News & Politics

What Hillary’s Emails Say About DC

As the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton's e-mail server and oppo researchers pored through the trove of 30,000 unclassified messages in search of scandal, we went looking for something else: clues about our city–and how things might work if Hillary World takes over the executive branch.

What Hillary’s Emails Say About DC
Photograph of Clinton by Mark Almond/AP Images; Clockwise from lower left: Wislon by Gerald Herbert/AP Images; Abedin by Michael Reynolds/Alamy; Blair by Richard Drew/AP Images; Reines and Nides by Evan Vucci/AP Images; Mukulski by US Navy/Alamy; Blumenthal by Susan Walsh/AP Images; Slaughter by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images; Sullivan by DPA/Alamy; Mills by Dieu Nalio Chery/AP Images; Goetz by Chuck Kennedy/Newscom. Photo-illustration by Eddie Guy.

No One Gets More Mentions Than This Woman: Hillary’s Georgetown Hairdresser

Isabelle Goetz began doing the candidate’s hair in the late ’90s when her boss, DC power stylist Cristophe, sent her to the White House with a round brush one day to fill in. Within a matter of months, Goetz had gained FLOTUS’s trust and was flying on Air Force One. She helped Hillary lay the headbands to rest and ever so gradually ushered in the age of the bob. “Little by little, as her hair falls to the floor, I see a new woman,” Goetz wrote in her memoir about the 1998 day she completed Clinton’s layered, above-the-nape-of-the-neck look.

Isabelle Goetz. Photograph by Jean-Louis Atlan/Getty Images.
Isabelle Goetz. Photograph by Jean-Louis Atlan/Getty Images.

Today, the très sportive, Harley-riding French coiffeuse owns Izzy Salon on M Street, where her cuts start at $300. But for Hillary, Izzy still goes on location. A raft of messages between HRC and her aide Huma Abedin show that 7:30 am was the “usual” time and that deviations from protocol were unwelcome. Once when an aide relayed that Goetz wasn’t available but could send a man instead, Huma responded:

“uh no

“i dont want that”

Humblebragging to Your Boss: An Anatomy

It’s natural in Washington to crave validation, but most of us would stop short of opening an attaboy, then forwarding it to our superiors. HRC’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, though, had the perfect guise for her humblebrags: more flattery. Watch how it’s done:


Subject Lines Were Like the Texts of the Clinton State Department

A selection of the best ones we saw.

“Hi Sis. My name is Roy Spence and I love you and”

Spence, a Texas adman, is author of The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, a onetime occupant of the Lincoln Bedroom, and a Clinton donor.

“I met Naomi Watts last weekend and we talked about you and Valerie”

—Is Hillary e-mailing former ambassador Joe Wilson to name-drop Watts Oprah-style, or is meeting Watts HRC’s excuse to reach out to Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, the CIA agent exposed by the Washington Post?

“H: Really, very, completely, totally bad advice that O really, very much wanted to heed. Sid.”

—Clinton confidant Sid Blumenthal, condemning the Obama campaign’s debate strategy in October 2012.

“WJC is at Whitehaven now-FYI.”

—An aide broadcasting Bill’s presence at the couple’s DC home, just in case Hillary was curious who had finished the milk.

“Gore just called saying he hasn’t heard from you. he’s expecting to hear from you tonite. I’m sorry.”

—Aide Huma Abedin to HRC at nearly 11 PM.

“Pls call Sarah and ask her if she can get me some iced tea.”

—Clinton to her scheduler, because we all need a caffeine fix at 2:55 on a Wednesday afternoon.

The Secretary Confronts the Biggest Fear of Our Times: Low Battery

Photograph of Clinton by Planetpix/Alamy. Photo-illustration by Eddie Guy.
Photograph of Clinton by Planetpix/Alamy. Photo-illustration by Eddie Guy.

In March 2015, Hillary’s iPad became a problem when reporters discovered she’d used it to e-mail her staff, despite previous claims that she exclusively used her BlackBerry. Little did we know that the iPad had been a private problem for years, from the moment spokesman Philippe Reines announced its arrival on June 25, 2010.

At first, Hillary was excited. “Do you think you can teach me to use it on the flight to Kyev next week?” she wrote Reines.

One month later, a crisis. HRC was playing with the iPad at home when disaster struck: “Do I need to charge it? If so, how? I have no cords.”

The situation moved quickly from bad to worse: “I don’t know if I have wi-fi. How do I find out?”

Reines: “Let me ask Justin/Huma. And on Monday, I’ll set it up so that it has a near permanent internet feed.”

A year after that, again to Reines: “If you’re around today could you help me w my ipad?”

Senator Barbara Mikulski Is the Most Adorable E-Mailer in Congress

Photograph by EPA/Alamy.
Hillary Clinton and Barbara Mikulski. Photograph by EPA/Alamy.

Full-of-typos e-mails from Clinton’s bestie arrive under the initials BAM—also an accurate description for the feeling you get reading them.

From: BAM
To: H
Sent: January 24, 2010, 5:27 PM
Subject: Thinking of you

Been wanting to xconnect ever since the. Holidays. But every time I go to do it. There is. Big. Crisis ie the. Xmas. Bomber– haiti. Didn’t want to interupt — now we have. The. Mass. Catastrophe. – heal th care on life support and a. Supreme ct that just screwed us — wow do I miss having u to talk to in. Uss— let me say. YOU are doing a terrific job on many fronts. Re. Haiti proud of both you and. President. Bill. — this wk in caucus we were avolcano ready to erupt—real frustration with. Pres white house team and tin ear/ thin plans to deal with. Deep. Economic. Anxiety. So. Bernake vote became a way to send a message— as I move around ( and I am. [redacted]. Middle class feels their way of life. Slippingaway. And dems. Are only offering spending plans. Not solutions— his. State of. Union has to be a. Major. Rest button—- we can do this. Bill and you have lived thru similar travails. Hope to see you there and hope we can connct soon.

From: H
Sent: January 24, 2010, 6:14 PM
Subject: Re: Thinking of you

Oh, Barb, we got trouble w a capital “T” in River City. I miss you too and will try to call soon. Keep going, as your and my “home girl” Harriet Tubman wpuld say!

From: BAM
Sent: September 08, 2011, 12:22 AM
To: H
Subject: Update/ Reflections

Hi there. World. Leader. I feel like its 1000 yrs since we’ve talked. Thinking of u as 9/11 approaches n remembering that time together the sweet night of 9/10 when u threw. Kay a baby shower. —that horrorific next morn n all the wrenchng things that followed ——- you did so much and did it well—— you must be flooded with emotions n memories. For as awful as it was. There was. Leadership. and a sense of. National. Unity. Something. so wish we could get back to —— was so proud of you then. And wanted to be a helping hand. And feel the same way now——–count on me in USS. And hope to see you soon —————ps wendy had her hearing today. She did well. Am working w. Kerry to get this thruASAP. You made a great choice.

From: H
Sent: September 10, 2011, 4:44 PM
Subject: Re: Update/ Reflections

Loved seeing you the other night. And I miss you too. How about another women’s dinner?
Also, I think your personal outreach will be crucial for Wendy. …. You and I can make this happen!! Onward to victory—-H

From: BAM
Sent: October 26, 2012 07:47 AM
To: H
Subject: Happy. Happy. Birthday

Dear. Friend. Good. Wishes – Blessings n A. Dem. Victory. —– A. Lucky Day for the. Planet. When u. Were. Born. – your pal. Senator. Barb. Ps. Am way to. Boston. For. Warren. We. R going to make it. Whoopee. !!!!!!!!

From: H
Sent: November 14, 2012, 1:20 PM
To: ‘
Subject: Fw: Happy. Happy. Birthday

Pls respond.

Huma Abedin Is No Kiss-Up

Photograph by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images.
Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton. Photograph by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images.

Unlike anyone else’s, the messages sent by Clinton’s aide of 20 years and so-called second daughter don’t show someone vying for the Secretary’s ear—they are the e-mails of someone who knows she has it. Abedin subject lines, ranked.


Sucking Up: A Taxonomy

Photograph of Slaughter (left) by Brian Cahn/Alamy; Davis (right) by Benzinger/Wikimedia Commons.
Photograph of Slaughter (left) by Brian Cahn/Alamy; Davis (right) by Benzinger/Wikimedia Commons.

There’s no more practiced art in Washington than kissing up, but as HRC’s in-box shows, brown-nosers come in all forms.

Type: The Loyalist Who Suddenly Needs a Favor (feigns fears of exploiting a powerful friend before doing the actual exploitation).
Offender: Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis.

Subject: Personal – a personal favor
“My dear friend Hillary:
“I hate to email you too much — and to ask you for any favors. I feel as if I am taking advantage of a great privilege that you allow me to send you a personal email every so often. But this is a favor that I fully understand for 100 reasons might not be appropriate or comfortable for you to say yes to.
“The American Lawyer is doing a Cover Story (ugh!) about my new law firm, ‘Lanny J. Davis & Associates’ — about my finally hanging up my own shingle after all these years . . . .
Would you be willing to talk personally to the reporter?”

Type: The Foot Soldier (unabashed with praise, uses HRC’s media appearances as springboards for flattery).
Offender: Judith Lichtman, EMILY’s List board member.

Subject: Spectacular
“Watching charlie rose–she is beyond good! Sooo proud! And how really blessed we are to have her in public life XoxoxO”

Type: The Foot Soldier for the Other Party (takes cover by passing along praise before offering her own).
Offender: Anita McBride, chief of staff to First Lady Laura Bush.

(no subject)
“I have to share with a comment made at dinner tonight by two friends who I worked with in Reagan Administration. They are longtime Reaganites who said ‘I feel safe with Hillary’. You have to tell her. We are so fortunate she is where she is. I know it’s so damn hard. I’ll pray for her. We need her. I can’t tell you how grateful I am as an American for Hillary’s leadership and hard work. Really – it kind of makes me weepy – and it does make me proud.”

Type: Underling With an Agenda (adept at getting her hooks in with flattery, then pivoting to the real issue).
Offender: Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning at State under Clinton.

Subject: gorgeous pic on the front page of the NYT!
“One for the wall…For what it’s worth, I am VERY dubious about arming the Libyan rebels. Our best bet is to keep pressure on BOTH sides to force a diplo solution.”

That Time Planet Hillary Was All LOL About the Media

Phillipe Reines and Hillary Clinton. Photograph by Marvin Joseph/Getty Images.
Phillipe Reines and Hillary Clinton. Photograph by Marvin Joseph/Getty Images.

Press coverage is water-cooler conversation on the server, as you might expect. Eric Schmitt of the New York Times is called “a pain in the ass.” A Joe Klein profile of Hillary in Time is rated “70% positive and 30% annoying.” At one point, HRC unexpectedly fist-bumps Fox News by praising Greta Van Susteren. But no media event brought Clinton’s satellites such collective glee as watching Wall Street Journal writer Monica Langley interview her.


…[Monica] was her usual wacky self and pulled one move that I can’t even describe so I’ll let Caroline…

Press Aide Caroline Adler:

This will be exciting when it’s FOIA’d…but will give you a sense of the interaction:

HRC: Monica, have a seat (HRC motions toward a chair situated an appropriate distance from her preferred spot on the couch)

Monica: !!!!Sure!!!!! (Monica proceeds to drag her chair within inches of the Secretary—leaning in even further)

Interview proceeds . . . and about midway:

Monica: Oh Hillary…2016 ’16 ’16 (Monica grabs HRC’s knee)

HRC laughs awkwardly—glances at Philippe

Monica: (leaning in further) Oh Hillary…what do you eat? drink? dream about when you sleep?
(Monica again touches HRC’s leg)

(Everybody laughs awkwardly—Philippe hardly able to contain himself)

Monica: They think I’m so funny (looking at Philippe and me.) HILL, can I ride on your lap to the White House?

Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides:

I may go and throw up since I am laughing so hard


Tom, she moved that yellow chair as close as it went. Knee to knee. Amazed she didn’t try knee in between knee. And if that wasn’t enough, she leaned forward. More like a pivot, as far as her torso could fold forward to minimize the space between their heads. Was like the dental hygienist rolling around the floor to get the best access to your mouth…I’ve never seen a Westerner invade her space like that…This went on like that for 51 minutes—unacceptable in any culture. I don’t even think you see that behavior among any type of mammal.

The touching the leg and repeatedly calling her “Hillary” was just gravy.

But it was wonderful. One of the best interviews I’ve ever witnessed. Wish it were on live tv.

Where Secretary Clinton Dined Out in Washington



I Ricchi


Restaurant Nora

La Perla


2100 Prime (Closed)


Bourbon Steak



New Heights


The Lafayette at the Hay-Adams

Senate Dining Room with Barbara Mikulski

This Is What State Department Humor Looks Like

Philippe Reines lives up to his reputation as the scourge of the Washington press corps, but what caught our eye more than his sharp teeth was a portrait of Reines as comedian. If Clinton wins the White House and makes Reines press secretary, prepare for laugh lines in the briefing room. Here, our favorite Reines prank: a flow chart he assembled for who should ride in the car with the Secretary.


Three Days Later…

Hurt that his gag went mostly unnoticed, Reines follows
up at 3:20 AM:

“I did NOT/NOT receive sufficient appreciation for the below. Only Jake reacted. It took HOURS to get the formatting right. Literally hours to ensure it would work on every size font.

“Without positive reinforcement I’m not sure I can continue to really invest myself in these missives/diatribes.”

This article appears in our July 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

Contributing Editor

Amanda has contributed to Washingtonian since 2016. She has written about the right-wing media personality Britt McHenry, chronicled her night with Stormy Daniels, and come clean about owning too much stuff. She lives on H Street. She can be reached at [email protected].