Steve Terrell, writing in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
Most politicians, when they know they’re going to get peppered with questions about something controversial — say, a grand jury investigation — have a well-rehearsed statement to the tune of, “You guys know I can’t talk about grand jury proceedings, which are secret. I don’t want to say anything that might be seen as impeding an investigation, though I’m confident that no wrongdoing was done by anyone in this administration.” It’s simple, easy, and even though it’s pretty lame, it gets the job done.
But that’s not the route that Gov. Bill Richardson took at a news conference this week. He was able to dodge questions about the grand jury looking into a possible pay-for-play regarding a Beverly Hills, Calif., financial firm that was awarded nearly $1.5 million in work for the state around the same time the firm was making huge contributions to Richardson’s political action committees.
As has been well reported by myself and others, at a news conference about a new solar energy production facility in Belen, Richardson took a few questions about the new project. Then he announced the news conference was over and made a beeline for the door.
I was on the wrong end of the big marble table in the Governor’s Cabinet Room, so I was hoping some of my colleagues would be able to block the governor’s retreat for a few seconds so I could reach him. But Richardson went through them like a knife through hot butter, not acknowledging the questions. He ignored questions about the investigation shouted at him and, according to reporters near him at the time, never made eye contact.
As a former crime reporter, I knew better than to expect any answers about the grand jury proceeding and what he might have said or didn’t say to investigators. The question I had for Richardson — who is President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of commerce — was whether he had discussed the matter with Obama before, during or after the vetting process. I’m especially curious whether Obama has contacted him about the grand jury since the news broke in the national media.
We might have to wait until the Senate confirmation hearings to get those answers.
No, Richardson didn’t actually invoke the Fifth Amendment, but he clearly exercised his right to remain silent.
To quote Governor Richardson during the 2008 primary, “You know . . . that wasn’t a good one.”