Washington (CNN) - Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak and a close aide to President Obama both dodged pointed questions Monday about whether White House officials pressed Sestak to drop his Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in exhange for an administration job.
Sestak defeated Specter in last Tuesday's primary, but three months ago, when he faced longer odds against his Democratic opponent and his backers in the administration, the Philadelphia-area congressman said that someone in the White House offered him a job on the condition that he quit the race.
Sestak has refused to reveal any more details about the job offer - a pattern he continued Monday in an interview on CNN's "John King USA."
"I will let others speak for themselves," Sestak said when asked whom he talked to at the White House. "You and I should be talking right now about how people are slammed in this economy."
"I have said all I am going to say on the matter," Sestak said when asked again, insisting that he has explained his role in the matter "with integrity."
The congressman said he had to end the interview so he could vote on the House floor.
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Democrats were working toward an agreement Monday with the White House and possibly the Pentagon on a legislative step toward repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay soldiers from the military, sources told CNN.
In a letter to President Barack Obama obtained by CNN, three congressional sponsors of legislation to repeal the policy outlined the proposed agreement that would set contingencies based on completion of a military review of the matter already underway and subsequent final approval from the president and military leaders.
"We have developed a legislative proposal for consideration by the House and Senate that puts a process in place to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once the working group has completed its review and you, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military's standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention," said the letter sent Monday night that was signed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pennsylvania.
Congressional Democratic sources said they hoped Gates himself would explicity support the compromise language because that could determine whether the measure will pass. Several Democrrats in the Senate and House have said they are reluctant to support any legislation that doesn't have complete backing of the Pentagon.
There was no formal comment from the Pentagon on a possible agreement.
"Given that Congress insists on addressing this issue this week, we are trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering," said a statement by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
Washington (CNN) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with President Barack Obama on Monday for a discussion tackling a range of security issues relating both to Lebanon and the broader Middle East, according to the White House.
The meeting was part of Hariri's first official visit to Washington after assuming office. It was also the first face-to-face talk between the two men since the United States moved to put an ambassador back in Syria, a country with which Lebanon has a difficult relationship.
Washington pulled its ambassador from Damascus in 2005, after Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed in a huge car bombing, which the United States blamed on Syria. Syria denied the accusations, but an investigation by a United Nations Special Tribunal found Syrian government involvement.
The 2005 bombing led to massive protests in Lebanon, prompting Syria to withdraw the troops it had kept in Lebanon for decades.
Obama "commended (Hariri) for his leadership and for carrying on his father's legacy," a White House statement noted. They "reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and to continuing a wide-ranging and long-term partnership." The two leaders "reviewed progress on bilateral and regional issues, such as our work toward a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace."
Washington (CNN) - The United States hopes cool, careful language will keep the North Korea crisis from boiling over.
The Obama administration has been vocal in condemning North Korea for sinking a South Korean navy ship in March and killing 46 South Korean sailors. It is accusing North Korea of aggression and provocation.
But you won't hear American officials call this "an act of war." In fact, from President Barack Obama on down the command chain in this latest Korean crisis, "war" is missing in action.
Obama set the tone, offering support and condolences to the South Koreans in March. Once an international investigation was completed last week, a White House statement called the ship sinking "an act of aggression ... one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit the same notes during her trip to China.
"We are working hard to avoid an escalation, belligerence and provocation," Clinton said Monday. "This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region and it is one that every country that neighbors or is in proximity to North Korea understands must be contained."
(CNN) - Two-time GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi will run for the Senate in Washington state, two republican sources confirm to CNN.
Rossi's announcement could come as early as Wednesday, according to the sources, one of whom also adds that the candidate is in the process of hiring campaign staff.
Rossi, a businessman and commercial real estate investor, is arguably the best known Republican in Washington state, thanks to his two two bids for governor. In 2004, in an election that went into overtime, Rossi lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by just a handful of votes. Rossi was defeated in a 2008 rematch by a wider margin.
Polls of Washington state voters conducted this year suggest that Rossi could be competitive with three term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who's up for re-election this November.
Washington (CNN) - A group of minority firefighter applicants won a Supreme Court appeal Monday over whether they waited too late to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit.
The justices unanimously decided the Chicago city applicants can collect damages as part of a class action on behalf of thousands of fellow
At issue was a filing deadline for complaining to federal officials about the use of an employment test that has a stronger negative impact on minority applicants. The court concluded the time to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began when the results were used to make actual hiring decisions. The city claimed the clock started to run when the initial test results were released.
The high court ruling came a year after a highly contentious but separate dispute also involving firefighters. In that 5-4 decision, the justices ruled New Haven, Connecticut, officials violated the civil rights of white workers when a promotion test was thrown out after no black firefighters scored high enough to advance.
Washington (CNN) - Drawing parallels to her own experiences with rumor and political sniping, Sarah Palin used a Facebook posting Monday to defend the candidacy of South Carolina Republican gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley.
"As I said to Nikki this morning, 'Hang in there. I've been there. Any lies told about you will strengthen your resolve to clean up political and media corruption. You and your supporters will grow stronger through things like this.'"
Palin's reaction comes just hours after Haley denied a claim that she once had an extramarital affair with a prominent South Carolina political blogger.
Palin endorsed Haley earlier this month in a surprise move, and then traveled to South Carolina, where the two women appeared at a rally.
"There is some good news for your state," Palin said at the time. "And her name is Nikki Haley."
Haley now prominently features Palin's endorsement on her campaign website – and the Tea Party favorite has surged in the polls since appearing with Palin.
In her online posting, the former GOP vice presidential nominee makes clear she is standing by her endorsement of Haley.
Washington (CNN) - Legally, President Barack Obama can effectively fire BP and have the federal government take over efforts to stop the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The question is whether that would help the situation.
No one argues that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 gives Obama the authority to take over all efforts to plug the gushing well 5,000 feet beneath the surface.
However, officials of oil giant BP, while acknowledging their failure so far to stop the leak, say no one - even the U.S. government - can match their company's know-how and technology in such a crisis.
"I don't think anyone else could do better than we are," Doug Suttles, the BP chief operating officer, told CNN on Monday. "I know that that's frustrating to hear and our performance, to this point, I wish was better. I wish this was done. But we're doing everything we can. And I don't actually believe anyone could do any better, unfortunately."
Administration officials also have said they lack the technology - such as unmanned underwater submarines that can work at such ocean depths - that has been deployed by BP.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Despite the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the government is under pressure to issue new permits for offshore drilling as early as next week.
Permits to drill offshore were suspended last month pending an Interior Department safety review after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drill rig that left 11 workers dead and an uncapped oil well spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf.
The safety review is due this Friday, and the Obama administration will use it to help decide when and how drilling should resume.
Washington (CNN) - An internal Republican National Committee document obtained by CNN paints a damning picture of the committee's financial standing compared to the past five election cycles.
The document, pulled together during a recent review sparked by concerns over RNC spending practices, said the committee had $12.5 million in cash on hand at the end of April.
Read the RNC document here [pdf]
By comparison, the average cash on hand at the end of April from 2002-2009 was $40.4 million. And that average includes the odd numbered years when there are fewer election contests.
Looking only at even-numbered years, this year's $12.5 million end of April COH is less than one-third the amount the RNC had on hand on April 30 for the 2002 ($47 million) and the 2006 ($44.6 million) midterms.
To be fair, there was a Republican president in those years, and the GOP controlled Congress, so fund-raising was less of a challenge. Still, the giant gap in the RNC's financial standing compared to past cycles is a source of considerable grumbling among party leaders and activists who worry the GOP is not fully prepared to take advantage of a campaign year in which most of the fundamentals suggest huge Republican openings.