A newly released batch of hacked correspondence from Hillary Clinton’s campaign suggests a top aide was in touch with government officials about the release of her State Department emails, exchanges that prompted accusations of collusion from Republicans.
The messages, released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday, indicated that Justice Department employees may have communicated information to the campaign about the timing of the release. But at least some of the discussion appeared to have simply been updates on a court case related to the emails, information that was publicly available.
Brian Fallon, the campaign’s press secretary who had served in a similar role at the Justice Department, told other campaign aides in May 2015 that he had just received information about a case from someone at the department.
“DOJ just filed a briefing saying the gov’t proposes releasing HRC’s cache of work-related emails in January 2016,” Mr. Fallon wrote.
“Get out!???” replied Cheryl D. Mills, a lawyer and longtime adviser to Mrs. Clinton.
The correspondence was believed to have been obtained by hackers who illegally breached the account of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta. It came months before the F.B.I., which is part of the Justice Department, opened a criminal investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified emails.
Though the information Mr. Fallon passed on reflected no internal thinking on the Justice Department’s strategy, the connection between a senior Clinton aide and the department further stoked accusations that the Obama administration had conspired with Mrs. Clinton’s camp on the investigation into her email use.
The correspondence released on Tuesday showed “a level of collusion which calls into question the entire investigation into her private server,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Donald J. Trump’s campaign. Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump’s running mate, also brought it up at a town hall-style event in Iowa.
In June, Republicans seized on a brief meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch when both of their planes were parked on a tarmac in Phoenix. Ms. Lynch said the impromptu conversation had been “primarily social.” But the suggestion that Mr. Clinton might have tried to influence Ms. Lynch’s decision on whether to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for using a private server was enough to force Ms. Lynch to recuse herself from the process. She said she would accept whatever the F.B.I. and her prosecutors recommended.
In July, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, called Mrs. Clinton’s handling of emails at the State Department “extremely careless” but recommended no charges, which Ms. Lynch accepted.
The day after Mr. Fallon’s exchange on the Justice Department’s court filing, he provided additional information to other campaign aides on the case. “DOJ folks inform me there is a status hearing in this case this morning,” he wrote. “So we could have a window into the judge’s thinking about this proposed production schedule as quickly as today.”
Mr. Fallon declined to comment on the exchanges, but a campaign spokesman pointed out that the Obama administration had concluded that Russian intelligence agencies had been behind the hacking of election-related emails to try to sway the results in Mr. Trump’s favor. “Donald Trump has once again cheered on Russian hacking,” the Clinton spokesman, Glen Caplin, said in a statement. A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
The timing of the release of Mrs. Clinton’s State Department emails was critical information for her aides, who were strategizing on how to respond to any story lines that could emerge.
No detail was too small. A series of emails released Tuesday from March 2015 show her campaign staff fine-tuning a post Mrs. Clinton would send on Twitter about the emails. In one internal message, Philippe I. Reines, a close adviser who was an aide to Mrs. Clinton at the State Department, informed others that the final wording had been “cleared with State.” There was no further information about what, exactly, the campaign and the State Department might have discussed.