- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Obama transition team’s top official and the White House Tuesday denounced media reports stating that President Bush, in a meeting with Mr. Obama Monday at the White House, had withheld support for a second stimulus and help for automakers until Democrats agree to approve a trade deal with Colombia.

“While the topic of Colombia came up, there was no quid pro quo in the conversation,” said John Podesta, the former White House chief of staff under President Clinton who is overseeing the Obama transition.

“The president did not try to link the issue of Colombia to an economic recovery package,” he said.

“There was no linkage,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino, speaking to reporters in New York, where the president traveled to give a speech on Veterans Day.


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Mr. Podesta called White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten on Tuesday to discuss a leak from within the Obama camp that gave details of a conversation between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush.

“When we have a disagreement we know how to pick up the phone and talk to one another,” Mr. Podesta said during a press conference with reporters at transition headquarters in downtown Washington.

He hinted at displeasure within the White House over the leak, but said it had been resolved in his conversation with Mr. Bolten.

“Whatever happened this morning as a result of reports that I think were not accurate, I think we’ve cleared up and agreed to move forward,” he said.

Mrs. Perino played down reports that Mr. Bush was angry over the leaks coming from the Obama transition team.

“I’ve also gotten several requests wanting to know if there is irritation at the White House towards the Obama team, and you’re not going to hear that from me,” Mrs. Perino said.

“When you’re dealing with unidentified aides, as we have done over the past eight years, from all different types of aides that choose to be nameless rather than to say what they feel like they want to say on the record — it happens.”

Media reports on Tuesday said that Mr. Obama on Monday pressed Mr. Bush to do more for automakers, but that Mr. Bush said he wanted the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass the Colombia free trade agreement, and wanted a quid pro quo.

The reports in the Washington Post and New York Times cited Obama aides as the source of the leak, and on Tuesday morning the Web site The Drudge Report reported that the president was angry at the leak.

“Bush anger: Obama aides leak chat details,” screamed the banner headline across the Drudge home page, and the story cited a “top Bush source” as saying that “Senator Obama would be wise to keep close counsel.”

Mr. Podesta noted that the White House so far has been “quite cooperative” in the transition effort.

“We’ve tried to be cooperative in return,” he said.

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