- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2009


President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that he would withdraw Gov. Bill Richardson’s nomination to be commerce secretary, with Mr. Richardson citing an ongoing corruption investigation in New Mexico.

In statements released by the presidential transition team, the New Mexico governor said he has not done anything wrong but that the investigation by federal prosecutors “would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process” and he asked Mr. Obama to withdraw the nomination.

“Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of commerce secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office,” the president-elect said.

Mr. Richardson had been the highest-profile Hispanic pick for Mr. Obama’s Cabinet. While his withdrawal defuses what could have become messy confirmation hearings, it also is the first major crack in what had been a successful Cabinet rollout for Mr. Obama and came the same day that two of Congress’ top Democrats said they did not expect to have a stimulus package on his desk by Inauguration Day.

Mr. Obama flew from Chicago to Washington on Sunday evening and took up residence at the Hay-Adams Hotel, just across the street from Lafayette Park and normally within eyesight of the White House, though it isn’t now because of inauguration bleachers.

His two daughters are due to start classes at the elite Sidwell Friends School in Northwest on Monday, so Mr. Obama wanted to be in town before the traditional Jan. 15 date that the Blair House becomes available to the president-elect.

Mr. Obama’s children and wife flew from Chicago to Washington on Saturday night.

Speaking briefly to reporters on his plane before it left Chicago for Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday, Mr. Obama said he got emotional over a memento left by one of his daughters’ friends when he left the family’s empty house.

“I gotta say I choked up a little bit leaving my house today,” he said. “Malia’s friend had dropped off an album of the two of them together. They had been friends since preschool, and I just looked through the pages, and the house was empty, and it was a little tough, it got me.”

Mr. Obama said he wasn’t especially happy about living in a hotel for two more weeks, saying he already had been through two years of that on the campaign trail.

The blocks of H and 16th streets that run in front of the Hay-Adams have been shut down and the entrances to the streets fortified with roadblocks.

Street parking for at least another block out from the hotel has also been removed.

In the minutes before Mr. Obama arrived, police swept the nearby buildings with searchlights looking for security threats. By the time the president-elect arrived, the corner of 16th and H streets had been cleared, pushing the security perimeter farther back.

Mr. Obama arrived at his hotel at 7:32 in a motorcade, unlike President Bush, who except in cases of bad weather usually departs the White House for Andrews Air Force Base in Marine One, the chief executive’s helicopter. It was another reminder of Mr. Obama’s observation that the nation has only one president at a time.

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