“According to emails released by WikiLeaks yesterday, which came from a hack of the email account of John Podesta, a co-chair of Obama’s 2008 Transition Team, we learn that despite the obvious fact that Citigroup was both corrupt and derelict in handling its own financial affairs, Barack Obama gave executives of that bank an outsized role in shaping and staffing his first term.
In an email dated Saturday, October 18, 2008, Michael Froman, using his official Citigroup email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, sent the following email to Obama’s advisors:
“Attached is the latest version of the Agency Review teams. It is a closely held document, so please treat it with the same sensitivity as ours. If you all could take a quick look at the lists for the agencies in your area, that would be helpful. I think the hope is that, while there are no guarantees, some of the people on these lists might make their way into the agencies ultimately. Our role, therefore, is to check whether there is much overlap between the names here and the names were seeing/generating for sub-cabinet positions in each agency. There doesn’t need to be total overlap, but if there is a total disconnect, it would probably be better to rectify that now vs. later.
“I hate to ask, since I just send you another long spreadsheet to check, but if you could do this tomorrow and get back to Lisa (copied here) and myself, that would be great. Thanks.”
Froman had served in the Clinton administration and moved to Citigroup along with Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin. (Rubin would collect compensation of $126 million during his decade at the bank after helping to deliver the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, legislation that had previously prevented Citigroup from owning an insured bank along with high-risk brokerage and investment banking.) According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Froman was a Managing Director of Citigroup Management Corp. from 1999 to 2009.
Obama appointed Froman to the position of U.S. Trade Representative in 2013. This is how Politico sums up how trade deals are being deliberated under his command:
“If you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you’ve got to be a member of Congress, and you’ve got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.
“If you’re a member who wants to read the text, you’ve got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving.”
According to the WikiLeaks emails released yesterday, Froman began plotting who would serve in the Obama administration long before the election results came in.
In an email to John Podesta dated September 18, 2008, Froman wrote:
“Mark Gittenstein called to say he was in the process of inserting people into all of the work streams and indicated that Ron Klain would be their representative on the Personnel Working Group. I know and like Ron and am happy to work with him. Do let me know how you’d like to handle information flow, role in decisionmaking, etc. Thanks.”
In another email dated October 15, 2008, Froman further shows he is playing a pivotal role in personnel issues. He writes to Podesta and Obama advisor Pete Rouse:
“Please see attached. Pete, need to chat with you today about a time-sensitive Treasury issue. Please call at your convenience. 917-499-[xxxx]. John, got some feedback that Blair could well be interested in DNI. Also, spent some more time with Oszag last night and think he could be enticed to the NEC. Also, spent 2 hours (!) with Gene yesterday.”
Another email suggests that Podesta allowed Froman to screen potential new hires. Podesta wrote to Froman on October 13, 2008 to inquire:
“Subject: Gerald Corrigan
“Rahm raised as possible Treasury Deputy. Said he didn’t know him, but his name had been raised by others. You probably do. Worth considering?”
Froman responded: “Yes, though quite a bit out of date.”
Froman was not the only Citigroup executive to be tapped to shape Obama’s first term. In an email dated just five days after Obama won the 2008 election, Daniel Tarullo, an Obama advisor who now sits as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and functions in the quasi-role as supervisor of the too-big-to-fail bank holding companies like Citigroup, emailed Jack Lew at Citigroup. Lew was Chief Operating Officer of the very division that toppled the bank. Tarullo tells Lew the following:
“Jack – Here’s what I wanted to speak with you about: (1) possibility of meeting in Chicago to brief BO/JRB on budget/stimulus. People have been talking about Wed, Thur, or Fri, but nothing yet firmly set to my knowledge. Assuming it goes forward, how should we present (in 90 minutes for both!) the key issues? (2) your willingness to do some oversight on what Jason is doing on budget preparation, at least until such time as we have an OMB Director designate. Dan”
Robert Rubin was also contacted on November 1, 2008 at his official Citigroup email address by Tarullo. The same email was copied to another Clinton Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, who was then at a hedge fund, DE Shaw. The email indicates that Tarullo was seeking the opinion of Rubin, Summers and others in Obama’s closely knit circle as to whether Obama should attend a G20 Summit as President Elect. (Clip on the top tab “attachments” to read the full memo.) (Read more: Wall Street On Parade, 10/11/2008)