The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Thursday released a handful of Barack Obama’s emails from a period immediately before he was elected in 2008, including several that revealed names of people Obama was considering for senior roles and one that reflected care in avoiding a transition conflict with President George W. Bush.
The emails span a period from Oct. 6, 2008, until Election Day that year, Nov. 4, and several include comments from “Barack,” who used the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In one email, John Podesta, the veteran political operative who would go on to serve as Obama’s counselor, sent Obama contact information for Erskine Bowles, a North Carolina Democrat who had served once as White House chief of staff, and for Leon Panetta, the former California legislator whom Obama would appoint as CIA director.
That email drew no response from Obama, nor did another one from Oct. 6, 2008, from Mike Froman offering Obama advice on African-American, Latino and Asian-American candidates for high-level positions.
“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,” Froman wrote.
The names were in two attachments that WikiLeaks did not obtain or did not release.
“Barack, good meeting yesterday,” began another email, from John Podesta on Oct. 30, 2008, referring to a session about creating an emergency national economic council to deal with a massive financial crisis that had the global economic order teetering.
Podesta asked Obama whether he wanted Daniel K. Tarullo, a Georgetown University Law School professor, or William M. Daley, who would go on to serve as Obama’s chief of staff, to lead the emergency council. Obama would appoint Tarullo to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve shortly after he took office, and in 2011, he named Daley chief of staff.
“I will give you an answer on this tomorrow,” said a message signed “Barack” and sent from a BlackBerry.
Podesta prefaced an email to Obama on his Election Day with an apology.
“I don’t want to bug you today, but the memo pasted below concerns a possible invitation to the G-20 meeting on November 15,” Podesta began. He told Obama that “it is the unanimous recommendation for your advisers that you NOT attend.”
Below the message was a memo outlining the position of the advisers on the G-20 meeting, which then-President George W. Bush had called under pressure from European leaders to discuss the unfolding economic crisis. It listed “pros” and “cons” of Obama attending.
At the bottom was a draft statement declining the invitation.
“As I said shortly after the election, the United States has only one President at a time, and until I take office in January that is President Bush. I have, accordingly, told President Bush that I will not attend the meeting on November 15,” the draft said.
Two other emails involved chatter between other campaign or transition officials in which Obama was copied but did not offer input.
Since early October, WikiLeaks has released 13 batches of emails hacked from the personal Gmail account of Podesta, who now is the chairman of the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency, and WikiLeaks has promised to continue releasing more emails among some 55,000 thought to have been taken from the Democratic National Committee or Podesta’s email account.
The Obama administration has blamed Russia for the hacks, which seem aimed to interfere with the Nov. 8 presidential election, apparently to favor Republican nominee Donald Trump, a charge that National Intelligence Director James Clapper reiterated Thursday.
“Going after U.S. political organizations is a new aggressive spin on the political cycle. Regardless, the election will happen on Nov. 8,” Clapper said at a forum in Washington.
Asked to provide details of how the intelligence community had determined that Russia was behind the hacks, Clapper declined, saying only that the administration “wouldn’t have made (the statement) unless we were very confident.”
Ecuador last weekend cut off the internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who took refuge in that nation’s London embassy more than four years ago, saying it did not want to interfere in any other nation’s internal affairs.
WikiLeaks has not said how it obtained the hacked emails, and it has battled the suggestion that it is being used by Russia. WikiLeaks occasionally employs the hashtag #nottherussians.
In a tweet Thursday, WikiLeaks issued a statement under the heading “Is WikiLeaks an ‘agent’ of any government such as Russia? No.”
“WikiLeaks publishes suppressed documents of diplomatic, ethical, historical or moral significance that reveal illegal or immoral behavior,” the statement said. “No government or private enterprise is immune.”
It went on to say that the group is not “anti-Western” or “anti-U.S.”
“WikiLeaks has released over 650,000 critical documents relating to Russia under Vladimir Putin,” it said, referring to Russia’s president. It added that unsubstantiated “hyperventilation” that Russia might be behind the attacks “serves to distract from the wrongdoing revealed in the DNC leaks.”