May 28th, 2010
11:29 AM ET
4 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. Truth, Justice and the American Way

    Sestak...what is the truth? You are tainted and damaged goods if you don't settle with us the public, and you know it.

    May 28, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. graceinflorid

    I have lost all HOPE of any real CHANGE. I never thought we'd get anything worse then Bush.....until Obama. The media should be ashamed for not doing their job and helping these crooks get into the White House.

    May 28, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Truth, Justice and the American Way

    Dang, I sure wish I could turn of these thoughts of how far our government has fallen in the last fifty years.

    May 28, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. Ross Foyee

    Harry Truman or Moses....where are either of you? Our planet sure needs one or the other or BOTH!!!

    May 28, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. WHO CARES

    So how is this an issue? He's from the same party. They offered him a job in the whitehouse. What do the tea baggers think about Cheney, Rumsfeld meeting to discuss who would be the best puppet (Bush) to lead (doop) the American public (or at least majority) in a Republican push to destroy this country? It's what the parties do. They decide who would be the best member for whatever job they are discussing. You people will get riled up about anything that involves a black president of the united states. Where were all the cries for impeachment when Bush was in for 8 years of flat out lies and weak proposals. 8 years of getting nothing done. Then, a black president is elected and within a week this tea bagging party comes out and cries for change. HAHA what fools. The same people who accept their social security checks cry foul when another social system is put on the table (health care reform). Just bury your heads in the sand like you did for 8 years with Bush. At least give Obama a chance. I mean he has done more in a year than the Bush admin tried in 8. All you can do is cut your losses and walk away. Don't try to sabotage others just because YOU got duped by the Republican party. One last item, any of you baggers complain about a possible issue with Cheney being a huge stake holder in Haliburton while getting this country involved with two insane wars???? Ya didn't think so. You can't cover up the fact that all you tea baggers are simply outraged that a black man was elected president. You are witnessing the end of white racist America and these baggers are doing everything they can think of to stop this progression. Same people who can't handle gay marriage. Just stop your foolish arguments and start playing along with the rest of intelligent America.

    May 28, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. Jim

    I'm sure those of you critical of this matter, voted for Obama in the first place! LOL!

    Further, even if this is precisely as represented – what is the crime? Administrations can and do make political appointments for all sorts of reasons. This sort of thing has been going on.....FOREVER.

    May 28, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. Carolyn

    OMG. You would think after the last Democratic primary that Clinton would know better than to trust the Obama admin as far as he could throw them. He'll always be the first one they throw under the bus, when they're the biggest crooks of all. Clinton's intelligent - should have known better.

    As far as what they're "charged" with - NEWS FLASH: IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE. Welcome to today's American politics.

    May 28, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Alohadeb

    The "White House" certainly not the "Glass House", as O'Bama touted his Administration would be......

    The Government is so corrupt....it is making me sick......why don't they concentrate on the massive oil spill.....negligence and greed are the front runners in this mess....how about the economy? Where are the jobs? What about the mortgage crisis....I read today instead of making it less complicated for someone who is sinking in their home, that they need more paperwork to be able to get approved......

    We need to get rid of the Democrats and the Republicans, and form a Third Party and take back our country before it is too late!!

    May 28, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. Tayo

    No smoking gun!

    Game close!!
    And we move on!!!

    May 28, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Investigater

    Not another investigtion, thats all we need, that's the problem with having a bunch of lawyers in washington and NOW the people just want to keep the lawyers in the courtroom investigating. This is a non story. Now, debt, jobs, the poor, two wars are stories, who cares about this, really, but hannity, rush, beck, maddow, and michael savage, oh these are all millionaires making their money off of getting us all middle class people upset asking for investigations. You are all suckers!

    May 28, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. L. T. Fang

    The GOPs and Tea baggers have lost all the senses they've ever had.
    This is a bribe? How?
    This is a bribe as much as offering the vice presidency to Joe Biden is a bribe, stupid.

    May 28, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Seth

    I think the White House is playing politics with this – They knew there wasn't much to this so the kept quiet knowing that the Republicans would go crazy about it and create a distraction from the criticism about the oil spill. The White House knows how the play the Republicans like a flute.

    The White House knew Republicans could use the oil spill effectively so when this Sestak problem occurred they knew if they acted strange/avoiding the Republicans would follow the shiny object, so now that Obama has taken ownership of the spill and it's about stopped they are now willing to release the info on Sestak – Brillant!

    Timeline people, timeline.

    May 28, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. Enough

    Rahm needs to go, this guy is so blatant it is ridiculous....the press should give NO free pass to these above the law, in your face Democrats. Hard to believe the far left wing nuts can still try and defend the bunch in the white house destroying this country. Is this the change you voted for? Oh yes...this must be Bush's fault.

    May 28, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Altee11

    What's the big deal here. He was offered a different job. It was a competing offer. He said no. It's competition for a worker.

    May 28, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. dacajun

    This is the best they can do? And they are in charge of the oil spill? We Cajuns better all get a bucket and Dip baby dip.

    May 28, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  16. Steven P

    It comes as no surprise. If politicians were in general ever honest, it all goes down the toilet when they get to DC. Just another deal. Nothing to see here.

    May 28, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. AW

    What a joke. He doesn't even know what sex is let alone what is appropriate.

    May 28, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. Mike

    We MUST restore trust in the Government. In this case, such can easily be accomplished by a SHORT Congressional Hearing including:

    1) Statement of the hearing, short, simple and without confusing political commentary…”Did the Executive Branch interfere with a Senatorial nomination process by offering Sestak inducement to withdraw from his campaign.”
    2) Issue subpoenas to the key players (Sestak, Emmanuel, Bill Clinton, and perhaps Obama himself).
    3) Ask the Question of each while under oath in testimony to Congress, i.e. under penalty of perjury.
    4) Review critical/essential evidence, e.g. a phone log identifying the telephone call that Bill Clinton made to Joe Sestak (where, when, and how long).

    Bottom line, the players have to tell the truth or be subject to penalties associated with lying to the American Public.

    All of that doesn’t touch the damage done to Obama’s credibility and reputation as a President who would “change” politics in Washington.

    ps: REMEMBER THIS when Hillary makes a bid for President.

    May 28, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Zack

    All of you have waited for this moment for Obama to screw up you've been calling for his neck since they day he took office . All Sestak is doing is playing high-school drama and acting like a complete idiot by giving himself a few minutes of fame here, he is doing so much more harm then he ever expected and now he doesnt know waht to do. Obama has started to do more for this country then any republican or democrat before him, all this is going to become is just another story for you naysayers to make Obama the bad guy. We have Two wars, a catastrophic oil spill coming to our shores, mounting tensions between North Korea and South Korea, national guardsmen being sent to the Mexican border. IF YOU PEOPLE HONESTLY HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO THEN LOOK FOR THE FAULTS OF OBAMA, THEN HOW WOULD YOU HANDLE ALL THESE ISSUES? PLEASE I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM ALL YOUR ANGER AND YOUR HATE. You talk about taking our country back but it is people like you, who have torn it apart.

    May 28, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Chris

    What a joke! Really – it took 3 weeks for the WH to come up with this lie! How may lawyers do you think it took to find a way to claim having done nothing wrong. Why not say this 3 weeks ago? The answer is because they just came up with this one.

    Politicians are all BF liars@!

    May 28, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. ironman

    are you people that dumb to put this moron back in offfice they really need to some real drug test on you people there in that state

    May 28, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. LoJo

    CRIME INC! Just add this debacle to the huge list of crimes this administration began the day Obama entered into the White House! Its amazing what someone can do in one year to destroy a country! And, REALLY?!?! A man who's running for Senate, a PAID job, is seriously going to take a non-paid, non job? Does this administration really think that America is THAT stupid?

    May 28, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. John

    An unpaid position? This doesn't seem like much of a bribe to me.

    May 28, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. WHO CARES

    This blog is filled with idiots. Simple as that. I wish I could some how hand an intelligent thought over to you via WEB but then you would have to actually accept an intelligent thought and clearly most of you aren't ready.

    May 28, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  25. mike

    All I can say is impeach Obamma!

    May 28, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
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