White House press secretary Robert Gibbs indicated Tuesday that Rep. Joe Sestak was not offered a spot on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board but refused to say what was dangled in front of the Democrat in an attempt to remove him from a Senate primary.
The spot offered to Sestak, Gibbs said to reporters at the White House, “didn’t constitute a lot of what you’re hearing.”
But Gibbs refused to clarify what Sestak, who won the May 18 primary and is now the Democratic nominee for Senate, was offered.
Sestak indicated Friday he was offered a spot on the PIAB by former President Bill Clinton, who was acting on behalf of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
“I heard presidential board and I think it was Intel,” Sestak said to reporters, describing his conversation with Clinton.
White House counsel Bob Bauer said Friday that Sestak was offered a spot on “a presidential or other senior executive branch advisory board.”
However, Sestak would have been ineligible for such a post. Sestak and the Obama administration both said the congressman would have kept his seat in the House if he took a spot on the PIAB. But the PIAB is comprised of individuals who are “outside the government.”
Gibbs confirmed Tuesday that Sestak could not have served on the PIAB.
“That is how I understand the way the PIAB is written,” Gibbs said.
He referred further questions back to Bauer’s memo, as did a White House spokesman in response to direct questions from The Daily Caller.
White House officials likely had hoped that questions about Sestak would be behind them following their carefully scripted release of Bauer’s memo, which was followed by Sestak’s own prepared statement in the middle of the day Friday.
Sestak’s offhand comments under fire from reporters — in particular the remark about being offered a position on an intelligence board — have kept the story alive, especially since he would have been unable to serve on the PIAB.
The Sestak campaign said only that the congressman did not know exactly which job or post was offered, referring to his remarks on Friday where he said as much.
Gibbs very briefly on Tuesday accepted some responsibility for letting the Sestak flap get to this point by taking three months to answer questions about it.
“If I bear some responsibility for that, I can understand that,” Gibbs said.
Republicans attempted Tuesday to keep the heat on the Obama administration about these unanswered questions.
“Are we to really believe that the best the White House could do to try and convince Congressman Sestak not to run is to dispatch a former president with an unpaid offer that he could not accept while remaining a member of Congress?” said an e-mail to reporters from Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and ranking member on the House Government Oversignt and Reform Committee.
The Republican National Committee also seized on another apparent discrepancy between what Sestak and the White House have said.
Sestak said Friday there was only one 30- to 60-second conversation between him and Clinton back in the summer of 2009. But Bauer’s memo said that “efforts were made in June and July of 2009” to gauge Sestak’s interest being named to some unnamed advisory board.
“Despite months of stone-walling and behind-the-scenes effort to get on the same page, the two are still singing two different tunes,” said RNC spokesman Doug Heye. “It is clear that either the White House or Joe Sestak has a problem with the truth and that an outsider is needed to look at the facts in order to come to an objective conclusion.”
Issa also sought to broaden the story to include the Senate primary in Colorado, where a challenger to a Democratic incumbent was reported months ago to have received a similar offer from a White House official if he would drop out of the race.
“Did White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina offer Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff a job – because Romanoff isn’t talking?” said the Issa e-mail.
Since the furor over the Sestak offer increased following Sestak’s victory in the primary, Colorado media have asked Romanoff, a former state legislator, whether the reports by the Denver Post that said he was offered a job at USAID are true.
Romanoff has refused to answer the questions.