GOP Calls for FBI Investigation in Sestak Case


Updated 5:04 p.m. Eastern Time

Here's more evidence that the GOP is trying to keep the Joe Sestak affair alive despite today's White House memo denying wrongdoing: A group of Republicans have sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller asking for an FBI investigation of "allegations that White House officials bribed Representative Joe Sestak with promises of a senior Administration position in exchange for his withdrawal from the Pennsylvania Senate primary."

The letter comes from House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith and House Oversight and Government Ranking Member Darrell Issa and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee; in it, they write that "the White House makes no effort to deny" that a conversation between Bill Clinton and Sestak about withdrawing from the primary took place.

While that's true, the White House maintains that there was nothing improper about the conversation and that it comports to the behavior of past administrations. (Backers of the administration have been pointing to a purported Associated Press story detailing how Sen. S.I. Hayakawa "spurned a Reagan administration suggestion that if he drops out of the crowded Republican Senate primary race in California, President Reagan would find him a job.")

Sestak, who has backed the White House version of events, spoke to reporters late this afternoon. Asked by CBS News how he feels about being put in the position he finds himself in, he replied, "I understand that Washington DC is often about these deals. I didn't feel good bad or indifferent. I just said no and moved on."

He told reporters his conversation with Mr. Clinton lasted less than one minute.

In the memo released today, White House counsel Robert Bauer argued that the White House has "concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law."

He wrote that while "options for Executive Branch service were raised" with Sestak in an effort to "avoid a divisive Senate primary," the executive branch advisory board positions discussed were uncompensated and would have allowed Sestak to remain in the House.

In their letter, the Republicans write that "Assurances by the Obama White House that no laws were broken are like the Nixon White House promising it did nothing illegal in connection with Watergate. Clearly, an independent investigation is necessary to determine once and for all what really happened."

The Justice Department has previously rebuffed GOP calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.

While such situations are not uncommon, former Reagan Justice Department official Michael Carvin toldCBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford, the discussions may have amounted to a technical violation of the law.