Special Report

Bribe Charge: Issa Jobsgate Video Slams Sestak, Gibbs

Pennsylvania's Blumenthal: ex-Admiral's image of honesty, White House credibility torpedoed.

By 5.24.10

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"We call this a bribe."

Congressman Darryl Issa has had enough.

In a stunning, newly released YouTube video, the California Republican Congressman and member of the House Judiciary Committee has put together a Jobsgate montage of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak in a veritable orgy of denial, evasion, and just plainly obvious dishonesty that could do serious damage not just to the White House but the U.S. Senate candidacy of Sestak.. (Hat tip to our friend Ben Barrack, a talk show host on KTEM 1400 in Texas who maintains a website and; has written on Sestak at the American Thinker.)

The tape was released hours before Sestak and Gibbs were scheduled to appear as guests on Sunday national TV talk shows this weekend. In a statement released by Issa, who is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as a well as a senior member of Judiciary, the Congressman said:

For months, a United States Congressman has stated that the White House offered him a job in exchange for not running in an election -- we call this a bribe. Despite being asked numerous times, the White House has not refuted Congressman Sestak's allegations, but refuses to disclose who offered what and when. So this Administration, that pledged to be a beacon of transparency and change, continues to conceal from the American people the truth about what exactly was said and offered. Until we get direct answers, this White House doesn't have a leg to stand on when they talk about openness and change.

During his Meet the Press appearance, Sestak was asked by moderator David Gregory in this fashion:

MR. GREGORY: Yes or no, straightforward question. Were you, were you offered a job, and what was the job?

REP. SESTAK: I was offered a job, and I answered that.

MR. GREGORY: You said no, you wouldn't take the job. Was it the secretary of the Navy?

REP. SESTAK: Right. And I also said, "Look, I'm getting into this...

The "Right" answer would be the first time that Sestak has personally confirmed what has been long suspected -- the bribe Issa mentions was indeed the job of Secretary of the Navy.

Meanwhile, over on CBS's Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, Obama press secretary Gibbs was saying this:

BOB SCHIEFFER: One final question. Joe Sestak who beat Arlen Specter and the White House, of course, was-- was backing Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary up there. All these reports that the White House offered him some sort of job, some sort of post in the administration, if he wouldn't run, would you tell us what-- what post he was offered?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, Bob, I-- I'm not a lawyer. But lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak. And noting-- nothing inappropriate happened. I-- I think Republicans are continuing to dredge this up because if you look just a couple of days after this primary, the polling shows that Republicans are already behind in a very important Senate race.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Improper or not, did you offer him a job in the administration?

ROBERT GIBBS: I-- I-- I'm not going to get--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Okay.

ROBERT GIBBS: --further into what the conversations were. People that have looked into them assure me that they weren't inappropriate in any way.

Which is to say, while Sestak is now admitting the job in question was Secretary of the Navy, Gibbs refuses yet again to discuss the issue. He makes it clear the White House will not be revealing the name of the person who offered Sestak the job of Secretary of the Navy. 

Added to the growing calls from Pennsylvania talk radio hosts for Sestak to tell the truth, the ex-Admiral is quickly gaining a reputation as Pennsylvania's Richard Blumenthal -- the Connecticut Attorney General turned Democratic Senate nominee found to have been deliberately dishonest about his service in Vietnam.

In the just over two minute video, posted on Friday, national media figures across the spectrum are shown grilling both Gibbs and Sestak about "Jobsgate" -- the allegation originally made by Sestak of a job offer from the White House if he would halt a primary challenge to Senator Specter. Sestak refused to abandon the race, and last week defeated Specter for the Senate nomination. He will face Republican Pat Toomey this fall.

At various points in the video one or the other of the two men are seen or heard being questioned by Jake Tapper (ABC), Larry Kane (Comcast), Brett Baier (Fox News), Martha McCallum (Fox News), Ed Schultz (MSNBC), Chip Reid (CBS), Neil Cavuto (Fox News), Ed Henry (CNN), and Rick Sanchez (CNN). Commenting on the legal aspects, stating flatly that what Sestak alleges is a federal crime, are Fox legal analyst and anchor Megyn Kelley and Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News.

Tapper, Reid and Henry are White House correspondents for their respective networks. Not seen on camera is Fox News White House correspondent Major Garrett, who has also been trying to get answers from Gibbs. Off-camera questions are also heard from Pennsylvania radio talk show host Gary Sutton, of WSBA radio in York.

The video, contrasting the answers from the White House podium by Gibbs with repeated clips of Sestak telling a variety of journalists that he has "answered the question honestly," presents a vivid contrast between the two men. Gibbs is portrayed as saying he "has not looked into this" -- then repeatedly deflecting questions, just as he did with Schieffer yesterday. The commercial ends with the tag line: "Honestly, they can't both be right. So who is wrong?"

The tape, issued not from a political action committee but the ranking Republican Congressman on the Oversight Committee (the credit reads "Oversight Productions: republicans.oversight.house.gov" -- which is to say an official arm of the House Minority), will surely receive considerable publicity and has the potential to be a torpedo-amidships to the ex-Admiral's Senate campaign. Not unlike the revelation in Connecticut that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, nominated by Democrats over the weekend to replace the ethically challenged Senator Chris Dodd, repeatedly lied to the public about his service in Vietnam.

In yet another development, in an interview with Pittsburgh's KDKA radio the day after defeating Specter, this testy exchange took place between Sestak and interviewer Mike Pintek:

Pintek: I want to ask you something from, in fact, before the election yesterday alright? We were just talking about it a few minutes ago just before the break…It is that you said the Obama administration offered you a job if you would drop out of the primary for Arlen Specter. You said no. Who offered you the job? What was the job?

Sestak: It's interesting. It happened last July and somebody called.

Pintek: Who called?

Sestak: Somebody called. And I answered the question honestly when I was asked. And then I stopped and I said, : "that's it, no more." Because you know, nobody outside a studio or anything else cares. What they want to know is what the heck are you going to do to get me a job that I've lost? And that's how I've approached that whole campaign, you know? And I honestly believe that…

Pintek: Congressman with all due respect when you say nobody cares, that's not true.

Sestak: Well, I'm sorry. Pundits do.

Pintek: No no no wait a moment. I think honest Americans citizens care, because if in fact you were offered a job to drop out of that race that's a crime.

Sestak: Well the only ones I ever hear say that are the very right wing Republicans.

Pintek: To offer a bribe to alter an election is not a crime in your mind?

Sestak: The only ones I ever heard bring that up are as I said are right-wing Republicans. Look, I did something that I felt I should of done. When I was in this interview with Larry Kane, seven months after something happened, where I had said "Look, I'm not going to get out for a deal 'cause I don't like the deal that's in it. And if I'm going to get out it's gonna be for the right thing." But I was asked a question and I answered it honestly with a "yes." Though beyond that serves no purpose except politics that I want to change in Washington, DC, where deals were made for a 60th vote with our senator -- who I respect -- but that's why the Democratic establishment began to get off track I'm going down there to help change that….

The exchange was similar to others that have been occurring with increasing frequency across the state between Sestak and various talk radio hosts. In fact, Sestak appears to have so rehearsed his answer that his responses to both Gregory on Meet the Press and Pintek at KDKA begin with the identical phrase "it's interesting."

"Did Rahm Emanuel or Jim Messina [the Deputy White House Chief of Staff] contact you for a job?" demanded York's WSBA radio host Gary Sutton. Sestak refused to answer. The same scenario had also unfolded on a Wilkes-Barre show. In each case, as Issa has now captured in his video, the one-time Admiral clearly has no intention of telling the truth and shows a defiant resistance to reporting the truth about what one legal analyst after another, including Kelly and Napolitano, has said is in fact a federal crime.

What Issa directly now calls "a bribe."

Earlier this month Issa grilled Attorney General Eric Holder on the Sestak issue, seen here. Issa began with this question, cutting directly to the heart of the matter:

"General Holder, as I said in my opening statement, I'm deeply concerned that a seated member of Congress, a distinguished member of this body, has alleged to what amounts to three felonies.…Senator Arlen Specter has confirmed that in his opinion that if the allegations are true they are felonies…"

In response, Holder spent his time precisely as did Gibbs with White House correspondents Tapper, Reid, Henry and Garrett. And just as Sestak did with interviewers ranging from Kane to Baier to McCallum to Schultz to Cavuto to Sanchez, Sutton and Pintek.

The Attorney General, sitting in front of a Committee of the United States Congress dodged, obfuscated and evaded.

The similarity of responses between the three are now leading to new questions.

• Are the Attorney General of the United States, the White House press secretary, and the Congressman from Pennsylvania being coached from the same playbook -- by the same player?

• Are Holder, Gibbs, and Sestak all now being guided in their responses by the very person who is in fact the subject of all these questions? The "somebody" Sestak references but refuses -- repeatedly -- to name. The "somebody" who is suspected of committing, in Issa's words, "what amounts to three felonies."

• Are there phone records, e-mail records, scheduling logs that tie this mysterious person in the White House to the responses made by Holder, Gibbs, and Sestak?

• What contact has there been between the White House staff, the Attorney General's staff and the Congressman's staff?

• Is the White House Counsel's office, whom Gibbs referenced in his Face the Nation appearance, advising White House staff members on how to evade the law?

Sestak is a rookie Senate candidate. And the call offering him a job -- which he now confirmed to Gregory to be Secretary of the Navy -- was obviously not his idea. But his subsequent and much-repeated evasions, now made carefully and continually whether he's on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, NBC or the increasing number of radio stations around the state, give a startling look into his public character.

As with Connecticut's Blumenthal, what once was taken for granted as unassailable honesty is now coming under heavy scrutiny -- and the results for both Sestak and Blumenthal have not been good. On one Pennsylvania station the candidate was compared to ex-Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, like Sestak a Navy veteran. Cunningham, a Republican, is now in federal prison -- for accepting bribes. And on Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace questioned Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine using the dreaded term once associated with the Nixon White House response to questions on Watergate: "stonewalling."

Quite apart from his leftward tilt on issues, which is being engaged by Republican opponent Toomey, as Issa vividly demonstrates Sestak is lifting into view another unneeded election year problem for the Obama White House.

While unmentioned recently, on Saturday the Colorado Democratic Party gave another Senate candidate, former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, over 60 percent of the vote in a convention, which guarantees Romanoff the top billing in a primary challenge to sitting Democrat Senator Michael Bennet. As with Sestak, Romanoff too has been the subject of a job-for-withdrawal scheme, this time the position as reported by the Denver Post in September of last year said to be with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Post specifically named White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina as the official who offered the job. As with Sestak and Blumenthal, Romanoff's campaign is also casting their candidate as "A Man of Honor and Conviction" -- while the candidate simply refuses outright to even address the subject of whether he too, like Sestak, was offered what Issa calls "a bribe."

Not to be forgotten in all of this is Arlen Specter's reminder that for the recipient of a bribe offer not to report the offer itself to legal authorities makes the recipient of the offer -- Sestak and Romanoff -- vulnerable to charges of "misprision of a felony."

All of this, as the Issa video featuring Gibbs and Sestak captures vividly -- along with Issa's lacerating interrogation of Holder -- makes it now abundantly clear that dishonesty and crony politics is the name of the game with the three men, and the administration they serve.

The issue in the Pennsylvania Senate race, in the Colorado Senate race, with Robert Gibbs, Eric Holder, and their comrades inside the White House Counsel's office -- is becoming not what do they think.

The issue is: who exactly are all of these people so ferociously trying to protect?

Congressman Issa has made it his mission to find out.

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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.