Friday, May 28, 2010

The Sestak Scandal: Obama Blames Bill, Coordinates with Sestak’s Brother, Claims Position 'Unpaid'

by Phil, of The Right Side of Life

Cue Michelle Malkin quote (emphasis original):

And I ask again: What did Bob “The Silencer” Bauer know, when did he know it, and how long does the Most Transparent Administration Ever plan to play dodgeball with the public?

OK, so: apparently, Bubba is the fall guy…

At the behest of the White House, former President Bill Clinton urged Rep. Joe Sestak to drop out of a Senate primary, according to a White House report. (AP)

FoxNews (excerpted):

The White House asked former President Bill Clinton to talk to Rep. Joe Sestak about the possibility of obtaining a senior position in the Obama administration if he would drop out of the Democratic primary race against establishment-backed Sen. Arlen Specter, the Obama administration will say in a report to be released Friday morning, Fox News has confirmed.

The report, by the White House Counsel’s office, will describe the Clinton conversations as informal and unhinged from any precise job offer since, as a former president, Clinton could not guarantee Sestak anything.

The conversations with Sestak were initiated by Clinton at the behest of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel was Clinton’s political director when he was president. Clinton had promoted Sestak to vice admiral and made him his director of defense policy. Sestak was a loyal and tireless supporter of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency in 2008.

WaPo (excerpted):

Senior White House advisers asked former President Bill Clinton to talk to Joe Sestak about whether he was serious about running for Senate, and to feel out whether he’d be open to other alternatives, according to sources familiar with the situation.

But the White House maintains that the Clinton-Sestak discussions were informal, according to the sources. The White House, under pressure to divulge the specifics of its interactions with Sestak, will release a formal statement later today outlining their version of events, including Clinton’s involvement.

According to the sources, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel asked Clinton and his longtime adviser, lawyer Doug Band, to talk to Sestak about the race. It’s unclear right now whether the White House will say that Clinton was asked to suggest specific administration positions for Sestak, whether Clinton floated positions on his own, whether Clinton discussed other options not related to the adminstration, or whether employment even came up at all in the talks.

…and Sestak’s brother — his campaign manager — gets contacted to “coordinate” the news:

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), left, has said the White House offered  him an administration job in exchange for not running for the Senate.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), left, has said the White House offered him an administration job in exchange for not running for the Senate. (Harry Hamburg/associated Press)

Again, WaPo (excerpted):

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) said Thursday his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary. …

He told reporters Thursday that he would not expand upon his prior statements until the White House releases its report on the matter. President Obama said in his news conference such a report would come “shortly.”

Richard Sestak, who has served as his brother’s top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got ahold of my brother on his cellphone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with his brother.

RollCall provides further details (excerpted; see additional verbiage via the Malkin link, above):

…Sestak said his brother and an unnamed White House official or officials spoke about “what was going to occur.” Sestak declined to identify who made the call for the administration, adding that he has had no direct contact with the White House.

Sestak called Obama a “pretty legitimate person.” He added, “But we’ll find out shortly what they have to say.”

Sestak was tight-lipped about the situation, declining to comment on whether he would agree with the White House’s take on the situation. He pledged to say more — and even to return to Washington for a Capitol Hill news conference over the weekend or early next week — once the White House had made its announcement.

“When the president speaks — or whoever speaks from the White House — we obviously will have something to say,” he said.

HotAir reports (via NYTimes) that the issue is a matter of whether or not Sestak was offered a paid position (emphasis original):

Mr. Obama promised on Thursday to release an account of the matter, which White House lawyers have been drafting in recent days in consultation with Mr. Sestak’s brother, Richard, who runs his campaign. The White House plans to release its statement later on Friday. Until now, the White House has said publicly only that whatever conversations took place with Mr. Sestak were not inappropriate.

The office of Robert F. Bauer, the White House counsel, has concluded that Mr. Emanuel’s proposal did not violate laws prohibiting government employees from promising employment as a reward for political activitybecause the position being offered was unpaid. The office also found other examples of presidents offering positions to political allies to achieve political aims.

The same blog (via TheAtlantic) presents the memo:

Sestak Memorandum

HotAir asks plenty of worthy questions (all emphases original):

Obama yesterday claimed that the repor[t] would exonerate him; if so, why hold it until Friday afternoon? That would limit the media coverage of the exoneration. The answer appears to be that the report mayexonerate Obama and his staff from violations of the law — but that it clearly shows Obama attempting to manipulate an election in Pennsylvania for his own political purposes. That may be legal, but it’s certainly not indicative of the “most transparent/ethical administration ever,” as Obama promised to provide. …

What kind of unpaid position would be attractive enough to get Sestak out of the Senate primary? …

Shouldn’t [the memo] have been released at 5 pm or so? And the memo itself seems to be evidence of potential wrongdoing, rather than an exoneration…

…[I]sn’t that at the least an admission of attempting to tamper with the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania? If this didn’t violate the law, why did Rahm Emanuel ask Bill Clinton to make the pitch rather than do it himself?

Then, Sustek [shall we say] confirms the above (MSNBC emphases original):

Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background. He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.

There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.

HotAir’s response (emphasis original):

Excuse me, but a position on a Presidential Board is not a “job” in any sense of the word. Sestak has repeatedly insisted that the White House offered him a job to get him to withdraw from the race. Now we’re at the who’s-lying stage, and it may well be everyone.


In other words, my take on what just went down:

From somewhere within the deep, dark recesses of the White House (or maybe a pre-paid cell phone in a parking garage somewhere):

“Hey, Richard. We really need to get things straight on your brother. Joe’s gotta stay in the race, because we cannot afford any more scheduled losses in the Senate than we already think are going to happen. Also, Barry needs this story out of the way to push his agenda and it absolutely cannot point back to him, otherwise heads are really going to roll. So, here’s what we’re going to do…”

No, what I would have liked to have been the proverbial fly on the wall for was the conversation(s) that went on before Obama’s presser yesterday.

Let’s sum up, shall we?

  1. Sestak says he was promised a job to get out of the Democratic primary in PA and never changes his story for months;
  2. The White House admits conversations occurred, but that no wrongdoing came out of it (while simultaneously outright denying any conversations with Colorado’s Romanoff);
  3. The White House calls up Sestak’s brother to confirm [what will likely be the first version of the first] story;
  4. The White House leaks that it’s all Bubba’s fault
  5. The White House releases the memo just before noontime, likely to get it just enough media coverage for interest, but [hopefully] not too much to make a bigger deal out of it, claiming that whatever was offered was unpaid (and so must make it all right);
  6. Sestak picks up on this and suggests that the offer was essentially a non-job job.

Oh, this is so not going to end well…

See the Impeachment category for general background on this story.

-Phil (email: phil [at] therightsideoflife [dot] com)

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