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Romanoff Cracks: Secret White House Jobsgate E-Mail Revealed

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Messina discussed three jobs with Colorado Senate candidate.

By 6.3.10

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And…bang!

Can you say James McCord?

In a revelation that will send shock waves through the American political landscape, the Denver Post last night revealed that Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff has now reluctantly admitted he discussed "three possible jobs with the deputy chief of staff of the Obama administration -- all contingent upon a decision by Romanoff not to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet."

The White House Deputy Chief of Staff is Jim Messina, a Denver-born Obama aide who served as the chief of staff of the Obama presidential campaign. Messina serves under Rahm Emanuel, the former Illinois Congressman and current White House Chief of Staff.

The Post also published an e-mail from Messina to Romanoff dated September 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm. The e-mail discusses the jobs of Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean, and Director, Office of Democracy and Governance. Both of those positions are under the United States Agency for International Development. The third position mentioned was Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

The Romanoff admission -- which comes after months of silence, denials and evasions by the White House beginning in February -- comes on the heels of a letter to the White House from Congressman Darrell Issa and two congressional colleagues demanding access to e-mails and phone logs relevant to the Sestak Jobsgate affair -- the allegation first made by Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak that the White House offered him a job if he would abandon his own Senate challenge to incumbent Democrat Arlen Specter.

On Friday, the White House issued a report by White House Counsel Robert Bauer, saying that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had approached former President Bill Clinton to contact Sestak. The report, which contradicts Sestak, says that "efforts" in the plural were "made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified. The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated."

The positions discussed in the Messina-Romanoff e-mail are all compensated positions.

Sestak says something else -- that former President Clinton made one phone call to him, the offer was only briefly discussed and he, Sestak, rejected the offer.

The report was sufficiently self-contradictory that Issa and colleagues Lamar Smith of Texas and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin felt compelled to send their letter to White House Counsel Bauer requesting -- by June 9 -- the following:

1. All records and documents created by or produced to the Office of the White House Counsel in the course of the investigation.

2. All records and documents created or produced to the Office of the White House Press Secretary in the course of the investigation of the Sestak matter.

3. All notes or transcripts of interviews conducted by lawyers in the Office of the White House Counsel with witnesses in the Sestak matter, including but not limited to the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, President Bill Clinton, Rep. Joe Sestak and Richard Sestak.

4. All notes or transcripts of interviews conducted by staff in the Office of the White House Press Secretary with witnesses in the Sestak matter, including but not limited to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, President Bill Clinton, Rep. Joe Sestak and Richard Sestak.

5. All records, documents, interview notes or transcripts referred to either explicitly or implicitly or otherwise relied on to draft the May 28, 2010 Sestak Memorandum.

6. All documents, e-mails and phone records related to conversations White House staff had with or about Rep. Joe Sestak and any members of Rep. Sestak's campaign. 

The revelation of the once-secret Messina-Romanoff correspondence will only heighten the pressure on the White House to comply with the Issa letter.

The break in the Sestak Jobsgate Affair is reminiscent of a similar revelation by Watergate burglar and ex-CIA agent James McCord. After he was caught with four accomplices breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel complex on June 17, 1972, it quickly developed that the five men had a connection to the Nixon Committee to Re-elect the President. Yet there was no proof that higher-ups in the Nixon White House knew anything about the break-in or any subsequent efforts to cover up a connection. Convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping, McCord then wrote a letter to Judge John J. Sirica saying that the reason for his non-cooperation during his trial was that he had been pressured by the White House to keep quiet. 

McCord's famous letter, which instantly helped break open the Watergate investigation, would eventually force President Nixon's resignation and send his closest and most powerful aides, including White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, to prison.

The McCord letter said:

TO: JUDGE SIRICA March 19, 1973

Certain questions have been posed to me from your honor through the probation officer, dealing with details of the case, motivations, intent and mitigating circumstances.

In endeavoring to respond to these questions, I am whipsawed in a variety of legalities. 

First, I may be called before a Senate Committee investigating this matter. Secondly, I may be involved in a civil suit, and thirdly there may be a new trial at some future date. Fourthly, the probation officer may be called before the Senate Committee to present testimony regarding what may otherwise be a privileged communication between defendant and Judge, as I understand it; if I answered certain questions to the probation officer, it is possible such answers could become a matter of record in the Senate and there-fore available for use in the other proceedings just described. My answers would, it would seem to me, to violate my fifth amendment rights, and possibly my 6th amendment right to counsel and possibly other rights. 

On the other hand, to fail to answer your questions may appear to be non-cooperation, and I can therefore expect a much more severe sentence.

There are further considerations which are not to be lightly taken. Several members of my family have expressed fear for my life if I disclose knowledge of the facts in this matter, either publicly or to any government representative. Whereas I do not share their concerns to the same degree, nevertheless, I do believe that retaliatory measures will be taken against me, my family, and my friends should I disclose such facts. Such retaliation could destroy careers, income, and reputations of persons who are innocent of any guilt whatever.

Be that as it may, in the interests of justice, and in the interests of restoring faith in the criminal justice system, which faith has been severely damaged in this case, I will state the following to you at this time which I hope may be of help to you in meting out justice in this case:

1. There was political pressure applied to the defendants to plead guilty and remain silent.

2. Perjury occurred during the trial in matters highly material to the very structure, orientation, and impact of the government's case, and to the motivation and intent of the defendants.

3. Others involved in the Watergate operation were not identified during the trial, when they could have been by those testifying.

4. The Watergate operation was not a CIA operation. The Cubans may have been misled by others into believing that it was a CIA operation. I know for a fact that it was not.

5. Some statements were unfortunately made by a witness which left the Court with the impression that he was stating untruths, or withholding facts of his knowledge, when in fact only honest errors of memory were involved.

6. My motivations were different than those of the others involved, but were not limited to, or simply those offered in my defense during the trial. This is no fault of my attorneys, but of the circumstances under which we had to prepare my defense.

Following sentence, I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you privately in chambers. Since I cannot feel confident in talking with an FBI agent, in testifying before a Grand Jury whose U.S. Attorneys work for the Department of Justice, or in talking with other government representatives, such a discussion with you would be of assistance to me.

I have not discussed the above with my attorneys as a matter of protection for them.

I give this statement freely and voluntarily, fully realizing that I may be prosecuted for giving a false statement to a Judicial Official, if the statements herein are knowingly untrue. The statements are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. 

[signed] James W. McCord, Jr.

The letter, as with the Romanoff revelation of a secret White House e-mail, was a bombshell.

Aside from revealing the secret-role of the White House, it also made plain McCord's lack of trust in "talking with an FBI agent" -- because the Justice department was run by the Nixon-appointed Attorney General Richard Kleindienst -- the Eric Holder of his day. Holder, eager to investigate potential wrongdoing by BP in the Gulf oil spill disaster, has shown a noticeable reluctance to investigate the White House for suspected criminal wrongdoing.

The Romanoff side of the Sestak Jobsgate Affair has gotten relatively little coverage until recently. It has been hammered almost daily in Denver by KHOW radio talker Peter Boyles and, at the national level, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. Hannity has also investigated the issue on his popular television show, discussing the Romanoff angle frequently.

Here in this space, calls -- unreturned -- were placed in the last several days directly to Mr. Romanoff, who refused to return them. Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin was told by a Romanoff aide as recently as the weekend that Romanoff, in Littwin's words, "won't answer why he won't answer."

The reason for Romanoff's Code of Omerta is now abundantly clear.

On the other end of his e-mail was the White House Deputy Chief of Staff -- Rahm Emanuel's trusted number two -- and who knew beyond that?

Like the intimidated James McCord of Watergate, Andrew Romanoff of the Sestak Jobsgate Affair couldn't bring himself to speak up.

Then he did.

Now, somebody in this Obama White House is in big trouble.

Big trouble.

And the old Watergate question is about to re-surface:

What did the President know -- and when did he know it?

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.