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Prof. Richard Hasen Criticizes Fox For Their 'Breathless' Coverage Of Sestak Issue

Greta Van Susteren fill-in Jamie Colby talked to Professor of Law Richard Hasen about Darrel Issa's witch hunt against the Obama administration and th
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Greta Van Susteren fill-in Jamie Colby talked to Professor of Law Richard Hasen about Darrel Issa's witch hunt against the Obama administration and the job offer for Joe Sestak. I'll just take a wild guess here and say I think it's likely we won't be seeing Prof. Hasen on Fox again any time soon.

Colby: How many different laws could we evaluate under these circumstances?

Hasen: Well I’ve heard reference to both the federal bribery statute as well as the statute that prevents promising of some kind of job or appointment in exchange for some future political benefit and so that’s that section 600, that’s that statute in the bribery statute which seems to be the ones that are at play right now.

Colby: Rick, how often are those laws applied in cases where an election could potentially be manipulated by the Executive branch?

Hasen: Well I went back and looked at this section 600, the one that says ah… about the job offers and it seems to be a statute that’s really aimed at preventing patronage appointments. That is giving people who’ve done political favors for you jobs where they make money. I can’t find a case where it’s ever been applied in this way and I think there are some good reasons why it probably shouldn’t be.

What we have here is really is a political deal. It’s a deal to say in order to strengthen the party one of the two people who are competing should step aside. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time and it’s the kind of thing that probably is not what the statute was really designed to prevent

Colby: You mentioned that the code, the federal code 600 the one statute, but there’s also the Hatch Act and it’s been around for a really long time and the main purpose of it is to restrict what the Executive branch can do in situations like this. Is that relevant to this case?

Hasen: Well you know I haven’t heard, if you look at the letter that the Senators, the Republican Senators from the Judiciary Committee sent to Attorney General Holder asking for an investigation, they didn’t cite the Hatch Act generally. They cited the section 600, and I think there’s a good reason for that.

You know when you have the President of a particular party, the President is really the head of that party and the President and the administration, they really wear two hats. It’s true whether you’re talking about Republican or Democratic administrations. That is to have the political side and they have their job as Executive and so long as they take steps to make sure that the two are not mixed, for example using government offices or using government resources to further political goals that’s really been an accepted part of politics for a long time.

Colby: But Rick let me bring up one other issue. President Clinton was asked by the White House, the timing is interesting because he was there, President Obama was there and there are also reports that Congressman Sestaks’s brother who’s his campaign manager was also contacted at the same time, before the statement from the White House was issued. If it is evaluated that they all worked together there are at least allegations raised by those who want further investigation of obstruction of justice. What about that?

Hasen: Well, you know the coverage that I’ve seen on your network sounds pretty breathless. It seems to me that this is really much ado about nothing. It would not be surprising for the White House to give the heads up to Sestak through his campaign manager that a statement was coming out and I’m sure that President Clinton and President Obama have many more things to talk about than this.

I think you know, if you look at say the polling in Pennsylvania it doesn’t seem like this is an issue that is burning on the minds of Pennsylvania voters. So I really think this is likely to blow over the next week or so and we’ll have this long weekend and see if the story actually has any legs going into next week.

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