Harris, Rice, and Duckworth were vetted for Obama and Clinton cabinets – Business Insider
Joe Biden on Tuesday picked Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, as his running mate, making her the first woman of color on a major party presidential ticket in the US.
Kamala Harris, Susan Rice, and Tammy Duckworth were all floated for possible top administration jobs by the Obama transition team in October 2008, according to hacked emails later released by WikiLeaks.
The trove of hacked emails from John Podesta — who led Obama’s 2008 transition team and chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — offers a glimpse into how those teams vetted some of the women who were contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate.
Harris was considered for a top DOJ job in 2008; Duckworth was floated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Biden pushed for Rice to get a White House national security job.
The emails also show that Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren were floated by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman as VP contenders in 2016.
Kamala Harris, the new Joe Biden pick for vice president, has been in a similar position before.
The California senator was also in the running for a top job in the executive branch back a dozen years ago when Barack Obama was making plans to build out his new government should he win the presidential election, according to hacked emails later released by WikiLeaks.
Harris and some other contenders in the Biden veepstakes — Susan Rice and Tammy Duckworth — were all floated for the possible top administration jobs by the Obama transition team in October 2008, the emails show.
The trove of hacked emails from John Podesta — who led Obama’s 2008 transition team and chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign — offers a glimpse into how those teams vetted some of the women who this year were contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate. They may also signal where a Biden administration might want to appoint some of the finalists who didn’t wind up on the ticket.
The emails attracted loads of media coverage when they were first dumped during the 2016 presidential campaign, but include details that are newly relevant in light of Biden’s announcement. An incoming Biden administration may also dust off some of the Obama team’s previous personnel lists when they’re drafting transition plans this fall.
Podesta has repeatedly declined to comment publicly on the veracity of the hacked emails and slammed Russian intelligence officials for stealing his emails in an attempt to sway the 2016 presidential election and help Donald Trump win. The Biden campaign declined to comment on whether it had received vetting information from the Obama or Clinton campaigns about vice-presidential contenders.
Harris floated for DOJ job
Harris, a California Democrat, was San Francisco’s up-and-coming district attorney in 2008 when she was considered for a potential Justice Department job under Obama. She was included on transition team lists titled “Women” and “Diversity” as a possible undersecretary, assistant secretary, or deputy assistant secretary. Harris, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and India, was on the Obama team’s lists of “African Americans” and “Asian Americans.”
But Harris never joined the Obama administration. She became California’s attorney general in 2011 and joined the US Senate in 2017.
If she wasn’t picked as Biden’s VP, Harris was widely considered to be a contender to lead the Justice Department. She was also considered a possible nominee for the Supreme Court; Biden has promised to put the first Black woman on the high court.
Duckworth considered for top VA post
Illinois Democratic Sen. Duckworth, an Iraq War Veteran, was director of the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs in 2008. Duckworth was considered for a top post at the Department of Veterans Affairs that fall, the emails show. She was also included on the Obama team’s “Women” and “Diversity” lists.
Duckworth, who lost her legs in combat, was one of four candidates on a list titled “Disabled Americans.” She was also floated as a potential VA secretary or deputy secretary on a list labeled “Asian Americans.” She was born in Thailand, the daughter of a mother of Chinese descent and an American father.
Earlier this summer, Fox News host Tucker Carlson questioned Duckworth’s patriotism, calling the senator a “moron” and a vandal after she called for a dialogue on whether to remove statues of George Washington. Duckworth fought back with an op-ed condemning Carlson for making the remarks and Trump for amplifying them.
Obama nominated Duckworth in February 2009 to be the VA’s assistant secretary of public and intergovernmental affairs. She stepped down from the department in 2011 and won an Illinois congressional seat in 2012. She was elected to the Senate in 2016.
Biden wanted Rice for national security gig
According to an October 2008 memo sent from Obama transition adviser Mike Froman, Obama’s then-running mate Biden wanted input on key staffing positions.
“Senator Biden’s staff has indicated he would like to be consulted on and/or put forward the names below for the following,” the memo said. It listed the White House chief of staff, White House counsel, the national security adviser, and the heads of the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice.
Rice, who was also on the “Women” and “Diversity” lists compiled by the transition team, was one of two names on Biden’s list for an adviser to oversee the National Security Council. The other name was Jones, presumably referring to retired general James Jones, who became Obama’s first national security adviser in 2009.
Obama ultimately picked Rice to be US ambassador to the United Nations, a job she held from 2009 until 2013 when she became White House national security adviser.
The emails also show that Rice was extensively vetted by the Obama campaign as early as October 2008. A document that circulated that month among transition team members titled “SR Deep Dive” detailed everything from her previous writings and finances to her health, “personal issues,” and perceived “controversies/liabilities.”
The document said she had a “reputation as a tough but fair manager, and some coverage has reported criticism of her for micromanagement.” It noted that one of her top national security priorities — the reduction of poverty worldwide — “may raise concerns or face opposition in Congress (especially among Republicans)” who might criticize her advocacy for increased foreign aid.
Despite a “small number of issues that are likely to come up in a confirmation setting,” the 2008 report said, “Rice has not been involved in any major controversies and does not have any major liabilities.” She “would be a strong candidate for a senior national security position. She is smart, articulate, and confident, and she has a strong policy background and valuable experience,” the document concluded.
Another document attached to the Rice vetting email described her as “aggressive and opinionated, causing some to see her as headstrong and rigid. But no one questions her intelligence or her ability to articulate policy effectively.”
The vetting team even dug up her nickname from her days playing basketball at Washington’s National Cathedral School. Rice, who played point guard, was called, “‘Spo,’ which was short for Sportin’.”
Some in the Republican party were worried that Rice — with her foreign policy and national security experience — may have be a formidable addition to a Biden ticket. Others were eager for him to pick her so that they could attack her on her botched handling of the 2012 attack on the US compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Rice was being considered to replace then-Secretary of State Clinton in 2012, but she withdrew following the fallout from the Benghazi attack.
Warren, Klobuchar in the mix for Clinton VP
Podesta’s hacked emails also show some of the contenders to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. Two of them — Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Warren was considered a long-shot VP contender this year; Klobuchar took herself out of the running, saying instead that the role should go to a woman of color.
In an email dated March 12, 2016, Podesta shared a list of “people worth considering” for Clinton’s vice president. He had organized them into “rough food groups,” he wrote, with categories that appear to be grouped along racial and gender lines.
One of those groups included six Democratic women then serving in the US Senate: Warren, Klobuchar, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and former Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill. Clinton ultimately picked Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, as her running mate.