Joe Sestak Details His Conversation With Clinton


Congressman Joe Sestak broke his silence Friday afternoon after the White House acknowledged that it had asked former President Bill Clinton to call him, feel out his interest in perhaps not mounting a Senate bid against incumbent Arlen Specter, and raise the possibility of Sestak taking an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board if he chose instead to remain in the House.

Sestak had kept quiet about the offer since divulging in an interview that he had been offered some type of administration position, while declining to specify what the position was, who contacted him, or any specifics about it. The White House, however, publicized its account Friday of what had happened, following Republican calls for an investigation into potential illegality or wrongdoing.

Friday afternoon, on the steps of the Capitol, Sestak spoke to a cluster of reporters and TV cameramen and said he was contacted by President Clinton and "almost interrupted" him to say he wasn't interested in the unpaid position, as soon as the idea was raised.

Here are some highlights of Sestak's comments, during the course of the question and answer session:
He [Clinton] 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, you know, you've done well in the House, and a military background can really make a mark there, and then brought up that during a conversation Rahm Emanuel had brought up about a presidential board or something, you know if I were to stay in the House, and I almost interrupted the president and said, 'Mr. president, I am going to decide to get in this or not only dependent upon what's good for Pennsylvania's working families, not an offer, and he said, 'I knew you'd say that.'... 

If I ever thought anythign had 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, DC...

There was nothing wrong that was done...

This happened last July, and nobody ever asked me about this...someone asked me, 'Did they offer you a job?' and I felt for my own personal accountability, I felt I need to be honest, and I said, 'Yes,'...and after that I said 'no comment' to the follow-on questions that were asked...

No, no just that one phone call [in reference to how many times the offer was discussed]...

This portion of the conversation prob lasted...I would say thirty to sixty seconds, I mean we were on in another conversation, and it came up during it...and almost as he said the words, I almost felt like I was interrupting, I mean nothing rude, just 'Mr. president, I wouln't get into...'

He chucked and said, 'Well Joe I knew you were gonna say that...'

Look, I understand Washington, DC is often about political deals...I didn't feel bad or good or indifferent, it was just I merely said no and moved on...

Washington does this stype of stuff...

I said I would only not get in if it were the right thing for Pennsylvania working famileis, not for an offer...

[On why he's kept quiet about it:] 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...

I didn't feel comfortable at all talking about a former president of the United States who had called me...

I have great resp and ad for president clinton

I dint' even know quite what it was exactly, I heard 'presidential board,' and i think it was intel...

I almost interrupted, and I think i did a little bit, I mean I wasn't rude...

Clinton did call to congratulate Sestak on his primary win, the congressman said, but the position offer was never raised again. Sestak said he doesn't think a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate it, as Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA) has called for, nor does he think anything would come of such an investigation.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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