Democratic Senate Nominee Sestak Repeats Claim: White House Offered Him Job to Drop Out of Race Against Specter

By Fred Lucas | May 20, 2010 | 6:04 PM EDT

Rep. Joseph Sestak, D-Pa., is seen in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 20, 2010. Sestak defeated Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., Tuesday, to become the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Washington ( – Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seat, said again this week that the White House offered him a job to keep him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary.
And again, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has declined to provide any answers to the charge other than to reference a previous statement that nothing “problematic” occurred.
In an interview with CNN’s Rich Sanchez Wednesday, Sestak got another question about the matter.
Sanchez asked, “There is even a lot of talk that you were offered a job as secretary of the Navy. Let me stop there. Did the president of the United States, did the White House approach you and offer you the secretary of the Navy position?”
“I was asked the question about two months ago about something that happened last July. No one ever had asked me the question, ‘Did someone offer you something to get out?’ I answered it honestly, yes,” Sestak said.
“And then I said, ‘Stop. I’m not going to get into what was a deal offer, because I’m not going to get out for a deal. I’d only get out for the something that was right to do.’ And here’s what I believe – this kind of deal-making in Washington is kind of what soured Americans and quite frankly soured me, but I honestly believe this ...” Sestak added.
Sanchez said, “You know I appreciate you being here, and you know that I love having you on my show, but I just asked you a very direct question. Give me a direct answer. Did the president, did the White House offer you the secretary of the Navy gig?”
Sestak responded, “And the answer is, I said I was offered something. I don’t have to go beyond that. I don’t think it helps anybody. But I, you know, I could have demurred when I first (was) asked the question, I said ‘yes.’ But beyond that, it doesn’t matter. And by the way, remember it happened last July, and I didn’t even get asked about this until March.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, formally asked Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine if any laws were violated by the offer.
Legal experts have said federal statutes concerning bribery or interference with an election might have been violated if the White House made a job offer as a quid-pro-quo for Sestak to abandon the primary against Specter that Sestak had won Tuesday.
Several reporters asked Gibbs about the matter Thursday during the White House briefing.
“I don’t have anything to add to that,” Gibbs said repeatedly.
He said he answered the question in March, when he told reporters, “I’ve talked to several people in the White House; I’ve talked to people that have talked to others in the White House. I’m told that whatever conversations have been had are not problematic. I think Congressman Sestak has discussed that this is – whatever happened is in the past, and he’s focused on his primary election.”
Another reporter said Gibbs’ lack of response would appear to be an implicit admission of a job offer and asked if he was comfortable with that.
“I’m not going to unpack any more of that statement,” Gibbs said.