Two of the leading minds tasked with saving Terry McAuliffe’s 2013 Virginia gubernatorial bid from controversy over his shady business dealings will likely serve prominent roles in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Robby Mook and Josh Schwerin, who served as campaign manager and spokesman, respectively, in McAuliffe’s successful bid, are all but certain additions to the growing Clinton team as the former secretary of state preps for a White House run.
Back in 2013, the McAuliffe campaign became embroiled in questions surrounding the ongoing investigations into their candidate’s Mississippi-based electric-car manufacturing company, GreenTech. Thanks in large part to Mook and Schwerin, the campaign was able to downplay concerns about GreenTech’s receipt of special treatment from the Department of Homeland Security to expedite the approval of EB-5 visas for foreign investing at McAuliffe’s behest.
On the campaign trail, Schwerin repeatedly quelled reporters’ questions about the ongoing GreenTech investigation. While he said McAuliffe was “frustrated with the bureaucratic pace” of the process, Schwerin assured reporters in July 2013 that McAuliffe had not sought special treatment in multiple meetings and communications with then-director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Alejandro Mayorkas, whose questionable management of the agency that approves the visas triggered the IG report. Schwerin added that the inspector general’s investigation “does not involve” McAuliffe when it was launched that same year.
The new report finds evidence to the contrary. Mayorkas, who now serves as deputy DHS secretary—the department’s second-highest position—recalled that McAuliffe was persistent in asking that the process be accelerated on multiple occasions.
“I recall that over the course of many months I received several voice messages from Mr. McAuliffe complaining about USCIS’s handling of the . . . case,” Mayorkas said in the report, according to the Washington Post. “The messages were caustic. I remember in particular one voice message that I played, as it was laced with expletives at a high volume. I recall one occasion on which Mr. McAuliffe complained to me directly over the telephone.”
Despite the lingering GreenTech controversy, Mook and Schwerin proved effective in the gubernatorial election by shifting focus onto their opponent, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, casting him as “anti-woman.” Their spin eventually helped McAuliffe claim a two-percentage point victory, despite his numerous, well-documented character and political flaws.
If they join the Clinton campaign, they’ll be expected to employ that strategy again.
Mook, a longtime Democratic operative, is the frontrunner to head Clinton’s 2016 operation, according to several reports. The Hill called Mook “the heavy favorite” for the role, while the New York Times described him as the “likely” choice. VICE News referred to him as “Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon” given his strong record of success. And in January, Clinton brought Mook onboard as a strategist in preparation for his expected role.
Schwerin, who worked for Mook as press secretary at the DCCC and then followed him to the McAuliffe campaign, is also expected to team up with his former boss once again. As the Clinton camp builds up its communication team under Jennifer Palmieri, the Obama White House’s outgoing communications director, Schwerin’s name has continually come up. CNN reports he’s already on board behind the scenes, and he apparently authored a recent PDF document sent to reporters from the campaign.
Clinton’s interest in Mook and Schwerin makes sense, given the serious scandals she herself is suddenly facing. While no evidence exists that the two communications aces knew they were lying for McAuliffe at the time — as the IG’s report now suggests they were — the pair’s efforts to save the campaign from the GreenTech Scandal elevated their standing in Democratic circles, and especially in Clintonworld. Now, they’ll no doubt be expected to employ the same expert spin to save their new boss’s career prospects.