Republican House Leader John Boehner was on today’s program and discussed the president’s paralysis on the oil spill, the Texas border terrorist alert, his “100 seats in play” statement and the Sestak Affair. This is our exchange on the stonewall underway at the White House:
HH: Let me ask you a couple of things, Leader Boehner. Today, seven Senators on the Judiciary Committee in the United States Senate called for a special prosecutor, echoing a request of Darrell Issa from my neck of the woods, to the Department of Justice to investigate Congressman Sestak’s allegation of a job offer. What do you think about the need for a special prosecutor?
JB: Well, I think that the White House needs to come clean, and Joe Sestak needs to come clean. And if they want to have the special prosecutor, fine, let’s get it done. But I don’t know why these people just can’t tell us the truth of what happened. You know, these are some serious allegations that someone inside the White House offered him a job, to facilitate his withdrawal from the Pennsylvania primary against Senator Specter. And this is, it’s illegal, it’s inappropriate, and I don’t know why we have to wait on a special counsel. Why won’t they come out and tell us the truth? And I expect that you’ll see another letter from House Republicans tomorrow.
HH: Oh, well that’s very good to know. Now David Axelrod told CNN on the weekend, John King, that the allegations have been looked into, there’s no evidence of such wrongdoing. Are you not put, is your mind not at ease because David Axelrod told us everything’s okay, Leader Boehner?
JB: Ah, Hugh, you know, I told you a long time ago. I’ve got eleven brothers and sisters, and my dad wasn’t far…you know, I can smell B.S. a mile away.
HH: So this keeps up? The drumbeat keeps up until the answers are given?
JB: They’re going to have to come forward with the answers, because this is not going to go away.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza also joined me and agreed that the Sestak controversy will not go away until the White House and the congressman answer the obvious questions:
HH: I’ve got to ask you whether you think the Sestak affair, l’Affair Sestak is going to get bigger.
CC: (laughing) I would say it will get more prominent before it gets less prominent. I wrote this today on the blog. Look, I don’t think that where the White House and where Sestak has left it is going to be acceptable. You can’t have the White House essentially saying trust us, no legal, no laws were broken here. We’re not going to tell you what the here is, but no laws were broken. And Sestak essentially having said yes, a job was offered to me, now not saying anything, this is just not a tenable political position to sit in. I would guess that within the next sort of 48 hours or so, it will move in one way, shape or form. I mean, look, it’s not in the White House or Joe Sestak’s interest to keep this story lingering out there. The question is how do they solve it? And I don’t know the answer to that yet, Hugh.
HH: Now 18USC, Section 600, criminalizes the promise of employment or other benefit for political activity. And then there’s conspiracy issues as well. These are all the statutes that are in play. I think they’ve just got to come out and say who talked to them, and what did they say, and Sestak’s got to confirm it. And until and unless we hear that, or Sestak repudiates his earlier statement, I think it goes on, Chris Cillizza. Am I wrong?
CC: No, I don’t think you’re wrong. I think what we’re going, my guess would be you know, I think like all legal matters, you can read the statute a lot of different ways. I’ve talked to Republican and Democratic lawyers in the last 24 hours who have read it in different ways. The question is, is it the same thing to simply float the idea that the job exists versus saying if you drop out, we will give you this job? And which, or either, did they do? And the question is, we don’t know that. Obviously, these were private conversations. Sestak said something happened. We know something happened. Sestak said it. Robert Gibbs has said nothing untoward happened. But obviously, something happened. They need to get to what is that something, and what they need, in terms of messaging, is why this is being made a bigger deal than it actually is.