May 28, 2010 3:54 PM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
Former President Bill Clinton was enlisted by the White House to speak with Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak about dropping his Senate primary challenge against incumbent Arlen Specter in exchange for a job, NBC News reported Friday.
A memorandum from the White House's top lawyer confirmed that Clinton "agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board."
Sestak said in February that he had been approached by the White House about abandoning his Senate bid but has declined to elaborate.
Members of both parties have been urging the White House to disclose details of Sestak's conversations with administration officials, and some Republicans - arguing that such actions could have constituted a crime - have requested that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to look into the matter.
The administration released a report describing the offer intended to clear a path for Specter to win the Democratic nomination. "We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest of factual errors and lack a basis in the law," wrote White House counsel Bob Bauer.
According to the White House, the positions considered for Sestak would have been unpaid.
Speculation had centered around a possible suggested appointment for the former admiral as the Secretary of the Navy. Bauer refuted that claim, writing that "at no time was Congressman Sestak offered, nor did he seek, the position of Secretary of the Navy."
One appointment reportedly discussed was a spot on the president's Intelligence Advisory Board, according to The New York Times, but officials nixed the idea because Sestak would not have been able to serve on the panel while retaining his seat in Congress.
In a statement released Friday, Sestak described his conversation with Clinton, saying, "During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background. He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I'd say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects."
Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and one of the first to raise concerns about the matter, said Friday that questions remain unanswered about possible discrepancies between the White House's account of the exchange and Sestak's claims.
" I'm very concerned that in the rush to put together this report, the White House has done everything but explain its own actions and has instead worked to craft a story behind closed doors and coordinate with those involved," he said in a written statement.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said he was "pleased" that the White House released the details but reiterated his call for an independent investigation into the matter, saying, "The American people will want something other than the president's own lawyers expressing their ultimate opinion of it."
Sestak remained in the Pennsylvania race, going on to defeat Specter in the Democratic primary last week. Specter, facing a tough GOP primary challenge, switched parties in April 2009.