Well, at least it's not Darrell Issa again. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have written what must be the 1,567,824th letter on the subject of Rep. Joe Sestak's maybe sorta job offer from the White House, via Bill Clinton. Led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the seven senators again asked Attorney General Eric Holder for an independent investigation ito the matter, which combined with the Andrew Romanoff affair in Colorado, "suggest a broader pattern of White House conduct than was known at the time of our earlier letter," the senators wrote.
The aforementioned Issa -- the Torquemada of the Sestak case, if you will -- is appearing tonight in Hershey at the state GOP dinner, and you can bet this topic might be broached. Full text of the Senate letter below the jump.
Dear Attorney General Holder:
We are writing to follow up on our May 26, 2010 letter to you regarding the need for an independent and objective investigation of Congressman Joe Sestak’s claims of a White House-initiated job offer to coax him from the Pennsylvania Senate primary. Our letter made clear that you have a number of investigatory options that are backed by recent precedent that could be used to clear the air on this matter without any taint of conflict or partiality. The principal concern in our earlier letter was that the Department of Justice not abandon its responsibility to conduct investigations and preliminary inquiries of potential criminal wrongdoing in favor of an internal White House probe of a matter involving potential White House misconduct.
Since our earlier letter, White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer publicly released a short memorandum that listed three summary findings from an internal White House “review of discussions.” Without identifying the participants or process behind this review, Mr. Bauer stated, “[w]e concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and a lack of basis in the law.” The memorandum also explained that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel enlisted former President Bill Clinton to offer Mr. Sestak a post on a presidential advisory board to induce him to leave the Pennsylvania Senate primary to avoid what it termed a “divisive primary fight.” Although the memorandum does not discuss any other White House efforts to influence Mr. Sestak’s candidacy, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has confirmed that he spoke with Mr. Emanuel about discouraging Mr. Sestak’s primary challenge.
In recent days, another set of potential job offers to a Senate primary candidate have come to light. On Wednesday, June 2, 2010, Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff revealed that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina approached him about three administration posts that “might be available” if Mr. Romanoff abandoned his primary challenge to Senator Michael Bennet. In concert with this revelation, Mr. Romanoff released a September 11, 2009 email from Mr. Messina listing the titles and job descriptions for three specific posts within the U. S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The email was sent just one day after Mr. Romanoff had filed his paperwork to enter the Colorado primary race. On June 3, 2010, the White House, through Robert Gibbs, issued a statement confirming that Mr. Messina had called and emailed Mr. Romanoff regarding an administration position because “Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle” in the Senate primary race.
The events and revelations described above suggest a broader pattern of White House conduct than was known at the time of our earlier letter. The types of offers in question here appear to raise issues that fall within the ambit of 18 U.S.C. § 600. Moreover, the parties involved in these conversations concede that federal government positions or appointments were openly offered or discussed to influence primary election campaign activity. Based on this record, we want to reinforce our view that you should appoint an appropriate Department of Justice official to investigate this matter, whether a special counsel appointed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 515 or the head of an appropriate Department component, such as the Public Integrity Section or United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. At a minimum, a preliminary inquiry should be opened consistent with the path taken by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in December 2007 when he opened and publicly revealed a preliminary inquiry into the destruction of interrogation videos. As General Mukasey explained in a January 2008 Department of Justice release: “A preliminary inquiry is a procedure the Department of Justice uses regularly to gather the initial facts needed to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a criminal investigation of a potential felony or misdemeanor violation.”
As we noted in our earlier letter, the White House cannot credibly investigate potential criminal misconduct while simultaneously crafting a public narrative to rebut claims that misconduct occurred. Mr. Bauer’s memorandum confirms the inherent conflict of interest in such an approach insofar as it does not discuss the nature of his review, the participants in such a review, whether interviews or depositions were conducted, or whether documents were preserved and reviewed. The objectivity and thoroughness of Mr. Bauer’s investigation and report have been questioned since the memo’s release, as well as the factual discrepancies the memo’s conclusions and Mr. Sestak’s public statements. This criticism is not surprising. As former Attorney General Robert Jackson warned in his famous 1940 speech on the importance of the politically independent federal prosecutor: “There can also be no doubt that to be closely identified with the intrigue, the money raising, and the machinery of a particular party or faction may present a prosecuting officer with embarrassing alignments and associations.”
Given the events of last week, we feel even more strongly that the Department of Justice must undertake an independent, objective investigation into the reported job offers in these Senate races. This is especially the case in view of the Romanoff revelations, which have created new suspicion and a new set of questions. We do not believe this suspicion or these questions will diminish until a proper investigation clears the air and restores the public’s confidence.
Very truly yours,
Ranking Member Jeff Sessions
Sen. Orrin Hatch
Sen. Chuck Grassley
Sen. Jon Kyl
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Sen. John Cornyn
Sen. Tom Coburn