Exclusive: All 7 Republicans on Senate Judiciary Committee Ask AG Holder to Appoint Special Prosecutor to Look Into Alleged Sestak Job Offer

By Matt Loffman

May 26, 2010 1:19pm

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee "urge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Congressman Joe Sestak's claim that a White House official offered him a job to induce him to exit the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Senator Arlen Specter."

The seven – Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,  John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – allege that the offer would appear to violate federal criminal laws, including 18 U.S.C. 600, which prohibits promising a government position “as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity” or “in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office.”

Rep. Sestak, D-Penn., who defeated Specter in the primary last week, told Comcast’s Larry Kane in February that the White House had offered him a position in exchange for not challenging Specter. White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on Monday that White House lawyers had looked into it and judged everything “perfectly appropriate.”

CNN’s John King suggested to Axelrod that such a job offer “marches up into the gray area, perhaps into the red area of a felony. It is a felony to induce somebody by offering them a job.”

“If such things happened they would constitute a serious breach of the law,” Axelrod told CNN, “and when the allegations were looked into there is no evidence of such a thing"

That was not enough for the Republican Senators, who wrote to Holder that they “do not believe the Department of Justice can properly defer to White House lawyers to investigate a matter that could involve ‘a serious breach of the law.’ The White House cannot possibly manage an internal investigation of potential criminal misconduct while simultaneously crafting a public narrative to rebut the claim that misconduct occurred.”

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch last week told Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that a special counsel is not needed; the Republican Senators are asking for Holder to reconsider that decision, though they suggest he could also refer the matter to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section or the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

-Jake Tapper

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