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Bill Clinton Approached Joe Sestak To Drop Senate Bid At White House Request

5 years ago
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Former President Bill Clinton approached Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) at the request of the White House to suggest that the congressman drop his Senate bid in exchange for a position in the Obama administration.

The revelation is in a report by Bob Bauer, the White House counsel, who conducted an internal investigation into the matter. Despite the information about Clinton's efforts, Bauer states definitively, "We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law."

Bauer's report details efforts made in June and July 2009 to assess Sestak's willingness to drop his bid to unseat Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.). Earlier in the year, Specter switched parties from Republican to Democrat, with the encouragement of the White House, and received endorsements for his re-election bid from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Specter's longtime personal friend.

According to the report, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel enlisted Clinton to approach Sestak with the suggestion that he drop out of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary in exchange for an unpaid position on a presidential or other senior executive branch advisory board in the Obama administration. Bauer notes that such an arrangement would "avoid a divisive primary, allow (Sestak) to retain his seat in the House, and allow him an opportunity for additional public service."

Bauer also says that because Clinton spoke with the congressman, no White House staff were technically involved in the offer. A spokesman for Clinton referred questions about the report to the White House.

Bauer concludes that no "improprieties" occurred and that the events were "fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements."

The report comes after months of speculation and increasing pressure on the White House by Republicans and even some Democrats to explain its role in an effort to push Sestak out of the primary battle, something that Sestak himself alleged in interview for the Philadelphia Enquirer in February.

When asked by the reporter, Larry Kane, if he had been offered a job to leave the Senate primary race against Specter, Sestak said that he had and that the White House had called him "many times" about it. When asked if the job was Secretary of the Navy, Sestak said "No comment."

After winning the Democratic primary, however, Sestak has refused to elaborate on who had approached him or what exactly was offered. The White House had been similarly tight-lipped.

But at a press conference on Thursday, President Obama said that a report would be forthcoming and that, "I can assure the public that nothing improper took place."

Despite that assurance, Republicans are unlikely to be satisfied by Bauer's report. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has led an effort to have the Justice Department appoint an independent prosecutor to look into the matter, said he does not consider an internal White House investigation sufficient.

In a recent letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Sessions and six senior Republicans wrote, "A mere assurance from White House counsel is plainly not conclusive. It is time to get to the bottom of this."

Read below for the full text of the White House memo:

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Nice try from the white house. How can anyone investigate themselves.It
really is not allowed.We need independent prosecuter on this.

June 01 2010 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Something doesn't jive. Sestak is a congressman and could not take a non paid
advisor position.We all know he was offered Secretary of the Navy.We need Clinton
Sestak and Emmanual under oath.

June 01 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is more serious than the Phame so-called outing by a dem under secretary at the State Dept and everyone knew that before a special prosecutor was appointed. It's clear the White House broke the law by offering a job for a reward to get out of the way of their favored candidate. We need a special prosecutor to find out who and how.

May 30 2010 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

White House's job offer to Sestak to better Specter's chances is clearly illegal. The White House's press release explaining it is a concocted story designed to sound plausible. It's release was obviously coordinated with all involved and maybe others who weren't to get everyone on the same page. Why would a former president of the US contact a minor politician to offer him a job without salary? Did they think Sestak that stupid? The offer must have been for a more substantial job. And had the approval of Obama. That someone had already been nominated for Sec Nav (part of the story) means nothing. Had Sestak accepted that person would have been dropped.

May 30 2010 at 12:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

You believe Clinton did this without Obama's direction? You will believe anything...

May 29 2010 at 11:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

whyd obama even ask clinton to do it. thought they hated eachother. something going on.

May 29 2010 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Obama is the perfect captain for a ship of fools. As a matter of fact, he excels at it and for his crew, the truth will always be that which is said loudest and most often.

May 28 2010 at 10:51 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

We the people should stand up and take note of this and what our administration IS all about. This is very underhanded and very dirty politics and avery dirty way to play in my opinion. Where does Bill Clinton get the authority to do such a thing? Hasn't his time at the White House come and gone?

May 28 2010 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

It seems odd that Sestak would give up a chance for the Senate and give up his House job for a commission with no pay!!

The bottom line of these shenanigans is the issue of interferring with the actual outcome of an election. Promise anyone anything while campaigning, but to lure a candidate out of any race had better be illegal.

May 28 2010 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply

So this is the story that took them 3 months to come up with? Sorry, just not believable. Remember when Obama was considering Hillary as a VP? Michelle advised her husband that the last thing they needed was Bill Clinton hanging around the White House. So now Bill is an intermediary between Obama/Rahm and Sestak? I don't see that as a role that a former President of the US would take.

May 28 2010 at 5:03 PM Report abuse +18 rate up rate down Reply

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