If Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak is to be believed, there’s someone in the Obama administration who has committed a crime – and if the president knew about it, analysts say it could be grounds for impeachment.
“This scandal could be enormous,” said Dick Morris, a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, on the Fox News Sean Hannity show last night. “It’s Valerie Plame only 10 times bigger, because it’s illegal and Joe Sestak is either lying or the White House committed a crime.
“Obviously, the offer of a significant job in the White House could not be made unless it was by Rahm Emanuel or cleared with Rahm Emanuel,” he said. If the job offer was high enough that it also had Obama’s apppoval, “that is a high crime and misdemeanor.”
“In other words, an impeachable offense?” Hannity asked.
“Absolutely,” said Morris.
The controversy revolves around an oft-repeated statement by Rep. Sestak, D-Pa., that he had been offered a job by the Obama administration in exchange for dropping out of the senatorial primary against Obama supporter Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sestak said he refused the offer. He continued in the Senate primary and defeated Specter for the Democratic nomination.
But Karl Rove, longtime White House adviser to President George W. Bush, said the charge is explosive because of federal law.
“This is a pretty extraordinary charge: ‘They tried to bribe me out of the race by offering me a job,’” he said on Greta Van Susteran’s “On the Record” program on the Fox News Channel. “Look, that’s a violation of the federal code: 18 USC 600 says that a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government, in return for a political act.
“Somebody violated the law. If Sestak is telling the truth, somebody violated the law,” Rove said. “Section 18 USC 211 says you cannot accept anything of value in return for hiring somebody. Well, arguably, providing a clear path to the nomination for a fellow Democrat is something of value.
He continued, citing a third law passage: “18 USC 595, which prohibits a federal official from interfering with the nomination or election for office. … ‘If you’ll get out, we’ll appoint you to a federal office,’ – that’s a violation of the law.”
Staffers with Sestak’s congressional office did not respond to WND requests for comment. But the congressman repeatedly confirmed that he was offered the position and refused and that any further comments would have to come from someone else.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say on the matter. … Others need to explain whatever their role might be,” Sestak said on CNN this week. “I have a personal accountability; I should have for my role in the matter, which I talked about. Beyond that, I’ll let others talk about their role.”
That’s not fulfilling his responsibilities, Rove said. He said Sestak needs to be forthcoming with the full story so “the American people can figure out whether or not he’s participating in a criminal cover-up along with federal officials.”
The Obama White House has tried to minimize the issue.
“Lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak, and nothing inappropriate happened,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has stated.
Gibbs told the White House press corps, “Whatever conversations have been had are not problematic.”
And on CBS’ “Face the Nation” he said, “I’m not going to get further into what the conversations were. People who looked into them assure me they weren’t inappropriate in any way.”
But the administration also is taking no chances on what might be discovered.
According to Politico, the Justice Department has rejected a request from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., for a special counsel to investigate and reveal the truth of the controversy.
The report said Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich confirmed no special counsel would be needed. But the report said Weich also gave no indication that the Justice Department actually was looking into the claims by Sestak.
“We assure you that the Department of Justice takes very seriously allegations of criminal conduct by public officials. All such matters are reviewed carefully by career prosecutors and law enforcement agents, and appropriate action, if warranted, is taken,” Weich wrote in the letter.
Issa had suggested that the alleged job offer may run afoul of federal bribery statutes.
He said in a statement to Politico, “The attorney general’s refusal to take action in the face of such felonious allegations undermines any claim to transparency and integrity that this administration asserts.”
He’s also made a decision to raise the profile of his concerns.
“The bottom line is all fingers are being pointed back to the White House,” he said in a statement released as ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“This Chicago-style politicking is an assault on our democracy and is downright criminal. President Obama faces a critical choice – he can either live up to his rhetoric of transparency and accountability by disclosing who inside his White House tried to manipulate an election by bribing a U.S. Congressman or he can allow his administration to continue this stonewalling and relinquish the mantle of change and transparency he is so fond of speaking on.”
Issa suggested, “Could the reason why Congressman Joe Sestak refuses to name names is because the very people who tried to bribe him are now his benefactors? For months, Sestak has repeatedly said without equivocation that the White House illegally offered him a federal job in exchange for dropping out of the race. Was Joe Sestak embellishing what really happened, or does he have first-hand knowledge of the White House breaking the law? If what he said is the truth, Joe Sestak has a moral imperative to come forward and expose who within the Obama Administration tried to bribe him.”
Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, as well as Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, have joined the chorus suggesting the White House needs to answer some questions.
Former judge Andrew Napolitano, an analyst for Fox News, said the level of the offer simply isn’t an issue.
“It wouldn’t matter if it was a job as a janitor. Offering him anything of value to get him to leave a political race is a felony, punishable by five years in jail,” he said.
The Section 600 statute states:
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment,
position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit,
provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of
Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such
benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any
political activity or for the support of or opposition to any
candidate or any political party in connection with any general or
special election to any political office, or in connection with any
primary election or political convention or caucus held to select
candidates for any political office, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Douglas Sosnik, the White House political director for Bill Clinton, said offering jobs to political friends is “business as usual,” but said Obama’s promise was that “business as usual” wouldn’t continue in his White House.
“It cuts against the Obama brand,” he told the New York Times.
Ron Kaufman, who served under the first President Bush, also told the newspaper such offers are not unusual.
“But here’s the difference – the times have changed and the ethics have changed and the scrutiny has changed. This is the kind of thing people across America are mad about,” Kaufman said.
WND previously reported on the Sestak controvesy and a similar one concerning a Democrat Senate candidate in Colorado, Andrew Romanoff.
The Denver Post said Jim Messina, Obama’s deputy chief of staff and “a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions.”
Romanoff at the time was challenging another major Obama supporter, Sen. Michael Bennet, for the Democratic primary for the Senate seat from Colorado. He has since won top-line position over Bennet in a coming primary.
The report said Romanoff turned down the overture, but it is “the kind of hardball tactics that have come to mark the White House’s willingness to shape key races across the country, in this case trying to remove a threat to a vulnerable senator by presenting his opponent a choice of silver or lead.”
The newspaper affirmed “several top Colorado Democrats” described the situation, even though White House spokesman Adam Abrams said, “Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration.”
Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation, who has been monitoring the Obama administration, told WND the offer of reward for some government official’s actions raises questions of legal liability.
“There’s a federal statute and federal law seems to make clear if you offer a government official some sort of remuneration, directly or indirectly, it’s a crime,” he said.