May 28th, 2010
11:29 AM ET
5 years ago

Clinton acted as White House intermediary on Sestak offer

Former President Bill Clinton called Joe Sestak on the White House's behalf.
Former President Bill Clinton called Joe Sestak on the White House's behalf.

(CNN) - Administration officials engaged in no improper conduct as part of alleged efforts to dissuade Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak from launching a primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter, White House Legal Counsel Robert Bauer asserted Friday in publicly-released memorandum.

According to Bauer, Sestak was offered a high-level but unpaid position. Sestak turned the offer down, and ended up scoring an upset victory over Specter in last week's Pennsylvania primary. The White House was instrumental in last year's switch by Specter from the GOP to the Democratic party. It backed him in his bid for a sixth term in the Senate, and was eager to clear the field of any primary opponents.

"I'll have something for you later," Sestak told CNN Friday, as he walked to the House chamber for a vote.

A White House source also told CNN's John King, "Bill Clinton did talk to Sestak at the urging of Rahm, to discuss executive branch service based on the assumption he would stay in the House."

Thursday, in a press conference that largely focused on the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, President Barack Obama refuted allegations of impropriety surrounding reports that his administration offered Sestak a position if he would drop his Pennsylvania senate bid.

"I can assure the public that nothing improper took place," the President said toward the end of his hour-long news conference.

But Obama refused to give any more details, even as several Republicans and a handful of Democrats have demanded the White House be more forthcoming on the matter.

"There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions," Obama said when asked about the issue. "You will get it from my administration. And it will be coming out, when I say shortly, I mean shortly. I don't mean weeks or months."

In February, Sestak, a former Navy admiral and two-term Philadelphia area congressman, said that someone in the White House last year offered him a job on the condition that he not mount a primary challenge to Specter.

Sestak had since refused to reveal any more details about the job offer – a pattern he continued earlier this week 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." I have said all I am going to say on the matter,"

But following the president's comments Thursday, Sestak said he would discuss the matter after the White House released its statement.

Since Sestak's May 18 primary victory, Republicans have been relentless keeping the controversy in the news. On Wednesday, all seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for a special prosecutor to look into the matter.

One of the unpaid positions that the White House suggested offering Sestak was an appointment to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, which gives the president independent oversight and advice. But it was determined that Sestak could not serve on the board, since he was an active a member of Congress.

It appears that Emanuel picked Clinton as a go-between with Sestak because of the former president's stature as an elder statesman and prominent figure in the Democratic party, and because Sestak worked on the National Security Council during Clinton's years in the White House. Sestak backed former first lady and then Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries.

Last week, before an appearance on CNN, cameras in the Russell Senate Office Building caught Sestak accepting a call from the former president.

According to a source at the State Department, Emanuel remains on a trip to Israel and is not expected back in the country until Monday.

–CNN's Dana Bash, John King and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

soundoff (245 Responses)
  1. dehr

    If it truly was Clinton who spoke with Sestak why didnt they just come out and say it months ago... This does not smell right

    May 28, 2010 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  2. Carl

    People, how much more are we to take from these corrupt politicians? "Nothing inappropriate occurred"? Is there a new definition of "inappropriate" we don't know about? If we as a people have one whit of integrity left, if we as a people believe this country stands for anything, we must as a people DEMAND a full investigation to OUR satisfaction, with applicable punishment for those accountable. If that means impeachment, indictment and imprisonment of a sitting president, so be it. Is this OUR country or the elite ruling class' country? Are we the people in charge, or are we simply their minions? It is high time we hold our government accountable to us and stop accepting their continuous stream of spin and lies. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY! DEMAND THE TRUTH! DEMAND INTEGRITY! DEMAND HONOR!

    May 28, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Gotta Be Kidding

    This is ridiculous. If people really think this is the first time something like this was done they're just plain stupid!!!! With all the things going on in this country and the world is this really worth all the fuss people are trying to make. Maybe you can put some of this energy into feeding some hungry folks or helping an elderly neighbor. People get real and quit with all the "rage" at this president. Are all of you asking for an investigation into this matter also asking for an investigation into the Iraq war or any of the other matters concerning the Bush administration. I doubt it. It's just a shame that President Obama doesn't have a magic wand to wave and solve all the problems he's faced with. Even if he did there would still be some complaining about something.

    May 28, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Debra

    What a bunch of right wingnuts on this board. Just an excuse to talk about so-called corruption when none exists but the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico by the buddies of Dick Cheney who set an energy policy of only oil guys in 'regulatory' positions. But THAT is not a topic of investigation. Boy, you guys are desperate. I guess now that there is no case, you right wing crazies are peeing in your pants. WAAAAAA.

    May 28, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  5. A. Ray

    How could you guys not love Bill Clinton? He tried to assist in a situation and there is nothing wrong with that. These type of discussions go on all the time in many types of situations. He made the pitch and Rep. Sestak made his decision and no harm no foul. You people that are making a mountian out of a mole hill ought to get a life. Don't you just love Bill Clinton?

    May 28, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. Mike in Fairfax

    So let me get this straight... It's NOT Bush's fault??!! Or could they just not get Bush to go along with the story so they had to go back one more administration to lay the blame? Seems a bit fishy to me. Then again, Clinton is an extremely honest and trustworthy person so why would one doubt it.

    May 28, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. David

    What's the big deal, folks? What's wrong with saying, "hey, A. S. took a big risk in changing sides. I/we support what he did and we would like to give him a little cushion to build his support. I/we understand you want to get more involved at the national level and think you have a log to offer. If you would be willing to give A.S. some breathing room, I/we would like to appoint you to a position that would give you that exposure to do something nationally in a couple of years."

    Why is that corruption?

    May 28, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. T'SAH from Virginia

    There goes CNN – controlling how the comments are printed to make it seem as if EVERYONE wants President Obama IMPEACHED..... Give me a BREAK!!!

    It is very obvious that NOTHING can be against the law in this transaction! The people in charged are LAWYERS – good LAWYERS and I bet you NO FAULT will be found no matter what board this goes in front of.................CASE AND POINT!!!

    May 28, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. Shibumi

    Stinkle Barry's slime factor just increased an order of magnitude. November can't get here fast enough.

    May 28, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. phoenix86

    When the going gets sleazy, call in Rahm. When it gets really sleazy, call Bill.

    May 28, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Bob

    Doesn't Joe Sestak's refusal to reveal who offered the job indicate he is participating in the cover up – way to go Admiral.

    May 28, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  12. ben

    What is the media and Republicans gonna do now....

    How about Karl Rove tactics, hahahahah!

    May 28, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. Dean

    Blago, bribery, 60's radicals in the WhiteHouse, less tranparancy than in any administration, inactivity on all important issues, Chicago style politics...............Yea boy we sure got change.

    Maybe Bill and Hillary could move to Brazil and take Obama with them.

    May 28, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  14. Rod

    I dont see what is the big deal here. It is called POLITIC. Hilary Clinton dropped out of the race and Obama made her Secretary of State. No one saw an issue with That?

    May 28, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. valwayne

    And the Cover Up begins. Does anybody believe the Obama "Chicago Way" White House brought in and Ex-President of the U.S. to offer a former admiral and current Congressman an unpaid advisory position to drop out of a U.S. Senate primary? It still looks like felony because the law says something of "Value" and states "Direct or Indirect", but does anybody believe this? We need a special prosecutor to get all of these people to tell what happened under oath.

    May 28, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. thor

    This prove that Sestak thinks the American people are stupid. This coverup has just begun.Nixon would be proud .!!!

    May 28, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. Linda

    As George "conservative" Will said nothing illegal was done. This happens in Washington all the time. So you republikkkans who are talking impreachment get over it.

    May 28, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Tim

    You know, Clinton, the high ranking white house official that Sestak referred to.

    May 28, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. CBR

    The comments on this issue are wild. The whole issue is blown way out of proportion just so we can air as many nasty comments as possible.

    We just cannot be civil to one another. We are overwhelmed by the comments that others make about those in the government, Those who write these comments are very thankful they leave in a country where free speech is a right and privilege.

    May 28, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. Tim

    Coming soon to a circus near you, Bubba and the One.

    May 28, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
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