Even a president-elect needs to send email. And as a result of the stolen email messages released by WikiLeaks, we now know what President Barack Obama‘s email address was during the presidential transition at the end of the 2008 campaign: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five emails to or from that address show up in the hacked email file of John Podesta, head of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Dating back to the end of the 2008 campaign, the emails show that the Obama team was focused on getting the new administration up and running even before Election Day 2008.
In one email dated Oct. 30, 2008, Podesta emailed Obama and advisor Pete Rouse under the subject heading “Economic Staffing Decisions.”
“Barack, Good meeting yesterday,” Podesta wrote. “When we got off on the idea of creating an emergency national economic council, we left unresolved two questions that were contained in my 2 page cover memo.”
Podesta pushed for quick decisions on whether William Daley or Daniel Tarullo should run the interim economic staff team early on in the transition. Podesta recommended Tarullo.
Podesta also reminded Obama that the president-elect had recommended billionaire investor Warren Buffett to the list of potential members of an interim outside economic council. He asked Obama for a decision.
In a reply time stamped at 11:47 p.m. that night, Obama replied: “I will give you an answer on this tomorrow. Barack.” The email noted it was sent via Obama’s BlackBerry device using AT&T wireless.
The Clinton campaign has not confirmed that the emails released by WikiLeaks are legitimate documents, and CNBC cannot independently authenticate the emails.
Obama was so attached to that BlackBerry that he urged White House security officials to come up with a way for him to be the first president to carry a wireless email device as a sitting president. The Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies expressed concern about the prospect of foreign intelligence services gaining access to any device that the president would carry. In the end, they developed a secure workaround and the president was able to continue to use mobile email.
Disclosure of emails from Obama himself in the WikiLeaks trove — the theft of which intelligence officials have said was enabled by Russian intelligence — indicated that intelligence officials were right to be concerned about the privacy of the president’s communications at the time.
Other emails to “email@example.com” do not appear to have generated a reply from the president-elect. (Ameritech was one of seven regional Bells created after the breakup of the Bell system. It was acquired by SBC Communications.)
In one email sent at 7:39 p.m. on election night of 2008, Podesta emails Obama with some last-minute thoughts on the upcoming G-20 meeting. “I don’t want to bug you today,” Podesta wrote. “The memo pasted below concerns a possible invitation to the G-20 meeting on November 15.”
That email would have reached Obama just 21 minutes before the major television networks called the election in his favor, making him the next president of the United States. Already, Podesta was focused on what Obama might hear about the G-20 from President George W. Bush in an expected upcoming congratulatory telephone call.
“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. As long as you are aware of that, we can review the contents of the memo tomorrow.”
In the memo, staffers weighed the pros and cons of accepting an invitation to the G-20, if it were extended. On one hand, the meeting just 11 days after the election would “afford you an early and efficient opportunity to evaluate the positions of leaders from other economically important countries,” they wrote.
But on the other hand: “With at most very limited influence on the outcome of the meeting, you would be associated with it. If, for example, the meeting is widely regarded as an anemic response to grave systemic problems, you will be tied to that perception.”
What’s more, they wrote, “Attendance alongside President Bush will create an extremely awkward situation.”
“If you attempt to disassociate yourself from his positions, you will be subject to criticism for projecting a divided United States to the rest of the world. But if you adopt a more reserved posture, you will be associated not only with his policies, but also with his very tenuous global standing.”
The memo also noted that outside economic advisors were unanimously against Obama going to the meeting, including: Bob Rubin, Paul Volcker, Larry Summers, Daley and Tarullo.
Still, advisors worried that rejecting such an invitation would be seen as rejecting an offer of bipartisan cooperation from the outgoing Bush administration. So they developed four ways to defuse the tension, including heading off an invitation even being made, and heading off speculation about the meeting at an early news conference (“There would likely be a question about your potential attendance at the G20 meeting, something we could make more likely by quietly suggesting to someone that such a question would elicit an interesting answer if asked.”)
Also considered were declining the invitation but sending an advisor in a limited observational role, or declining the invitation entirely. Obama did not attend the G-20 meeting.
Other emails to Obama’s address were much less significant. In one dated Oct. 6, 2008, Podesta emails Obama contact information for Erskine Bowles and “Leon,” presumably a reference to Leon Panetta.
It is likely that Obama has long since been using other email addresses. Politico reported in September that FBI officials showed Clinton aide Huma Abedin a copy of an email exchange between Obama and Hillary Clinton in which Obama used a pseudonym email address. Abedin was amazed that the president used an email pseudonym. “How is this not classified?” Abedin is said to have replied to the FBI agents interviewing her. The FBI report said Abedin asked the bureau for a copy of the Obama-Clinton email.
It is possible that the Ameritech.net email address is still in some sort of use by Obama officials, however. An email sent by CNBC to the Ameritech.net address did not bounce back as undeliverable on Thursday.
But no one replied to it, either.