BREAKING: Richardson Out (UPDATED)

Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name from consideration as the next United States Secretary of Commerce:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said Sunday in a report by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”


Obama said Sunday he accepted Richardson’s decision to withdraw with ‘deep regret.’

“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,” Obama said.

This is an unexpected development that mars an otherwise-outstanding transition.  In the end, though, this is probably for the best–the GOP is looking for any reason they can find to torpedo the Obama administration; by withdrawing, Richardson deprives them of additional ammunition.

It’s unfortunate that someone as effective and talented as Richardson won’t be joining the administration, but if he’s cleared of the allegations against him there will probably be some opportunity in the future.

UPDATE: And then there’s this:

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.