Emails: Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki knew Treasury edited GM press releases
President Barack Obama’s campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki was aware Treasury Department officials crafted the press releases and public messaging for General Motors during the 2009 auto industry bailout, documents obtained by The Daily Caller show.
Psaki was a White House deputy press secretary at the time. She and fellow White House staffers Brian Deese and Amy Brundage show up on the emails in which the Treasury Department was rewriting press releases for GM.
TheDC obtained these internal Treasury Department documents in 2011 but an agreement with the source prevented their publication until now. The inclusion of Psaki, Deese and Brundage in these communications is reported here for the first time. (RELATED: Private emails detail Obama admin involvement in cutting non-union worker pensions post-GM bailout)
Psaki has since returned to Obama’s political campaign as his traveling press secretary.
Obama campaign spokespersons haven’t responded to TheDC’s requests for comment. But in an interview with CBS News during her White House tenure, Psaki acknowledged that “anything we say can reflect on the president.”
In one email message obtained by TheDC, the Treasury Department’s Jenni Engebretsen wrote to General Motors officials on Friday, May 29, 2009. Engebretsen was reacting to a draft of a press release she received from GM, about the company ceasing operations at several factories.
“We would ask that you move the reference to Treasury down to the third paragraph, taking it out of the lede,'” she wrote. “Please let us know if this presents any issues.”
“Lede” is a slang term for the opening paragraph of a news story or press release. Asking GM to remove the Treasury Department from the lede was a request to downplay its significance, and a sign that the Obama administration sought to minimize the public perception of its role in the GM bailout.
GM’s director of policy and Washington communications director Greg Martin replied to Engebretsen: “No problems. Done.”
Engebretsen then asked: “If there is an updated version at some point over the weekend we’d appreciate a final copy. Many thanks.”
Despite the Treasury Department’s desire to de-emphasize its role in bailing out GM, Obama is now citing it as a positive campaign issue and a success story for his administration.
Even so, the White House has refused to comply with congressional document requests related to the auto bailout — specifically those regarding the Delphi pension scandal.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp has asked Obama to “either claim executive privilege and be prepared to defend it for each and every document or turn over the documents without further delay.” (RELATED: Congressional leaders to Obama on Delphi scandal: Turn over documents or claim executive privilege)
While White House spokesman Eric Schultz hasn’t answered when asked if the president plans to assert executive privilege over the documents, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler suggested in an Oct. 12 letter to Camp that Obma could indeed invoke that presidential trump card as a way to sidestep congressional document requests.
“Your request for all EOP [Executive Office of the President] communications implicates longstanding and significant executive branch confidentiality interests,” Ruemmler wrote, “an encroachment upon [sic] which is unnecessary at this time.”