This story was updated Oct. 17.
Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama during the hotly contested 2008 Democratic presidential primary stung Richardson’s longtime political allies, Hillary and Bill Clinton.
President Clinton had appointed Richardson to two high-ranking posts within his government: Energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. And the Clintons worked hard to get his support for Hillary after Richardson dropped his own presidential bid in 2008; the former president flew to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Richardson as part of their effort to win him over, The New York Times reported. So when Richardson called Hillary Clinton to tell her he’d be backing Obama instead, the conversation was "cordial, but a little heated," he told the Times in 2008.
Despite the high-profile breakup, Richardson was ready to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2015, according to newly released emails. But Clinton would have to call him and ask for it.
"If Hillary wants my support I will give it to her but she has to call herself," Richardson wrote in an August 2015 email to John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager whose emails were allegedly hacked by the group WikiLeaks.
The former New Mexico governor told Podesta he was preparing to appear on ABC’s "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos that weekend, and he wondered what he should say about his relationship with the Clintons. If she didn’t call, he said he would "still be kind because I like clintons and not sucking up."
Podesta wrote back that he thought Richardson did patch things up with Bill Clinton. As for Hillary, Podesta said, "You should support her. Don’t make it so complicated. It will be appreciated."
Several days later, Podesta wrote again, "She’s going to call you. Not sure it will happen before Sunday so if it’s after, don’t say anything I wouldn’t say on George."
Clinton apparently called Richardson before his television appearance. He emailed again: "We spoke. All set for George tomorrow. Thanks and take care."
Richardson had apparently tried to get in touch with Clinton several months earlier but couldn’t reach her.
In May of last year, Maria Cardona of the Dewey Square Group wrote to Podesta, in an email titled "URGENT — Governor Richardson," that she had spoken with Richardson about his desire to "bury the hatchet with Hillary." Richardson wanted to be able to say there was "absolutely no ‘feud’ and no bad blood there," Cardona wrote, but that he wanted to speak with Clinton directly. "He told me he has tried to call before but to no avail."
The issue did come up during the ABC show last August. "You have had your difficulties with the Clintons in the past even though you worked for President Clinton, you endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, caused a rift with the Clintons, but now some mending of fences?" Stephanopoulos asked.
Richardson replied, "We patched things up with both Clintons, with Secretary Clinton and President Clinton. For seven years, there was hostility, when I did the endorsement of President Obama, which I stand by. But I didn’t do it right. I didn’t handle it right. So we patched things up. We’ve had long conversations with both of them, so I’m supporting her now, because I think she’s got the best candidacy."
A day after the show aired, José Villarreal, the treasurer of the Clinton campaign, wrote to Podesta. "Glad things worked out with Richardson," he said. "Are we free to use him?"
Richardson told E&E News in an email, "I strongly support Hillary Clinton for president. I do not care about any characterization of me made in an email. I have worked with John Podesta for many years and am neither concerned nor unhappy about this email repartee. I fully respect John and recognize the difficult job he has. I say this as someone who is neither seeking nor expecting any appointment or role in a Clinton White House, as evidenced by the emails."
The Clinton campaign has not responded to requests for comment about the authenticity of the emails. Podesta has blamed Russian spies for hacking his emails in an attempt to sway the election, the Times reported.
‘We need plan B when [Clinton] says no’
The leaked emails also reveal that Podesta didn’t think Hillary Clinton would accept the secretary of State position under the Obama administration.
In a series of emails in November 2008, Podesta, who was chairman of Obama’s transition team at the time, and Rahm Emanuel — who went on to become Obama’s first chief of staff — were discussing whether Richardson was "headed toward yes," perhaps for the secretary of Commerce job he was later nominated for. Richardson withdrew from consideration amid an investigation into how some of his donors landed hefty state contracts in New Mexico.
Emanuel told Podesta that Richardson was coming for a visit but that it looked as if he was heading toward accepting.
"That would be good," Podesta replied. "We need plan B when [Clinton] says no. I would go with [Tom Daschle] to state and [Janet Napolitano] to hhs." Daschle was offered the job as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, but also withdrew. Napolitano became secretary of Homeland Security.
Udall ‘would like to be engaged’
An email to Podesta and several others from July 2015 indicated that former Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who lost his re-election bid the previous fall, wanted to be involved in Clinton’s campaign.
Udall is widely seen as a top contender for Interior secretary if Clinton clinches the White House.
The email from Steve Bachar, an attorney at the Denver law firm Moye White, detailed to Podesta how Udall and his wife — environmentalist Maggie Fox — wanted "to be helpful to Sec Clinton."
"They, together and separately, would like to be engaged in policy conversations with appropriate Clinton campaign team esp around energy and climate issues," Bachar wrote.
Last month, Udall stumped for Clinton in Denver following what he called an "extended sabbatical." He told the crowd that he and Fox last year hiked 450 miles across Utah following the path of his Mormon ancestors. He’s also working on climbing the 200 highest mountains in Colorado, noting that he’s reached 135 peaks so far (E&E Daily, Sept. 29).
Udall told E&E News in a statement last month that his focus over the next two months is helping Clinton get elected in November. "I am committed to not only helping Hillary on the campaign trail, but also offering any support I can as she prepares to lead our nation," he said (Greenwire, Sept. 20).