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White House Report on Sestak Job Offer Raises More Legal Questions, Critics Say

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Friday: Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill. (AP)

Instead of quelling a growing outcry for more information on an alleged political bargain, the White House has raised more questions and calls for an investigation after its shocking revelation on Friday that it recruited former President Bill Clinton to pitch a possible administration role to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would sit out the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary.

Although the White House and its supporters say there was no "impropriety" behind Clinton's conversation with Sestak, downplaying the scandal as politics as usual, Republicans want a second opinion.

Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Lamar Smith, R-Texas, sent a letter Friday to FBI Director Robert Mueller urging the bureau to open an investigation.

"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," they wrote in the letter. "Clearly, an independent investigation is necessary to determine once and for all what really happened."

The White House released a report Friday saying Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, asked Clinton, Emanuel's former boss when he was an aide in the Clinton White House, to talk to Sestak about taking an unpaid position on the president's intelligence advisory board in exchange for staying out of the Senate primary against the establishment-backed Sen. Arlen Specter.

The report concluded that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law."

But critics say the offer may have violated a U.S. statue that says, "Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation…appointment…to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity…or in connection with any primary election…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year or both."

Sestak issued a statement Friday verifying the White House account. He said later at a news conference that he doesn't believe the conversation was improper and doesn't think a special investigation is warranted.

Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Fox News it appears the White House gambit, while sordid, did not look like a criminal inducement to alter the course of an election.

"That's a stretch. It really is a stretch. I think that it would have to be something much more direct than what we have here in order for it to violate the statute," he said.

But critics disagree.

"Because of the alleged involvement of high ranking administration officials, any investigation into criminal activity by the White House should be spearheaded by the FBI," Republicans wrote in their letter to the Mueller. "Admissions that the White House intentionally sought to manipulate the outcome of a Democratic Senate primary strike at the heart of our democracy. Only a full criminal investigation can restore integrity to our election process."

Judiciary Committee Republicans, who are requesting a response from the FBI no later than June 11, also raised alarms about what they called the apparent coordination between Sestak and the White House on their statements.

"We are equally concerned about steps taken by the White House leading up to the issuance of today's report, including a meeting between former President Clinton and President Obama and reports that Rep. Sestak's brother (and campaign manager) was consulted on the drafting of the White House report," they said. "The apparent collusion between parties involved may constitute obstruction of justice."

The FBI could not be reached for comment.

Issa told Fox News that he found interesting that Sestak has to explain how his earlier statement suggested a person in the White House offered him a job.

"That's going to be a problem for Joe Sestak," he said.

But Democrats pooh-poohed the Republican claims.

"Only if you conjure up facts and law that are not in evidence do you actually have an issue," said Richard Goodstein, a former adviser to Clinton's presidential campaign."What I say about Bill Clinton is he was doing what parties do, which is he was talking to people in the White House. Karl Rove did this all the time with candidates. (White House officials) wanted to clear the field to make sure they had the best candidate, who they thought at the time was Sen. Specter."

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