- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2010

The White House said Friday that former President Bill Clinton acted as a go-between to discuss with Rep. Joe Sestak an Obama administration job in exchange for abandoning his Senate Democratic primary challenge against incumbent Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

The report came amid heavy pressure from Democrats and Republicans for the White House to provide details about Mr. Sestak’s repeated contention that he was offered a job if he would pull out of the race.

President Obama at a press conference the previous day denied the White House had ”improper” dealings with Mr. Sestak and said a complete report would be forthcoming.

In the two-page report, White House lawyer Robert F. Bauer said the job offered was a non-paying, advisory board position in the executive branch and that allegations of improper conduct by the administration “rest on factual error and lack a basis in the law.”

The report also stated the White House had no contact with Mr. Sestak, but that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel “enlisted the support” of Mr. Clinton to speak with Mr. Sestak.

Mr. Sestak said he received only one call, last summer, from Mr. Clinton on the issue. 

“During the course of the conversation, [Mr. Clinton] 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,” Mr. Sestak said in a written statement. “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.”

Mr. Sestak said he almost cut off Mr. Clinton in saying “no” and that his only consideration about the race was “whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families” and that Mr. Clinton said he expected such a response. The conversation then “moved on to other subjects.”

Mr. Sestak said during a Capitol Hill press conference that he did not think the offer was illegal.

Mr. Specter, a five-term incumbent, was backed by the White House in his re-election bid, but he was soundly defeated by Mr. Sestak in the May 18 primary.

He will face GOP nominee Pat Toomey in November.

Neither the White House nor Mr. Sestak’s response satisfied Republican leaders. 

“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.” said California Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who last month asked the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to the case, which the agency has refused. “This kind of conduct is contrary to President Obama’s pledge to change ‘business as usual.’”

On Wednesday, the seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee made a similar request to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Still, such a request is unlikely from the full committee, where Democrats are in the majority.  

None of the seven has responded directly for requests for comment since Mr. Obama’s midday press conference. House Republicans, including members of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, now have joined Mr. Issa in asking FBI Director Robert Mueller and his agency to investigate the matter.

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