President Obama today turned his back on an opportunity to explain what Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., has meant when he repeatedly has confirmed that he was offered a job by the Obama administration in exchange for dropping his primary election challenge to White House favorite Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa.
“There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue,” Obama said today at a press conference where he was asked about the case.
He said he hoped it would answer questions about Sestak’s repeated statements about a job offer, which, if presented as he has described, could be a federal crime.
“You will get it from my administration, so, and it will be coming out, when I say shortly I mean shortly, I don’t mean weeks or months … I can assure the public that nothing improper took pace, but as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue,” Obama said today.
Obama answered none of the questions surrounding the controversy, which has raised red flags even for many Democrats.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the situation appears to be growing more serious day by day.
“For more than three months, a sitting United States congressman and three-star admiral has said unequivocally that someone inside the Obama administration offered him a job in exchange for his withdrawal from the Pennsylvania Senate primary,” Issa said in a statement after Obama’s comment.
“Hopefully, the pending response President Obama referred to will detail what conversations were had with Congressman Sestak. If what president said is true and nothing ‘improper’ took place, Admiral Sestak’s credibility will be called into significant question. If the president’s response is insufficient or contradicted, the situation will only escalate.”
“It’s time for everyone involved in this scandal to come clean,” said Tom Fitton, chief of the government corruption investigating Judicial Watch.
“There is simply no wiggle room. Either Sestak lied about the federal job offer or someone at the White House likely committed a felony. It’s that simple,” he said.
“Rep. Sestak’s allegations are extremely serious and yet we’ve heard nothing from the Obama White House so far but vague denials of wrongdoing and outright stonewalling,” Fitton continued. “Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to appoint a special counsel in the matter is a disgrace and will not stand.”
He said the situation raises concerns about a “disturbing pattern” in the Obama White House.
“We still don’t have all the details about involvement of Obama administration officials in the sale of Obama’s former Illinois U.S. Senate seat by Rod Blagojevich. And we still don’t have answers about the charge that Obama Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina offered a federal job to Colorado Democratic Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff to keep him out of the Senate race. There is also the report that President Obama tried to push disgruntled White House Counsel Greg Craig out of the White House by offering a federal judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. And now we have Joe Sestak,” he said. “The Chicago Machine has truly come to Washington.”
The controversy is over Sestak’s multiple statements that he was offered a job in the Obama administration if he would drop his primary challenge to Specter. He refused and since then has won the primary.
The offer appears to be a violation of federal law that prohibits the exchange of something of value, such as a job, for a political decision.
A spokesman in Issa’s office earlier pointed out that while the Justice Department has refused to investigate, 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 has documented the opinions of analysts who say the alleged offer appears to be an “impeachable offense” on the part of 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.”
GOP 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 have asked Department for a review.
“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.”
Their letter to Holder 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.
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Victoria Toensing and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice discussed the case on the Sean Hannity show on Fox News:
“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.
Issa is raising the profile of the issue: