Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
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: