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

Clinton acted as White House intermediary on Sestak offer

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Scott

    If this were actually true, why did they not reveal that earlier?....Begs to question the truthfulness of the whole issue

    May 28, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Mike Land

    It just has the appearance of being down and dirty. But no matter how you want to spin it, its not illegal. Obama is right, nothing was done that was either immoral or illegal. Was it back handed and sneaky? Yes, but since when does that get you in jail on either side. I mean Gene Stipe here in Oklahoma made a 50-year career doing this stuff but so did his enemies. It usually goes in Oklahoma that you win by being the sneakiest and craftiest at these kinds of maneuvers.

    May 28, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. TCM

    Clinton has no authority to do so....WHO asked Clinton to? That's the felon....such liberal liars in the white house...scumbags

    May 28, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. ChangePoliticsNOW

    If there was nothing to hide:

    (1) why wasn't this addressed when the issue was first addressed..keep it from gaining all of this traction
    (2) why was Sestak waiting for a response from the White House before commenting? Is this true leadership characteristics?
    (3) why didn't Obama just say this in his response to the question at the press conference

    One more important question:

    (1) WHY do we ALLOW the government to be so CORRUPT and ARROGANT??? Officials should serve the people and NOT the party (democrat, republican, or tea party)!!!

    May 28, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. SethC

    How brazen can Clinton and Rahm get, they are power tripping people, who think that their word is written in stone, so glad that Sestak did not listen. Its the will of the people to make those decision once a candidate makes his decision to run. Not the White House, or any representative. How dumb, can Clinton get in listening to Rahm. Tratiors!

    May 28, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Herewego

    Felony committed in the White House. Barry Soetoro – what an utter disgrace to the Presidency.

    Soon he'll be impeached and will go down in history as one of the most incompetent, over his head Presidents iin history.

    May 28, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Liberals can NEVER be trusted

    And was it Bill Clinton that called the Senate candidate in Colorado too? This doesn't pass the smell test, and certainly doesn't get the WH off the hook. This is like a weed growing long roots and turning into an ugly plant. This Democratic culture of corruption, with lies, slander, bribes, back-room deals, misinformation, blame game, finger pointing, shucking and jiving will soon meet the end of their road. You liberals slugs will do anything to cover for these crooks.

    May 28, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. thor

    It took 2 months to come up with this story and this is the best they could do. I thought the American people were told that there was going to be change and that it wasn't going to be business as usual if this president was elected.What are we now going to have to again check the dictionary to find out the meaning of words to know the legality of our statements?

    May 28, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Peggy

    We've been had again. It's a long weekend, not many watching the news, and the Obama clan comes up with this pathetic excuse......Clinton and Sustak.....what a joke on us. No one buys this!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry Obama, we're just not that gullible.

    May 28, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. rdepontb

    Rahm, Rahm, Rahm. Off when you should have been here helping the President. Now to find out you weren't so smooth about this Sestak affair. Why hassle Sestak, especially in favor of the turncoat? Please, guys, it's hard enough fending off the foes!

    May 28, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. Brenda

    Now the Republicans are demanding that the Romanoff (Colorado) "job offer' to drop out of the race be investigated as well.

    Let us hope that they get the Attorney Generals of PA and Colorado involved (Well, at least PA as the Attorney General is Republican–not sure about Colorado).

    I wonder if Clinton is going to be happy to be the fall guy for the Obama Admin regarding this issue? After all, it is not clear yet whether Hillary plans on running against Obama in 2012.

    I will love it if Clinton comes out publicly and calls the Obama Admin liars regarding this issue-–and the investigation gains more momentum.

    May 28, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Pa Santigie

    What bothers me is that if it happened, Sestak should say who contacted him and give full disclosure. Otherwise it seems like he is more interested in creating problems for the White House. Understandable that they did not support him so he owes them nothing. But for the sake of honesty and credibility, he should come out and say who, what and when it was said to him.

    May 28, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. donna

    WOW! The white house's top person next to the President asks the last democratic president to talk with Sestak about dropping out of senate race in return for a job that the report does not specifically mention.........and the white house does not see anything improper about this??????? The white house obviously was attempting to bribe Sestak with this or why do it at all????? Now of course we have to see if Sestak has something different to say as he had made this out to be a big cabinet level type plum job he was offered..........

    Have to say this so far looks like improper and unethical actions by the white house and hopefully a congressional hearing will be held to subpoena all the players......and we then can see what the truth is and what part the president played.....or can he say that he knew not really in charge of what his chief of staff does????

    May 28, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. What is going on here???

    You reporters know better than this. Are you really gonna let THIS one just slide under the rug too?

    I am just a normal, everyday person who has grown very disenchanted with this administration – all the lies, I cannot believe how this person could act so differently than what was promised to us. How can you call yourselves journalists when you fail to do any more that make cursory reports on matters like this that have absolutely NO sense of curiosity or investigative sensibility? Why???

    As this administration continues to evolve into a corrupted trainwreck of historic proportions, you in the news media will not survive with your reader/viewership's trust intact. Are you really this contemptful of me?? Do you really think I am this stupid and unattentive??

    If you do not stop this lazy nonsense there will be no one paying any attention to you anymore and it will be FAR too late to do anything about it. Then all it will be is blogs and talk-radio, heaven forbid. PLEASE consider this. You are making a HUGE mistake. Thank you, ES

    May 28, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. RAK

    Business as usual in DC – this is not illegal but is this the "new washington" that we where promised or more of the Chicago way of politcs?

    May 28, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Howard2, Seattle, WA

    Bill is on his way to Arkansas to "campaign" I wonder what kind of "deal" he is offering the candidates from the WH right now for them to drop out of the campaign This is like the good old days of Pres Andrew Jackson, distributing payoffs to Obama buddies..

    May 28, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. Howard2, Seattle, WA

    Apparently the more "transparent" government that Obama talked about requires a little time to come up with a story

    May 28, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  18. Glennis

    This gets smellier and smellier. If there was truly nothing to this, there wouldn't have to be so much coordinating of stories among the parties involved, nor would there have been any hesitation on the part of either party to make public exactly what was said and by whom. I would have been willing to give this whole thing a pass had they not begun to stonewall and behave as though there was some fire in all that smoke. Personally, I believe Sestak and I do not believe the manipulators in the White House. I think I'll write my Senators (one of whom is still Specter) and Congressman and urge them to press for a better accounting of the situation.

    May 28, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Voodoo

    Scumbags. Obama is a joke, he and his corrupt administration are worse then their predecessors because they campaigned on transparency and behind the scenes it's the same old crap.

    May 28, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Chuck

    They are all a self-serving, treasonous bunch of lying thieves; God Save The Republic from the likes of these.

    May 28, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Ray

    We have the wife telling the rich they don't pay their fair share (if you didn't pay taxes last year, your opinion on this should be null and void as you are apparently a freeloader and want other's to support you and our country without you doing a thing) and the husband offering pay offs to politicians in the form of jobs with our tax money. not sure how you liberals don't see the hypocrisy. And here I thought Bush was the worst president ever to poison our country. Little did we know the liberals had a way to sink our country even lower. I weep for our country

    May 28, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. db

    "Chicago" Barack Obama teams up with Bill "Slick Willie" Clinton for a little old-fashioned political strong-arm. Is anyone really surprised?

    May 28, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Dave

    So much for the corruption-free White House!

    May 28, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Don

    This is coming from the administration who once promised to be the most transparent and upfront about their business. However ever since they got into the whitehouse, it is business as usual. The press and supporter continue to buy their lines and give them a free pass. Obama also got a free pass with the Gulf oil spill. He seems aloof and it is OK. That is his nature. Bush would get nailed to the cross.
    The media loves this guy.

    May 28, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. Jean2

    The oil spill stpid!!!

    Some issues you should investigate
    -Cheny's secret meetings with the oil companys to be aware of the deals that were made, so that this adminstration will know what they are working with.

    May 28, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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