The Richardson vetting

THE RICHARDSON VETTING…. Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D-N.M.) withdrawal as the next Commerce Secretary marked, according to the Washington Post, “the first visible crack in what had been one of the smoothest presidential transitions in modern history.” Fair enough. I suspect it will ultimately prove to be inconsequential, but the grand-jury probe involving Richardson’s gubernatorial administration is nevertheless a blemish on an otherwise first-rate transition process.

But given how assiduous and thorough the transition team has been, one wonders how the vetting process cleared Richardson in the first place. Part of the problem, apparently, is that Richardson may not have been entirely cooperative during his review.

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.

The Politico had a similar report:

Barack Obama’s transition team pressed Bill Richardson about a federal probe into “pay-to-play” allegations against his office — the same investigation Richardson cited Sunday in withdrawing his name as commerce secretary.

But a Democratic source said Obama’s questioners came away empty handed. “Those guys were pressed for information and they gave nothing,” the source said.

Given this, it seems the Obama team moved forward based on Richardson’s word that the concerns over CDR Financial Products and David Rubin wouldn’t prove to be problematic. The governor was mistaken.

It’s little wonder, then, that the transition office is irritated enough to dish to some reporters about Richardson not being “forthcoming.”