By Sam Youngman and Walter Alarkon - 05/28/10 03:55 PM EDT
The White House counsel's office said nothing improper or illegal occurred in discussions with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) about dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race.
Sestak was offered an appointed position on a presidential board or executive branch board but those positions "would have been uncompensated," White House Counsel Bob Bauer wrote in a two-page memo released Friday.
Emanuel "enlisted the support" of Clinton to talk to Sestak about "service on a presidential or otherwise senior executive advisory board," Bauer writes. The service would have avoided a primary, allowed Sestak to retain his House seat and "provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level capacity for which he was highly qualified."
Clinton, however, reported back that Sestak was committed to the Senate race.
Bauer wrote that "the allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law." He insisted that there was no "impropriety."
"The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the congressman vacating his seat," Bauer wrote.
He also noted that "there have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations -- both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals -- discussed alternative paths to service." Those discussions, Bauer writes, "are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements."
Bauer's memo comes months after Sestak revealed he was offered a position to avoid a race against the White House-backed Specter. Sestak defeated Specter in the May 18th Democratic primary.
White House officials have repeatedly stiff-armed reporters' questions about any such offers. At his press conference on Thursday, President Barack Obama said a response would be forthcoming from the White House.
Senate Judiciary Republicans have asked the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter. The memo did not address the Republicans's request.
Bauer also disputed reports that Sestak was offered the position as secretary of the Navy, noting that Ray Mabus was announced as Obama's intended nominee about a month before Specter defected to the Democratic Party.
"At no time was Congressman Sestak offered, nor did he seek, the position of secretary of the Navy," the memo said.
Clinton had lunch with President Barack Obama at the White House Thursday.
Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who has led GOP calls for the president to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, said the Obama administration's memo shows that it broke a federal statute, 18 USC Section 600, prohibiting promises for employment or another benefit for political purposes.
"They're admitting to the misdemeanor while denying the felony," Issa told reporters with the memo in hand.
Issa suggested that Emanuel committed a crime and called on Emanuel and other administration officials to face questions.
"Does Rahm Emanuel stay even though he has in fact violated the law?" asked Issa.
Issa, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the Obama administration has now given up a higher ground by arguing that their actions aren't improper because similar actions have been taken in the past.
"It's crime as usual, it's business as usual, it's Obama as usual," Issa said.
-- This article was updated at 12:26 p.m. and 1:31 p.m.