesta's account when he began releasing them earlier this month. 35,000 have been made public as of Thursday, leaving 15,000 yet in reserve.
"Everybody just need to fasten their seatbelts and get ready for a really rocky landing," said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga. " The next 11 days are going to test everyone's mettle."
The infighting that has been exposed is expected, but embarrassing nonetheless.
In one fierce string of exchanges, campaign chairman John Podesta clashed with longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines. The encounter ended with Podesta and Reines agreeing that the former should not be involved with the campaign.
In another, Clinton's aides expressed frustration with her refusal to apologize for her email set-up and called her political instincts "terrible."
And Chelsea Clinton pushed to have the family separate itself from Foundation fundraiser Doug Band, who responded by lashing out at Chelsea as a "spoiled brat."
That development led to perhaps the most damaging revelation to date: A memo written by Band in which he defended his work for the family by detailing how his consulting firm solicited donations from corporations and foreign governments for the Clinton Foundation, while also arranging lucrative personal business deals for Bill Clinton.
That memo could be a major problem for Clinton if she wins the White House.
It has already reinvigorated the Trump campaign as polls show a tightening race with less than two weeks to go before Election Day.
"The more e-mails Wikileaks releases, the more the lines between the Clinton Foundation, the Secretary of State's office, and the Clintons' personal finances are blurred," Trump said at a campaign stop in Ohio on Thursday.
"If the Clintons were willing to play this fast and loose with their criminal enterprise when they weren't in the White House, just imagine what they will do if they are given the chance to use the Oval Office to pad their pockets."
The Clinton campaign has strongly insinuated that the emails have been doctored, a defense that has backfired on several occasions.
Acting Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile has struggled to defend herself against allegations, revealed in one email, that she tipped the Clinton campaign off to a question ahead of a town-hall event with Bernie Sanders.
That led to an explosive interview with Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, in which Brazile said she was being persecuted, and "as a Christian woman I understand persecution."
"I am not going to try to validate falsified information," Brazile said.
Brazile went on to deny that she ever passed a question on to the Clinton campaign, but declined to dispute the veracity of the email in which she appears to make the offer.
CNN's Jake Tapper called the Wikileaks revelation around Brazile "horrifying."
Indeed, the entire episode has emboldened the press.
"Let me go to bottom line: There is no way under any circumstance the Clinton Foundation should not be operating if she becomes president," Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, told WGN Radio in Chicago on Thursday. "I just don't see how they can keep that going.
"She's got an opportunity, again, if she doesn't do half measures here, if they shut it down to at least limit the political damage," he said.
Most Democrats believe the conclusions being drawn from the emails are too murky to matter.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Wednesday told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the impact on the campaign "has really become part of the background noise, because [the releases] have been so frequent, so constant, so overwhelming."
Many Democrats believe the public is equally alarmed by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange interfering in the election, and they're certain that the emails will be discounted for their connection to Russian hackers.
That line of thinking has been bolstered by several prominent Republicans, who have similarly raised concerns about Russian interference in the U.S. election.
"Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement warning fellow Republicans against exploiting the contents of the emails.
And Democrats believe that Republicans will overplay their hand on the emails.
House Oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says Republicans in Congress are preparing for "years" worth of investigations into a potential Clinton administration.
"Republicans have voiced endless interest in the pursuit of investigations, but it is to their own peril," said Bill Burton, a former spokesman for President Obama. "At some point, Republicans will be punished for not focusing on actually making progress in Washington. If the 1990s are any indication, investigations only made Team Clinton stronger and made their enemies suffer."