Top Obama adviser says ‘no evidence’ that Sestak’s bribe charge is true

Jon Ward Contributor
Font Size:

Senior adviser to the president David Axelrod said Monday evening that there is “no evidence” that White House officials tried to keep a Democratic congressman from entering the Pennsylvania Senate race by offering him a high-ranking government job.

“When the allegations were made, they were looked into. And there was no evidence of such a thing,” Axelrod said on CNN’s “John King USA.”

Axelrod acknowledged that if White House officials dangled a job in front of Rep. Joe Sestak’s face to keep him away from challenging incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, that would “constitute a serious breach of the law.”

Axelrod also acknowledged that there were “conversations” involving White House officials and Sestak, but said that those had been “looked at” by White House lawyers and “their conclusion was that it was perfect — the conversations were perfectly appropriate.”

The president’s adviser would not say who was involved in the conversations, but promised: “I don’t think that any questions will be left unanswered on this.”

Sestak defeated Specter in last week’s Democratic primary, and since then questions about what happened between the Obama administration and Sestak have grown.

Sestak said during the primary numerous times that he was offered a job but would not say who offered it or what the job was.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to answer more than 12 separate questions on the matter last Thursday, but then appeared on a Sunday talk show and said “nothing inappropriate happened.”

Axelrod repeated that phrase in TV appearances during the day Monday, but when pressed by King on Monday evening, he went further in saying that if Sestak was offered a job it would be a felony. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has kept the heat up on the administration over this matter by emphasizing the criminal nature of such a job offer.

Axelrod stopped short of saying that Sestak has lied about the matter, saying, “I don’t know that the congressman would disagree with what I’m saying here.”

And Issa spokesman, Kurt Bardella, listed the questions that the Republican would still like to see answered about the matter:

1. Do either Gibbs or Axe now know who spoke with Sestak and what, if anything was offered?

2. If nothing “inappropriate” or “problematic” happened, then why don’t they just answer these questions and move on?

3. Even if nothing technically illegal happened, does the implication in itself that they tried to maneuver Sestak out of the PA Senate primary effectively taint then candidate-Obama to change the business-as-usual attitude of Washington?

4. Or since Axe said he believes after talking to WH lawyers that the accusations are founded, is Joe Sestak lying?

5. Is he telling the truth and everyone is jumping through hoops to avoid answering questions directly because the person who Sestak spoke to is Rahm Emanuel?

Email Jon Ward and follow him on Twitter