New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he is withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama‘s commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation.
Obama said in a statement Sunday that he accepted Richardson’s withdrawal “with deep regret” but that the governor was putting the nation first to avoid any delay in filling the Cabinet post.
A federal grand jury is investigating how a California company that contributed to Richardson’s political activities won a New Mexico state contract worth more than $1 billion.
Richardson said in a statement issued by Obama’s transition office that the investigation could take weeks or months and he couldn’t ask Obama to delay the Commerce Department’s work. Richardson said the investigation will show that he “acted properly in all matters.”
Richardson’s withdrawal was the first disruption of Obama’s Cabinet process and the second “pay-to-play” investigation that has touched Obama’s transition to the presidency. The president-elect has remained above the fray in both the case of arrestedand the .
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From The New York Times:
The Richardson withdrawal, first reported Sunday afternoon by NBC News, raises questions about the thoroughness of the Obama team’s vetting process, which had been touted as one of the most stringent ever. Stories about the investigation of the CDR contract and of the donations by David Rubin — the president of CDR and a major Democratic contributor — to the Richardson-linked political action committees have appeared in news reports at least since August.
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US President-elect Barack Obama (L) listens to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson after announcing Richardson as his nominee for commerce secretary during a news conference in Chicago December 3, 2008.(John Gress/Reuters)