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Are Hillary's emails Donald's lifeline?

Donald Trump said donors to the Clinton Foundation who received favors from Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State amounted to a "pay for play" model. The Clinton campaign said Hillary Clinton "never took action as Secretary of State because of donations."

A judge's order that nearly 15,000 previously undisclosed emails from Hillary Clinton's private server may possibly be released has given Donald Trump's campaign a much-needed diversion to turn the public spotlight back onto her one glaring political vulnerability -- her trustworthiness.

The order was obtained by Judicial Watch, the conservative legal hound dog sniffing around her involvement with the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state during President Obama's first term. The order requires the State Department to review the emails and provide the court an accelerated timetable for possible public release by Sept. 23, meaning previously unseen emails could become public before the Nov. 8 presidential election.

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Mr. Trump has made clear he hopes they will add fuel to his claim that Clinton used State Department influence to reward major foundation donors in support of his label for her, "crooked Hillary."

He laid out his latest strategy in a scripted Ohio campaign speech Monday demanding that a special federal prosecutor be appointed because, he said, the Clinton Foundation "has proved itself to be a political arm of the White House."

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Mr. Trump charged that the foundation had taken in large payments from major corporations and wealthy individuals, all while she was secretary of state. The Clinton Foundation, he said, accepted more than $60 million from Middle Eastern countries that oppress women, gays and people of different faiths.

The foundation donors include corporations and individuals with significant matters before the State Department, and Mr. Trump says either Hillary Clinton herself or one of her closest aides took favorable actions in behalf of these donors, and thus "corrupted and disgraced" the department.

Mr. Trump charged that the Clintons, including former President Bill Clinton, subjected "the State Department to the same kind of pay-to-play scheme" as they used the Arkansas government when he was governor.

The allegation enables Mr. Trump to broaden his attack to include the Democratic nominee's husband, whom Mr. Trump already marked as a political target for his sexual misconduct in 1996, for which Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate to save his presidency.

Mr. Trump told the Ohio audience that after the FBI and Department of Justice investigations into the Clinton emails, "they certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate" the latest batch turned over. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch, having already emphatically expressed her confidence in FBI director James Come yin his inquiry into the earlier Hillary emails, seems highly unlikely to call for such a special investigator now.

A Clinton spokesman dismissed Judicial Watch as "a right-wing organization that has been going after the Clintons since the 1990s" that is "distorting facts to make utterly failed attacks."

Among the key authors of the emails to Hillary Clinton is her closest personal aide, Huma Abedin. In one email exchange with Doug Band, a Bill Clinton aide at the family foundation, Ms. Abedin says requesting an interview with Hillary on behalf of a major foundation donor "makes me nervous to get involved, but I'll ask." To which Mr. Band replied, "Then don't."

In response to criticism of the foundation's accepting large donations from foreign sources and corporations, Bill Clinton has said that if his wife is elected in November he will step down as a member of its board and the foundation will decline such contributions thereafter. But more persuasive in terms of demonstrating no undue influence would be to take both actions well before the election.

The continuing rap against the Clintons from various critics is that both of them have created the impression of being a bit too clever by half in their secrecy and privacy as public figures. Bill's old parsing of what "the definition of the word 'is' is" in the matter of adultery still haunts the Clintons.

So the latest controversy over Hillary's emails is one that Mr. Trump welcomes and grasps, to reinforce her lack of credibility as a paramount issue against her. Meanwhile, he continues to extricate himself from the various self-inflicted wounds imposed by his careless and derogatory personal comments toward a range of other victims.

Only if he dramatically turns away from behavior that mushrooms concerns over his erratic temperament as a would-be president does it seem possible, at this stage, that a renewed focus on Hillary's likeability and trust issues can put Trump's campaign back on track.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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