The heat is building on Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., and the Obama White House to “come clean” over a conversation the congressman has described – repeatedly and on the record – as a job offer in exchange for dropping his primary campaign against White House favorite Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., which if true could be a crime.
And a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has been raising questions about Sestak’s comment from the beginning, noted that just because Obama’s Justice Department has refused to investigate, there still could be an accounting.
Officials revealed the Office of Congressional Ethics accepts allegations and details of misbehavior from the public in a section allowing for “public input” about members of Congress. It also provides an e-mail option for information that comes from the public.
WND reported just a day ago that a long list of analysts have concluded the comments from Sestak suggest there has been an “impeachable offense” committed by someone in the White House.
Dick Morris, a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show the case is “Valerie Plame only 10 times bigger, because it’s illegal and Joe Sestak is either lying or the White House committed a crime.”
Today, seven GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee – Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Jon Kyl or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – repeated a request to the Justice Department, which has refused to look into the case, to investigate.
“Such an offer (as described by Sestak) would appear to violate various federal criminal laws,” the senators told Attorney General Eric Holder. “You have the clear statutory authority … to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate this matter, which would avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest and square with the precedent of Attorney General Ashcroft’s recusal from a White House-related investigation in 2003.”
The letter noted the initial admission by Sestak in February that “a White House official offered him a federal job in an effort to end his campaign in his state’s Senate primary,” the letter said. “This issue arose again this past weekend when Mr. Sestak confirmed on both ‘Meet the Press’ and ‘Face the Nation’ that he was offered a job, but declined to provide any specifics.”
The letter suggested the White House statements from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that “nothing improper happened” and from senior presidential adviser David Axelrod that everything was “perfectly appropriate” weren’t sufficient.
“We do not believe the Department of Justice can properly defer to White House lawyers to investigate a matter that could involve ‘a serious breach of the law.’ The White House cannot possibly manage an internal investigation of potential criminal misconduct while simultaneously crafting a public narrative to rebut the claim that misconduct occurred,” the letter said.
Issa has been a point person for those raising questions about Sestak’s statements, and a spokesman in his office said if Holder doesn’t act, a call to account still may be a possibility.
The spokesman said the congressman has looked into the procedures for filing an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which could put Sestak under oath.
The spokesman said Issa hasn’t filed any complaint yet.
“We’re really waiting for the White House to come clean,” he said.
He also pointed out the OCE accepts complaints from members of the public.
The office’s website explains those making statements need to include all that they know, listing witnesses and other information if possible.
“All information will be reviewed by the OCE; however, submitting information does not trigger an investigation. The decision to begin an investigation (preliminary review) lies solely with the board,” the congressional office states.
There even was speculation about someone “falling on his sword” for Obama during last night’s Hannity show on Fox News, where former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice were discussing the case.
“This is spinning out of control as far as the White House is concerned right now,” said Sekulow. “Something’s wrong here.”
They suggested that an offer of a job for Sestak – some blogs suspect it was the position of secretary of the Navy – would have been too significant to come from a staffer without Obama’s knowledge.
“We’re not talking about some low level position in the administration, which would still be a violation of the law,” Sekulow said. “If the White House does not come clean, I think this tempest in a teapot is going to blow.”
Toensing even suggested something may be in the works to provide a “fall guy” to protect Obama from the worst of the scandal.
“That person would fall on his or her sword,” she said.
Karl Rove, longtime White House adviser to President George W. Bush, said the charge is explosive because of the clear 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.
WND was unable to get a statement from Sestak or the White House.
“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.”
Issa is raising the profile of the issue:
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.
Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates and prosecutes corruption in government, said if the Sestak case develops, it will not be the first time this apparently has happened.
The organization cites a Politico report that in an attempt to avoid a public scandal, Obama offered his first White House counsel, Gregory Craig, a federal judgeship, in exchange for a resignation. He refused and later was ousted.
WND also previously reported on another case involving 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.