In a little-noticed passage Friday, the New York Times reported that Rep. Joe Sestak was not eligible for a place on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the job he was reportedly offered by former President Bill Clinton. And indeed a look at the Board’s website reveals this restriction:
The Board consists of not more than 16 members appointed by the President from among individuals who are not employed by the Federal Government. Members are distinguished citizens selected from the national security, political, academic, and private sectors.
As a sitting member of Congress, Sestak was not eligible for the job. And since the White House intended for Sestak to remain in his House seat, he would not have been eligible for the board after this November’s elections, provided he was re-elected to the House.
The statement from White House counsel Robert Bauer did not specifically mention the intelligence board, but speaking to reporters Friday, Sestak said of his conversation with Clinton, “At the time, I heard the words ‘presidential board,’ and that’s all I heard…I heard ‘presidential board,’ and I think it was intel.” In addition, the Times reported that “people briefed on the matter said one option was an appointment” to the intelligence board. But the White House could not legally have placed Sestak on the board.
Did the White House not know that? The apparent contradiction is sure to create more questions from Republicans who want an independent investigation of the affair. Why would the White House — normally pretty careful in such matters — offer Sestak a job he couldn’t take? Were there in fact other offers made to Sestak? So far, there has been little discussion of the fact that the Bauer statement said “options for executive branch service were raised with [Sestak].” The plural “options” certainly suggests that more than one job was presented to Sestak, but Sestak himself says his conversation with Clinton was very brief — less than one minute. Whatever the case, if the White House intended Bauer’s statement to put the Sestak issue to rest, it was probably mistaken.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, who is pursuing the Sestak matter in his role as ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sends the following reaction:
Are we to believe that Rahm Emanuel, a former Member of Congress himself, dispatched President Clinton to maneuver Admiral Sestak out of the Senate Primary by dispatching him with an unpaid appointment that Congressman Sestak couldn’t even accept if he wanted to? What’s more likely, that two of the most politically sophisticated people in American political history didn’t do their due diligence or that the narrative told by the White House is a not-so-brilliant work of fiction?
In addition, a spokesman for Rep. Lamar Smith, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who on Friday asked FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the Sestak matter, says:
This is just another strike against the Administration’s story. Why bring in a big gun, like former President Clinton, to offer a meager job to Sestak that he wasn’t even eligible to accept? Either the administration is completely incompetent or there is a cover up. That’s why I’ve called for the FBI to get involved. We’re clearly not going to get a straight story from Sestak or the White House without an official investigation.