Here is what happened in JobGate.1. The Facts: What Happened
1. Joe Sestak begins a primary challenge against turncoat Sen. Snarlin Arlen Specter.
2. Soon Sestak starts bragging that the White House offered him a job to drop his senate bid. On Larry King, he was asked: “Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?” Answer: “Yes.” The following day, on FOX News, he was asked if he was offered “a federal job, a White House or administrative job.” Sestak said “yes.” On Joe Scarborough he was asked if it was “an offer to run the Navy.” Sestak said “yes.” At no point in this interview or any others did he ever suggest that he wasn’t actually offered a job or that it was only an advisor position. That’s called an admission.
3. People start pointing out that this is a felony (see below). And the Republicans ask Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. Holder refuses. That’s called a cover-up.
4. Obama is questioned by the media and avoids responding: “You will get it from my administration, and it will be coming out shortly. . . I can assure the public that nothing improper took place, but as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue.” That’s called a non-denial denial and indicates a cover-up in progress.
5. Sestak is asked to clarify exactly what the job was. He now refuses to answer: “I have nothing else to say on the matter.” That’s guilty talk.
6. Obama and Clinton meet for lunch. That’s called conspiracy.
7. The White House issues a very carefully-worded, very evasive white wash memo that claims that Bill Clinton met with Sestak, not anyone from the White House, and that Bill only offered to put Sestak on an “uncompensated advisory board.” It also claims that Republicans have done this in the past too. . . although it doesn’t cite any examples. Demonization is always an acknowledgement of guilt
8. Finally, Sestak issued a statement saying he had turned down an unpaid advisor job. That's called conspiracy after the fact.
If a job was offered to Sestak, then a felony was committed. Here’s why:2. Why This Is A Crime
Each of these applies “directly or indirectly,” meaning that going through a third party is the same thing as doing it yourself. . . hi Bill. Thus, everyone involved in this could be sentenced up to two years in prison, fined, and lose any federal job they hold. Removing a President would require impeachment.1. 18 U.S.C. section 211 makes it a crime to solicit or receive anything of value in exchange for appointing (or influencing the appointment of) someone to an office or job with the United States. This is subject to one year in prison and a fine.
2. 18 U.S.C. section 595 makes it a crime for anyone to use a federal job, federal funds, or a federal position to interfere with a Senate election. This is subject to one year in prison and a fine.
3. 18 U.S.C. section 600, makes it a crime to offer public employment in exchange for political activity. This is the Hatch Act, which was passed in 1939 to stop the practice of hiring political hacks for government jobs and to stop the use of government resources to promote political parties, i.e. to depoliticize the federal work force. However, the only penalty appears to be termination of employment.
Speaking as an attorney, this has all the hallmarks of a crime that is now being covered up. Can it be proven? Possibly. That’s why you need a special prosecutor. They can call in all the witnesses and quiz them, including secretaries and assistants. It is the secretaries and assistants who usually break a case open either because they decide not to lie for their bosses (though, in truth, they usually do lie) or they don’t know what lie to tell (this is more common). The prosecutor can also subpoena phone records and computer records -- including e-mails, which is also where these things usually fall apart. After that, one or more main players will usually roll over and start telling the truth.3. Why This Should Be Investigated
The other reason a special prosecutor should be called is that this is not an isolated incident. In Colorado, Andrew Romanoff is running against Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary. According to The Denver Post, Jim Messina, Obama’s deputy chief of staff, “suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources. . . Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID.” The day after, Romanoff announced his Senate bid. The White House has denied this, but “several top Colorado Democrats” have confirmed it anonymously to The Post.
Despite the fact that this is a crime, the Republicans need to shut the heck up about this. They should push to get a special prosecutor, but should not talk about impeachment and should not try to score points on this once a special prosecutor is appointed. Here’s why.4. Why Republicans Need To Shut The Heck Up Fast
People do not like attacks that seem purely political. And they don’t like politicians using the criminal justice system to attack their opponents. They particularly don’t like politicians trying to “get” their opponents with esoteric laws. And the public will see this as esoteric. Why? Because Obama could have done this legally.
Presidents have the power to appoint anyone they want. Thus, Obama could have appointed Sestak to whatever position he has in mind and it would have been entirely legal, even if Sestak needed to drop his Senate bid to take the job. It only became illegal because of the quid-pro-quo aspect, the “you only get this if. . .” aspect. But since Obama could have done this legally by just omitting those words, people will see this as a “technically illegal” illegality. In my experience, people do not like those, and they hate it when politicians use those against their opponents.
Moreover, look at the history of using these kinds of attacks on opponents. Iran Contra made Oliver North into a hero and made the Democrats looks like incompetent, anti-American jerks. The impeachment of Bill Clinton made Bill Clinton much more popular than he had been and made Republicans look like nasty, intolerant, sex-obsessed tyrants. It also ended many a career on the Republican side, but only enhanced those on the left. Even consider Watergate. The Democrats didn’t bring down Nixon, Nixon brought down Nixon. And what did the Democrats gain? Nothing. They only beat Ford after he pardoned Nixon, and four years later came Ronald Reagan and a dramatic shift to the right.
This same history gets repeated in other countries as well. When politicians try to use criminal laws against their opponents, the crime better be ultra-serious. Anything that sounds technical or snippy will always blow up on the party that is perceived as exploiting the law.
The better approach is to let the investigation do its thing. Let a prosecutor go after these people and let the steady drip of allegations and the infighting do the damage. In the meantime, just keep saying, “serious allegations have been raised and there should be a prosecutor appointed to uncover the truth. The American people deserve the truth. Beyond that, I’ll wait to comment until after the investigation.”
That may not be the sexy strategy, but it's the smart strategy.
** Update: It now turns out that Sestak would not have been eligible for the job Clinton supposedly offered him. That makes their claims look even more like a coverup. That's what happens when you try to make up an "alibi" after the fact.