Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) defended himself this afternoon after the White House released a memo trying to diffuse the dust-up over claims that the administration offered Sestak a job if he’d drop out of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary.
Sestak said told reporters this afternoon that former President Bill Clinton only called him once last summer — and that they talked about the possible offer for less than a minute.
“This is the only time,” Sestak said. “He called last summer and during the conversation he talked about how tough this Democratic primary might be if I got in. And he also said, ‘Y’know, you’ve done well in the House and your military background could really make a mark there.’”
The suggestion, Sestak said, was that he might serve on a presidential advisory board dealing with intelligence.
“I almost interrupted the president and said, ‘Mr. President, I am gonna decide to get in this or not only depending upon what’s good for Pennsylvania working families, not an offer. And he said, ‘I knew you’d say that.’”
If I ever thought anything had ever been wrong about this, I would have reported it.
“I was very conscious that the Democratic establishment did not want me in the race, and I merely looked at this as just another effort by the Democratic establishment in Washington D.C. not to have me in this race.”
Sestak insisted that “there’s nothing wrong that was done,” and that it was “just that one phone call.” Sestak said the discussion around the gig on a presidential board lasted less than a minute.
“I understand Washington D.C. is often about political deals,” Sestak said. “I didn’t feel bad or good or indifferent.”
“I said no and moved on.”
Is he worried this dust-up will affect his prospects in November’s Senate race?
“They’re not worried about Joe Sestak’s job,” the congressman said of Pennsylvania voters. “They’re worried about their job.”
And why didn’t Sestak ever bring up Clinton’s involvement until today?
“I didn’t feel it was right for me, after being called by a former president of the United States, to talk about the details of that conversation,” he said.
In its memo, the White House “concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law.”