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Mayor Says 'Heat of Battle' Caused Clinton Camp to Call Him 'Terrorist'

By Jeff Mays | October 14, 2016 8:40am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was not bothered by emails from the camp of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton blowing off some of his ideas, seeking to keep him at arms length and calling him a
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was not bothered by emails from the camp of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton blowing off some of his ideas, seeking to keep him at arms length and calling him a "terrorist" for not quickly endorsing his former boss.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Being called a "terrorist" by Hillary Clinton's camp doesn't faze Bill de Blasio.

The mayor said emails from the camp of Democratic presidential nominee blowing off some of his ideas, seeking to keep him at arms length and calling him a "terrorist" for not quickly endorsing his former boss don't bother him.

"I chalk it up to the heat of battle," de Blasio said during a press conference in Brooklyn Thursday.

The messages released over the past week are part of a batch of hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. They were posted in a searchable database on the website WikiLeaks.

► READ MORE: De Blasio Kept at Arm's Length by the Clinton Campaign, Emails Show

The U.S. government has accused Russia of hacking the emails of high-level members of the Democratic Party and Podesta said he has spoken with the FBI about the theft of his personal messages.

De Blasio, who worked as Clinton's campaign manager during her successful 2000 run for U.S. Senate, angered people in the former secretary of state's camp when he failed to immediately endorse her in April of 2015 after she officially announced her long-expected candidacy for president.

Instead, de Blasio said he wanted to see a "progressive vision" from Clinton and he and his wife formed the Progressive Agenda Committee to bring issues such as income inequality to the forefront of the presidential election. Their goal was to host a presidential forum in Iowa on the topic.

But the emails show the Clinton campaign was wary and mocking of de Blasio as he sought to have more direct access to Clinton to push his progressive ideals.

► READ MORE: De Blasio Criticized Clinton's Debate Performance, Hacked Emails Show

Top Clinton aide Huma Abedin saw de Blasio's push as a problem.

"He wants to be seen as the loudest progressive voice for her and in order to do that he needs access. In the next 6 months, someone else will have to inherit this relationship because it will not be tenable for HRC," Abedin wrote.

There was little interest in de Blasio's Progressive Agenda Committee or attending his planned forum.

"Should we care about this?" Podesta asked Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, about the group.

Tanden replied that there was no political pressure to join and that she was "not sweating it."

When a reporter tweeted about how de Blasio was not going to a Clinton rally because he wanted her platform to be more progressive and had also tweeted praise of Clinton rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote: "Wow. What a terrorist."

Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri replied: "Told you!"

► READ MORE: De Blasio Was Mocked as a 'Terrorist' by Clinton Camp Over Endorsement

De Blasio all but dismissed the sometimes harsh emails, saying "nothing surprised" him.

"The internal conversations are classic of any campaign and I know a lot of these people very, very well. I was quite clear that I was not satisfied with what I was seeing from their platform and I wanted to see more," de Blasio said.

"And of course it was going to be the cause of friction. That's not surprising. I had no illusion it wasn't going to cause friction but I think it was the right thing to do."

Even Mook's terrorist remark did not bother him, the mayor added.

"Robby Mook called me this morning. I informed him I was a loyal American," the mayor said to chuckles from the press conference attendees.

"We had a good talk. I've known Robby for almost a decade. I think very, very highly of him and it's the heat of battle. I understand the heat of battle. People are upset because they want what they want and we were just not agreeing at that point."

De Blasio said he knew beforehand that trying to push Clinton to a more progressive position would not be a "politically convenient" endeavor.

"It wasn't meant to be politically convenient. It was totally eyes open that it would not be liked and that was not what mattered in this equation. It was for a bigger set of beliefs," the mayor said.

He called Clinton's platform the most progressive Democratic effort in decades "not because of me by any stretch." Sanders is largely credited with pulling Clinton, a moderate Democrat, more to the left.

"My hope was for Hillary Clinton to get to a place that progressives could really embrace and I tried to use whatever I could do, as many other progressives did...who tried to use the endorsement process to get a point across," de Blasio said.

But some political experts said the mayor's push was hubris and a miscalculation of how much national sway he held.

The mayor paid a price for trying to leverage his endorsement. He had to pay his own way to Iowa to door knock for Clinton. And when he did endorse her, the campaign made no special significance of it.

The Democrat mayor of the largest city in the country had a less-than-desirable speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention.

The mayor and his wife Chirlane McCray have since returned to the campaign trail for Clinton.

"I believe it worked out beautifully. I have not a regret in the world," de Blasio said.

But the hacked emails could signal a change in American politics.

"I think it creates a very, very troubling dynamic. There's no privacy of any kind anymore. But here it is, sadly, probably the shape of things to come," he said.

Asked what he planned to do differently in this new dynamic, de Blasio said, "I'm going to whisper to people more, phone calls."