June 5th, 2010
09:58 AM ET
8 years ago

Steele keeps pressure on White House over Sestak, Romanoff

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is keeping pressure on the White House amid revelations administration officials attempted to dissuade certain Democrats from launching Senate primary campaigns.

“From day one of this current flap involving Congressman Joe Sestak and now Andrew Romanoff, the White House efforts to deny, obfuscate, and mislead have only served to raise suspicions even further,” Steele says in the weekly Republican radio and internet address.

“If Rahm Emanuel has been offering government goodies to inconvenient politicians threatening Democrat incumbents, then it’s time for him to resign,” Steele also says. “If it comes out that the President knew about any of it, then we have a larger problem.”

Steele’s comments come in the wake of a White House counsel memo that revealed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton to offer to Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board if he did not challenge incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak declined the offer and defeated Specter in the May 18 primary.

Meanwhile, a Colorado Senate candidate who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary said last week that a senior White House aide suggested last year that three administration jobs might be open to him if he abandoned plans to run against Bennet. But the candidate, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, also noted that he was never offered a position by the White House.

Congressional Republicans say the conversations might be in violation of a string of federal laws –including 18 U.S.C. § 600 (Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity), 18 U.S.C. § 595 (Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments) and the Hatch Act (An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities) – and have called for an independent investigation.

Full Steele remarks after the jump:

“President Barack Obama promised that he “won’t stop fighting to open up government,” and that he would have “the most transparent administration in history.” Really?

“Of course, it’s one thing to keep that promise when you think it’ll help you politically. The real test of a man’s word is if he keeps it when it’s inconvenient, embarrassing or potentially damaging. On this test, the President and his people have failed.

“There’s a reason we have a law that prohibits Federal officials from offering things of value to people for political gain. It’s called transparency. And the White House’s efforts to use federal appointments to entice candidates out of competitive Democratic primaries goes directly against the Obama Administrations claims of openness and transparency.

“From day one of this current flap involving Congressman Joe Sestak and now Andrew Romanoff, the White House efforts to deny, obfuscate, and mislead have only served to raise suspicions even further.

“Three months ago, when Congressman Sestak claimed the White House offered him a job in return for dropping his primary challenge against Democrat incumbent Arlen Specter, the White House flatly denied it.

“After Sestak refused to recant his version of events, the White House finally conceded that some conversation happened but their message was “trust us, it wasn’t inappropriate, so move along, nothing to see here.”

“This exoneration-by-fiat didn’t pass the laugh test. It’s not up to the White House to judge the ethics of their behavior – that right is reserved for the American people once all the facts are on the table. So the demand for these facts continued.

“After three months of intense political pressure, we were finally served with a memo from the President’s lawyer, admitting that, contrary to previous denials, in fact, the White House did enlist former President Bill Clinton to offer the Congressman an allegedly unpaid position.

“However, the memo raises far more questions than it answers.

“First, the law doesn’t prohibit offers of only paid positions. So, offering the Congressman an unpaid position does nothing to exonerate Bill Clinton or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“Second, Sestak wouldn’t be able to accept a position on a Presidential advisory board and remain in Congress anyway, which casts doubt about whether this was really the job the White House offered.

“Third, the memo claims multiple conversations between President Clinton and Mr. Sestak during June and July of 2009. But Congressman Sestak insisted four times, just on Tuesday, that there was only one brief conversation. So who’s lying?

“Fourth, the memo alleges that President Obama knew nothing of all of these conversations.

“Now, why would the White House enlist the help of such a high-profile surrogate like former President Bill Clinton – on “multiple” occasions, without the knowledge of President Obama – for months-long negotiations over such a low-profile, unpaid position, and all with a Congressman who couldn’t even accept the job anyway?

“And now we know that this is only part of a larger pattern of backroom, Chicago-style politics. Andrew Romanoff, who’s challenging Democrat incumbent Michael Bennet for the Colorado Senate Democrat nomination, was offered a choice of one of three jobs by Rahm Emanuel’s deputy Jim Messina if he would drop out of the primary.

“Again, the White House first denied the allegations when they came from anonymous Administration whistle-blowers. But once the actual email from Messina was released by Romanoff, who probably didn’t like being called a liar by the White House, the story changed: again, the jobs were offered, but nothing inappropriate happened.

“After all of the stonewalling and denying, what is the White House’s latest defense? It was just business as usual.

“Enough is enough. If Rahm Emanuel has been offering government goodies to inconvenient politicians threatening Democrat incumbents, then it’s time for him to resign. If it comes out that the President knew about any of it, then we have a larger problem. And, if offering political appointments in exchange for sitting out of a campaign is the President’s proposal for “job-creation,” then we’re in for more economic misery.

“The time has come for more than just self-exonerating claims from the President’s lawyer. The Department of Justice must step in and assign an impartial referee, either in the form of a special investigator or an independent counsel, who can sort out the facts and answer the burning question – what did the White House offer to Sestak and Romanoff, who authorized the offer, who else knew about it and what was the expected trade-off for accepting the offer?

“The President promised transparency. All we have right now is a series of transparent cover-ups. So much for “change you can believe in.”

Filed under: Michael Steele • President Obama
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. xavier

    How long before this blows up int he GOP's face? Everything seems to blow up in the GOP's face now adays. If the Republicans dont take over the hosue and senate in November, who will they blame? It seems to me they should spend less time pointing at others, and spend more time actually doing something beyond just saying no.

    June 5, 2010 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. Bill from GA

    The White House should stay out of primary elections. They should support the chosen candidate from their party, only. Any politician should stay out of primary elections if it isn't in their state.

    However, The White House should refuse to give any more details about what they know. If one of President Obama's underlings did these deeds without his knowledge or approval, he should fire them. But the White House should not take part in any witch hunt.

    June 5, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. Charlie in Maine

    Blah,blah,freakin blah.

    Some smart Republican (Yes there are too stop being so negative) Some smart Republican should offer you a job somewhere far away from the limelight where you will do less damage.

    June 5, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. Tired of Wingers

    The GOP's resident Oreo is indeed a strange spokesperson for the Republican Party. I feel somewhat petty for stating the obvious, but let's face it – the GOP is really a huge collection of mostly old, angry, self-righteous, white people. Propping-up an African American as spokesperson is like the Democrats paying Ann Coulter to represent the moderate viewpoint.

    June 5, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  5. Vickie

    Michael Steel is the biggest jerk ever born. He is the epitome of a token and uncle tom, too bad he doesnt have the respect of the people who's butts he so willingly kisses!!!

    June 5, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. Hall for Obama

    Hey Steel, do you have any thing to do other than to find fault about nothing. If you can why don’t you go down to La and help pick up some oil, this is not just a President Obama job this is an American job. Maybe we would thank better of you if you do some constructive decision making once in a while. May God Bless You?

    June 5, 2010 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "Steele keeps pressure on White House over Sestak, Romanoff"
    And by doing so, he leads the Republican party on yet another POLITICAL snipe hunt.
    AGAIN, Republicans have the chance to re/misdirect the public eye away from the essential job of governing FOR AMERICANS, not just special interests.
    AGAIN Republicans are trying to make "something" out of "nothing left to work with."

    Using the same old tricks to try and get back in power is neither change we can believe in nor a practicable working premise.

    June 5, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. Willy Brown

    Democrat’s culture of corruption started with the words “hope & change”

    June 5, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Hall for Obama

    Steel go get your self a real job, so you can stop being some dumb ass spoke person for the GOP. If you want to be a real person tell us how to fix this Oil mess. Oh and don't point your finger at the President. I know that is all you was put in your seat to do. Think man on your own once in a while.

    June 5, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Brenda

    The Republicans definitely need to keep the pressure on--until an independent investigation is launched.

    This is already getting to the Democrats-–as they have now told numerous versions/lies to try to cover this up. Now, they can't even keep their lies straight.

    And, if an investigation is launched--there is no way that Obama will not be connected to these job "offers'-–especially in the Romanoff situation.

    June 5, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Indy

    It's too bad that thr Republicans have nothing to do but run hate agendas for the President. Maybe a good thing that there are no important issues for Republicans to work on and they have all day everyday to do nothing but go after Obama. Yes with the economy doing so great and all Americans employed there is nothing else for Steele to do but continue the with hunt. Thank God we have democrats that are actually working hard on real important issues and Republicans are more concerned with what people may or may not have said.In the real world these loud mouth Republicans would bankrupt any company they worked for with their serious lack of work ethics and their attack on everything that is not Republican. They all need to be fired, and the faster the better.

    June 5, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. GI Joe

    OK folks – we have a president dealing with enormous national and international issues. Do the republicans say "what can we do to help our nation"? NO

    We have positions unfilled that could help with some of the national and international issues. The republicans put [chicken*hit blind holds on those positions] - do the republicans help? NO

    Vote out the party of NO. They are NOT even trying to help.

    June 5, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  13. GI Joe

    National Security - the Party of NO keeps showing our enemies that they will do nothing to help this nation. The Party of NO has joined the Taliban in Jihad against our entire nation.

    June 5, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Anthony

    Oh my God! The President did what every President since political parties were created has done! The shock!

    Does no one remember W putting pressure on Tim Pawlenty to bow out from running against former Senator Norm Coleman back in 2002? Or President Reagan offering a Congressman a plum posting to get him out of a race that Maureen Reagan was in back in 1982?

    June 5, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  15. Marie MD

    michael, michael, michael, shouldn't you and your repugs be paying more attention to SC? One candidate has had affairs and the other calls her and President Obama ragheads.
    From what we have heard and read every administration has done this as far back as President Washington. Are you going to exhume his body so you can ask him what's up!?

    June 5, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. JFK

    At a time when we face multiple crisis, this is really not going to be a high priority. The GOP are so focused on the most insignificant issues that its no wonder they are a party in utter chaos. They cant even agree on what they stand for any more since its certainly not financial conservation after the big spending Bush years. It cant be on moral issues considering the number who quit in shame from taking bribes, flirting with their male interns, and toe tapping in bathooms. It cant be border security since they had years after our worst tradgedy of 9/11 and did nothing to fix the borders. We even turned our sea ports over to foreign control to make a quick buck. Republican are the biggest hypocrites on earth and should just keep their mouths closed if they ever want to gain a shred of credibility back. And I doubt that will happen.....

    June 5, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. phoenix86

    Funny to see the comment from the looney left attacking the GOP or Steele for this.

    I guess they don't care if a president does anything illegal anymore, and actually support it.

    Too bad they were not around with Nixon was in office, he would have appreciated their support.

    June 5, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. SLP

    Come on, guys! You know that if this were Bush, you would be singing an entirely different tune. When are you guys going to get it through your heads that wrong is wrong and it doesn't matter what side of the political aisle it is being perpetrated? The biggest problem with it occurring within the Obama administration is that President Obama did promise transparency and to get away from politics as usual. You know, you can take the man out of Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago political machine out of the man. What is happening here is wrong! It would have been wrong during the Bush administration, and it is wrong during this one. Stop trying to justify it!

    June 5, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  19. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    I wish this boob would shut up... Why don't we investigate crooked Bush and his illegal tempaering with DOJ ?

    June 5, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. Al in Cal

    Regardless of how one feels about Mr. Steele, or the Republicans, the smell of this issue is clearly Democratic. Both these candidates admitted openly that he was approached from someone with direct links to the WH, including Bill Clinton! Now unless you're more stupid than you'll admit, Obama was involved in this idiotic plan. Doesn't matter if the were actually any jobs available, or offered, to these two candidates. It was the approach to discourage them from running for the office of they chose. To their credit, they went forward. To the (further) discredit of the presidency and the democratic party, they've been caught and the truth will come out. The cover-up is already underway.

    June 5, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  21. Jamie

    Still trying to figure out how this is illegal.

    June 5, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. A no brainer.............

    The Republicans assertion of violating laws and failure of transperancy is laughably ludicrous. Law 18 U.S.C. 600 regards promise of employment for political activity. Not offer of employment if one decides not to engage in political activity. Law 18 U.S.C. 595 regards interference of Federal, State, and Territorial Government offcials by other Government officials from doing their jobs. In this case, employment was offered before potentially becoming an official for consideration of employement should they decide not to seek becoming an official.
    As the leader of his party, every President has the authority to legally seek party unity by seeking to avoid top members within his own party destructively running against one another in primaries for the same positions. It's a NO BRAINER...............and that unfortunately excludes Republicans...........

    June 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  23. Independent One

    Mr. Steele you should know that the country has serious issues to deal with....We don't have time for your stupidity

    June 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  24. Marge

    Love to know how to get him to explain this .....VP at the time Cheney called Pawlenty and asked him to drop out of the senate race in Minnesota because they wanted to make sure Norm Coleman, the republicans choice, because he was a "company" man would win. With Pawlenty out of the race Coleman would win out over the other republicans running. Pawlenty was forced to and Coleman won.

    That was worst than asking a person to STAY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES instead of running for the senate, he said he didn't want to and the question was dropped.

    But of course Steele has to make something out of nothing, how could he keep his job otherwise.

    June 5, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  25. Unbelievable!!

    Why are the Republicans not chanting "drill baby drill" ????
    Maybe they should focus on more important things than who offered whom a job.

    June 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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