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John Podesta

John Podesta

John David Podesta Jr. (born January 8, 1949) is an American political consultant who served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from October 20, 1998 until January 20, 2001 and as Counselor to President Barack Obama from January 1, 2014 until February 13, 2015. Before that he served as the White House Staff Secretary and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for the Clinton Administration between January 20, 1993 until October 20, 1998.

He is the former president, and now Chair and Counselor, of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank in Washington, D.C., as well as a Visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and was chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.[1][2] Additionally, he was a co-chairman of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[3][4]

Counselor to the President
January 1, 2014 – February 13, 2015
PresidentBarack Obama
Pete Rouse
Kellyanne ConwaySteve Bannon(Senior Counselor &White House Chief Strategist)Dina Powell(Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives)
20thWhite House Chief of Staff
October 20, 1998 – January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Erskine Bowles
Andy Card
White House Deputy Chief of Stafffor Operations
January 20, 1997 – October 20, 1998
PresidentBill Clinton
Evelyn Lieberman
Steve Ricchetti
White House Staff Secretary
January 20, 1993 – June 30, 1995
PresidentBill Clinton
Phillip Brady
Todd Stern
Personal details
Political partyDemocratic
EducationKnox CollegeGeorgetown University

Early life

Podesta spent most of his early years in Chicago, where he was born, growing up in the neighborhood of Jefferson Park on the city's Northwest Side.[5] His mother, Mary (née Kokoris), was Greek-American, and his father, John David Podesta, Sr., was Italian-American.[6] Tony Podesta, a lobbyist, is his brother.[7][8] Podesta's father did not graduate from high school, but encouraged his children to attend college.[9]

In 1967, Podesta graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago. Podesta met Bill Clinton in 1970 when they worked in Connecticut for Joseph Duffey, a candidate for the United States Senate.[10] In 1971, he graduated from Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, where he had served as a volunteer for the presidential candidacy of Eugene McCarthy.[9] He received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1976.[11]

Podesta worked as a trial attorney for the Department of Justice's Honors Program in the Land and Natural Resources Division (1976–77), and as a Special Assistant to the Director of ACTION, the Federal volunteer agency (1978–79). His political career began in 1972, when he worked for George McGovern's unsuccessful presidential campaign.[12]


Podesta held positions on Capitol Hill, including Counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas Daschle (1995–96); Chief Counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987–88); Chief Minority Counsel for the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee (1979–81). In 1988, he and his brother Tony co-founded Podesta Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C., "government relations and public affairs" lobbying firm. Now known as the Podesta Group, the firm "has close ties to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration [and] has been retained by some of the biggest corporations in the country, including Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin."[13]

The Clinton years

Podesta in 1993

Podesta in 1993

Podesta served as both an Assistant to the President and as Deputy Chief of Staff. Earlier, from January 1993 to 1995, he was Assistant to the President, Staff Secretary and a senior policy adviser on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy. Podesta was the first White House staffer to get the news of the Lewinsky scandal and was put in charge of managing the crisis.[14] In 1998 he became President Clinton's Chief of Staff in the second Clinton Administration and executed the position until the end of Clinton's time in office in January 2001. Podesta encouraged Executive Order 12958 which led to efforts to declassify millions of pages from the U.S. diplomatic and national security history.[15]

Recent years

Podesta meeting with Bill Clinton and Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia in 2006.

Podesta meeting with Bill Clinton and Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia in 2006.

President Obama holds a meeting with John Podesta and Susan Rice aboard Air Force One, 2015

President Obama holds a meeting with John Podesta and Susan Rice aboard Air Force One, 2015

John Podesta testifies before the Senate Budget Committee Task Force on Government Performance.

John Podesta testifies before the Senate Budget Committee Task Force on Government Performance.

In 2003, Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and served as its president and CEO until he stepped down in 2011. (CAP chief operating officer Neera Tanden succeeded Podesta as president and CEO, taking over day-to-day operations.)[16][17] Podesta remained chairman of the nonexecutive board of directors for a time,[17][17][18] and remains on the board today, although not as chairman.[19]

Podesta has taught at his alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center, many times over the years,[20] teaching classes on congressional investigations, law and technology, legislation, copyright and public-interest law.[20][21] On the Georgetown faculty, Podesta's title is Distinguished Visitor from Practice.[21]

From 2002–14, Podesta served as a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee.[22] In 2008, he authored The Power of Progress: How America's Progressives Can (Once Again) Save Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Country. In 2009, he accompanied former President Bill Clinton to North Korea for negotiations securing the release of two American journalists imprisoned on espionage charges. He can be seen in numerous widely circulated photographs of Clinton meeting with Kim Jong-il.[23]

Podesta opposes the excessive use of classification, and in a 2004 speech at Princeton University condemned what he called the U.S.'s "excessive government secrecy" and "bloated secrecy bureaucracy".[24]

Podesta has called Executive Order 12958, "which set tough standards for classifying documents and led to the unprecedented effort to declassify millions of pages from our nation's diplomatic and national security history," as "perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the Clinton administration."[24] More than 800 million pages of intelligence documents were declassified as part of the program.[25]

Podesta is described as "a longtime advocate for government disclosure of UFO files."[26] Podesta has supported petitions by some who believe UFOs are alien spacecraft to the government to release files related to the subject. At a 2002 news conference organized by Coalition for Freedom of Information Podesta stated that, "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon."[27]

Podesta wrote the forward for a book by Leslie Kean titled "UFOs- Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On The Record". The book details numerous contact events by these trained personnel.[28]

Podesta became an honorary patron of the University Philosophical Society in March 2006. Podesta is an emeritus member of the Knox College Board of Trustees.[29]

Podesta has served on the board of directors of Bedford, Massachusetts-based energy company Joule Unlimited since January 2011.[30][31] He has also served on the board of the Portland, Oregon-based Equilibrium Capital. In 2013, Podesta earned $90,000 as a consultant to the West Chester, Pennsylvania-based HJW Foundation, a nonprofit group led by Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss.[30] He was the U.S. representative to the UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[32]

After the 2016 election, Podesta joined The Washington Post as a columnist.[33]

Personal email leak

On October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks started to publish thousands of emails reportedly retrieved from Podesta's private Gmail account, some of which contained controversial material regarding Clinton's positions or campaign strategy.[34] Podesta and the Clinton campaign did not confirm or deny the authenticity of the emails.[35][36] Experts investigating the leak, including a private security firm called CrowdStrike, claimed to have tracked the hacking tools used, and claimed that a Russian hacking group had accessed Podesta's account.[37] Podesta said that Russian intelligence officials attempting to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump were behind the leak.[34]

The United States Intelligence Community released a statement directly accusing Russian intelligence of involvement.[38][39][40][41][42] Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News that the United States was "sending a message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin and that a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation would take place in response to the Russians' activities.[43]

When asked about the leaks, Vladimir Putin replied that claims of Russian involvement were false.

"The hysteria is merely caused by the fact that somebody needs to divert the attention of the American people from the essence of what was exposed by the hackers."[41][45]

Personal life

John Podesta is Catholic and has worked with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United.[46][47]

He and his wife Mary Podesta, a Washington, D.C. attorney, married in 1978 and have three children.[48][49] His daughter, Megan Rouse, is the president of the Dublin Unified School District (CA) Board of Trustees.[50][51] Podesta is an avid cook.[52]

See also

  • Podesta Group


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