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Obama tech pick on leave after raid
Question of the Day
President Obama’s newly appointed chief information officer is on leave from his post after an FBI raid Thursday that resulted in the arrests of his former deputy and another man in connection with a D.C. government bribery scandal.
Authorities did not implicate Vivek Kundra in the scandal, but a White House official said he was on leave “until further details become known” about the investigation into the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, which Mr. Kundra headed from 2007 until this year.
The White House official asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing investigation.
The incident is the most recent embarrassment for the Obama administration, which has struggled to make scandal-free high-level appointments.
“Obviously, this is a serious matter,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
FBI agents raided the city’s technology offices about 9 a.m. Yusuf Acar, an employee in the chief technology officer’s office, and Sushil Bansal, the chief executive officer of a Washington-based information technology company, were arrested and appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering.
Court documents state that the two men were involved in a scheme to steal money from the D.C. government that featured contract kickbacks and billing the city for hours worked by “ghost” employees.
Mr. Kundra is not named in court documents released in the investigation and is not a target of the probe, a source said. On Thursday morning, he was delivering a speech at a trade show held at the District’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
“Transparency allows people to participate in the public civic process, to look at where their money is going, how it’s being spent and to hold the government officials accountable,” Mr. Kundra said in his speech. “That’s one of the central pillars of this administration as we talk about driving forward, as far as radical transparency is concerned.”
Mr. Gibbs said the administration was aware that the raid would take place but declined to answer questions about whether the president was confident Mr. Kundra was not involved in the probe.
He said he would not comment on an ongoing investigation. He directed questions to the Justice Department after repeated follow-ups from reporters during his daily briefing, refusing to say whether Mr. Obama was concerned about the investigation.
Mr. Kundra was named by Mr. Obama to the newly created post of chief information officer March 5. He is responsible for directing policy for federal information technology investments and oversight of federal technology spending. The position is not subject to Senate confirmation.
Last month, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle dropped out as health and human services secretary because of his failure to pay taxes. Mr. Obama called the Daschle situation “an embarrassment” for his administration. In addition, Nancy Killefer removed herself from a nomination to be chief performance officer because of her smaller problems with a tax lien on her home.
By Orrin G. Hatch
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