WikiLeaks emails shows Citigroup’s major role in shaping Obama administration’s cabinet

President Barack Obama meets with members of his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House. © White House
Among the many revelations from the #PodestaEmails are passages showing that even before President Obama was elected, the staffing for leading cabinet positions had more or less been decided by a group led by an Citigroup exec.

The revelation came from a hack of the email account of John Podesta, a chair of Obama’s 2008 Transition Team. They show that Obama gave executives of Citigroup an “outsized role in shaping and staffing his first term.”

In an email dated from October 18, 2008, Michael Froman, who is now the US trade representative, used his official Citigroup email address of fromanm@citi.com, to send the following email to Obama advisers:

“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 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….”

In an earlier email, dated October 6, a month before the election, Froman provided Podesta with “Lists” attaching three documents: a list of women for top administration jobs, a list of non-white candidates, and a sample outline of 31 cabinet-level positions and who would fill them.

“The lists will continue to grow,” Froman wrote to Podesta, “but these are the names to date that seem to be coming up as recommended by various sources for senior levels jobs.”

The cabinet list ended up more or less as advised.

Janet Napolitano was listed as the choice for Homeland Security, Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff, Robert Gates for Defense, Eric Holder for the Justice Department or White House Counsel, Susan Rice for United States Ambassador to the UN and Arne Duncan for Education.

Hillary Clinton wasn’t mentioned, but John Kerry was listed for Secretary of State and for the Treasury, three possibilities were on the list: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner.

Froman had served in the Clinton administration and moved to Citigroup along with Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin.

“It was Rubin who collected compensation of $126 million during his decade at the bank after helping 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 Wall Street on Parade.

Obama appointed Froman to the position of US trade representative in 2013. Politico described how trade deals, like the TPP, are being deliberated under Froman.

“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.”

To read the document, members are handed one section at a time, watched over while it's being read and forced to hand over any notes before leaving.

Another email dated five days after Obama won the 2008 election, an Obama adviser, Daniel Tarullo (now a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors) emailed Jack Lew, Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer and sought his advice and that of Robert Rubin and Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, on whether Obama should attend a G20 Summit as president elect.