It looks as if Barack Obama and his transition team know how badly Bill Richardson’s resignation reflects on them. They have started leaking to the press that Richardson’s to blame for the embarrassing spectacle this afternoon of his withdrawal as a Cabinet nominee. Jake Tapper has the details:
Sources tell ABC News that officials on the Obama Transition Team feel that before he was formally offered the job of commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.
Once the investigation became more widely known through national media reports last month, sources tell ABC News, the Obama Transition Team realized the FBI would not be able to give Richardson a clean political bill of health before the new administration is ready to send his nomination up to the Senate for confirmation.
Meanwhile, Richardson and his team has to defend themselves:
The Richardson camp says the governor was forthcoming, with sources close to the governor noting that there had been reports about the controversy in local media such as the Albuquerque Journal as far back as August 2008. The governor discussed the investigation with the Obama team, they say, and believes that he and his administration have done nothing wrong.
I’d guess that Richardson probably didn’t disclose the extent of the problem. Richardson feels it necessary to resign now after the published reports from the last three weeks, but he had to know these issues when he accepted the position. If all that has happened since December 15th is that the facts he disclosed to Team Obama were made public, it would hardly require a resignation now.
But beyond that, this is a pretty lame attempt to shift blame away from the incoming administration. They should have done their own homework on Richardson once they heard about the investigation. In the end, they have the responsibility to make acceptable appointments for Cabinet positions. If the extent of the vetting Team Obama is doing is reading resumés and accepting explanations for federal investigations without question or further checking, then they’re pretty obviously incompetent at it.
They also seem to have no compunction about calling Richardson a liar in public. I wonder how that will play politically with their base.