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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Email Leak Offers Look at Power Transfer to Obama

(CN) - The emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta recently released by Wikileaks offer insight into a bit of history: the transition process as Barack Obama prepared to assume the mantle of the President of the United States in 2008.

Reporters poring through the troves of Podesta's emails released by Wikileaks in incremental batches over the past several days are on the hunt for insight into the inner workings of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

After all, Podesta runs the campaign of a candidate who is notoriously secretive and has kept the press at arm's length throughout much of her quest for the Democratic nomination and the subsequent presidential battle with Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But Podesta also served as Obama's counselor and co-chaired the transition team that oversaw and managed the transfer of power from the George W. Bush administration.

A handful of the approximately 18,000 released emails relate to Podesta's tenure with Obama, and about five of them are either sent to or received from [email protected] - apparently Obama's personal email address before he assumed office.

The most insightful email was sent Nov. 4, 2008 - Election Day - and comes from Podesta, who warns Obama that he may be invited to a G-20 summit where world leaders would discuss the economic meltdown that roiled the world at the time.

"I don't want to bug you today, but the memo pasted below concerns a possible invitation to the G-20 meeting on Nov. 15," Podesta wrote. "On the chance that President Bush would raise this with you tonight, I wanted you to be aware that it is the unanimous recommendation for your advisors that you NOT attend."

The email is time stamped at 7:39 p.m., about an hour before major media outlets called the election for Obama.

In another email - the only one with a reply from Obama - Podesta pushes for a decision about who should run the interim economic staff team, either William Daley or Daniel Tarullo. Podesta recommends Tarullo and then moves on to press Obama into considering his outside counsel.

Daley would later serve as Obama's chief of staff, while Tarullo went to work on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve.

"There is a list of suggestions on the bottom of page 2," he wrote. "You added Warren Buffett to the potential list. How do you want to proceed? Pick from the list? have further discussion? Let me know."

The email has two attachments, which contain longer memos from Podesta to Obama, which express the urgency of the unfolding economic crisis and the need to shore up collapsing world markets.

"We are now at the point of deciding how to staff economic policy during the transition, who should be the point of contact with Treasury and how to blend the transition and campaign economic policy talent," Podesta wrote in the memo. "Normally these decisions could be made after the election, and ideally after the selection of a national economic advisor, but, of course, these are not normal times."

Obama offered a terse reply: "I will give you an answer on this tomorrow. Barack," the email, sent on Oct. 30, said.

It is a stark reminder that Obama was elected to his first term about a month after the United States government agreed to deploy $700 billion to purchase mortgage-backed securities and distressed assets, and infuse cash to most of the nation's largest banks tottering on the brink of insolvency.

That action, Emergency Economic Stablization Act of 2008, was passed on Oct. 3, 2008.

Another email to Obama released in the Wikileaks batch is dated Oct. 6, three days after the bailout. In it Michael Froman, a key member of the Obama campaign's transition team, offered a candidate list for future cabinet positions under the subject line "Diversity."

"A list of African-American, Latino and Asian-American candidates, divided between Cabinet/deputy and under/assistant/deputy assistant sectetary levels, as well as lists of senior Native Americans, Arab/Muslim Americans and disabled Americans," Froman wrote. "We have longer lists, but these are candidates whose names have been recommended by a number of sources for senior-level jobs in a potential administration."

A separate list of female candidates was apparently also attached to the email.

As is the case with most of the Podesta emails, there is nothing particularly revealing or damning in the few scattered emails involving Obama's personal account. But they do illuminate the chaos and urgency of the waning days of Obama's campaign, as he prepared for a possible transition of presidential power at a time where world leaders were scrambling to stave off a full-scale global economic meltdown.

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