Hillary Clinton’s longtime gatekeeper Philippe Reines is no longer just a freelancing critic of the Trump administration: he has quit his day job to devote himself full-time to excoriating the president and his top aides.
Reines left the consulting firm he co-founded four years ago, Beacon Strategies, on Sept. 5 – one week before the release of Clinton’s campaign memoir, “What Happened” – to turn full-time “resistance,” a word he says he hates.
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“It’s stand in front of the tank time,” Reines, who worked as a top Clinton adviser in the Senate and then the State Department, said in an interview about his decision to leave his firm.
Since leaving government in 2013, when Reines co-founded Beacon Strategies, he has remained a key member of Clinton’s innermost circle of confidantes. During last year’s campaign, he stepped in toduring mock debate prep sessions opposite his old boss but remained firmly behind the scenes of the campaign.
Over the past month, however, Reines has reemerged as a top surrogate on cable news talking up Clinton’s new book.
“You go through a period thinking, ‘OK, I need to accept this and move on, I can’t live in the past,’” Reines explained of the grief process he worked through after the 2016 election. “But that got harder to do, because the circumstances made it harder. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to get over it, because it’s not over.”
On Monday, Reines responded on Twitter to revelations, first reported by POLITICO, that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has sometimes used his private email account to conduct government business.
“The circumstances & security details of the private email and private domain Jared & Ivanka set up AFTER donald won must be reviewed,” Reines tweeted, one part of a five-tweet-long storm calling out the hypocrisy of the email use, given Trump’s repeated calls for Clinton to be jailed over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Later, Reines tweeted: “From now on I’m referring to donald as donald. Little d. Not President. Not POTUS. Not even capital D. His dishonor has forfeited the honor.”
The opening months of Trump’s presidency can feel, at times, like a re-run of an ugly election cycle that will never end. Trump campaign rallies still feature “Lock Her Up!” chants from the crowd, which the president does little to discourage. Trump still tweets about his former campaign nemesis. And the release of Clinton’s 2016 exegesis earlier this month instigated a fresh cycle of the blame game, a relitigation of how the seemingly inevitable candidate managed to lose a high-stakes election to a former reality television star with no political experience.
Reines has been helping to oversee Clinton’s book launch and tour, and said he plans to work more closely with the defeated Democratic nominee on whatever comes next. “I’ve worked with her since July 22, 2002,” said Reines. “I am always going to want to help her. She doesn’t know what’s next, I don’t know what’s next for her. Short of her opening a bakery and saying, ‘I’d love you to come make cupcakes with me,’ I would like to help her.”
A bake shop is unlikely to interest either of them. And while Clinton in her book saves most of her finger-pointing for former FBI director James Comey and what she sees as the uneven media coverage of the two general election candidates, Reines’ current obsession is Kushner. “Everyone focused on how Jared and Ivanka fail, and they focus on how they don’t try,” he said. “But that’s predicated on this notion that in their hearts they disagree. I do not think Jared Kushner disagrees with the worst of Donald Trump.”
“As a Jew,” he added, “I’ve never felt more Jewish than I have in the last six months. I think what Jared has tolerated is shameful. If I could put one person in jail, it would be Jared Kushner, not Donald Trump.”
A spokesman for Kushner did not respond to a request for comment.
Reines has signed on with Larry Weissman, a New York-based literary agent, who sought him out to write a book about Trump and the 2016 election – partly because he liked the voice of his acerbic anti-Trump tweets.
“Everybody in the Clinton inner circle, by necessity, had to be very cautious,” Weissman said of his interest in Reines. “And now someone doesn’t. I’m going to be counseling him to continue to let it rip and be funny and if he wants to settle scores, that’s going to be illuminating and entertaining.”
Reines, who is in the early stages of writing about his time by Clinton’s side and his views on the Trump presidency, has yet to officially shop his proposal. But Weissman said he’s been getting “keen interest” in the project from the publishing world. As a partial distraction from all things Trump, Reines said he also plans to finally fulfill a dream of writing a children’s book about presidential pets, a longtime personal obsession. (A small part of Reines’ dismay about Trump’s norm-shattering presidency has been the lack of a First Pet in the White House.)
Reines said his anger and grief process has tracked with Clinton’s, as well as that of the close aides that have been around her for years.
“We’re either the most emotionally unable group of people to move on, or the very reasons we worked for her and work in politics are the reasons we’re still fighting,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who is a Clinton staffer, who is in the private sector, who is happy. It’s very hard to channel the energy you have in a positive way.”
Working on Clinton’s book launch and his own memoir is not exactly public sector work, but working as part of the resistance can feel like it to diehard Democrats.
In thinking about what to do next, Reines said he spoke to Clinton “earlier and more than anyone else. In 15 years, I’ve never talked through personal issues with [Clinton] but this time, she was the right person at the right time.” He said she supported his decision to join the resistance.
“Founding Beacon was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Reines said. “Leaving Beacon will prove to be one of the best decisions I made. It’s just the right time. The world has changed.”