Sestak says his brother, White House met about alleged job offer

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)
By Paul Kane
Friday, May 28, 2010

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.

Sestak ran in, and won, that primary, defeating the White House's preferred candidate, Sen. Arlen Specter.

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.

Joe Sestak first alleged the White House offer in February, but the matter has caught fire since the upset victory over Specter, Pennsylvania's senior senator, in last week's primary. The White House has refused to explain its version of events; press secretary Robert Gibbs has said legal aides have reviewed the situation and have declared that nothing "inappropriate" occurred.

Obama responded briefly, and a touch awkwardly, when asked about the allegation at Thursday's news conference.

"There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions," Obama said. He declined a follow-up request to answer those questions personally.

"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," he said. "I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue."

In a 15-minute interview with the Capitol press corps Thursday, Sestak said the fixation with the story is an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon that does not translate into hurting his efforts to defeat Republican Pat Toomey in November. He said the ordeal has grown out of a single quip -- answering "yes" and saying he was offered a "high-up job" -- to a question posed by longtime Philadelphia TV newsman Larry Kane during a February interview.

"Something happened last July, literally, hardly even remember it," Sestak said of the offer. "All of a sudden, in this interview, someone asked a question . . . and I answered it up front. But I immediately said the same thing I said to you and haven't deviated: Look, let's move on, the rest is politics."

Congressional Republicans have refused to move on. Seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Wednesday to request a further review of the legal implications. The offering of high-level jobs to members of Congress is a routine matter -- Vice President Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis were serving in Congress when approached by Obama -- but Republicans said a job offer designed primarily to impact the outcome of an election crosses the line.

"If true, it's a crime," said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and one who signed the letter to Holder. The Justice Department has declined other requests to investigate or an appointment for a special prosecutor.

Sestak declined to say whether the alleged job offer was inappropriate and defended Obama's integrity. "I think the president's a pretty legitimate, you know, person," he said.

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