Johnson resigns from Obama’s veep vetting team

A former CEO leading Barack Obama’s search for a vice presidential candidate resigned abruptly Wednesday after questions about his home mortgage deals became a distraction for a candidate who argues he’s not influenced by special interests.

Jim Johnson’s resignation came a day after Obama defended Johnson and dismissed the Republican criticism of him.

“I am not vetting my V.P. search committee for their mortgages,” Obama said Tuesday.

Johnson, the former chairman of mortgage lender Fannie Mae, came under fire from GOP candidate John McCain and the Republican Party after The Wall Street Journal reported last Saturday that Johnson got mortgages with help from the CEO of Countrywide Financial Corp.

McCain had accused Obama of hypocrisy for speaking out against Countrywide’s role in the subprime mortgage crisis.

Obama’s campaign declined to say whether he would replace Johnson, who also led the vice presidential search effort for Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984. Obama said he was grateful for Johnson’s service.

Johnson’s resignation may allow Obama to move ahead with the search process without the criticism surrounding him, but it also could make it appear that the campaign quickly caved under pressure.

Obama’s campaign has had varying responses when controversy has focused on those around him. Foreign policy adviser Samantha Power left within hours of calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a “monster.” Obama was initially reluctant to disavow his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, after video of racially explosive sermons emerged. And he kept leading economic adviser Austan Goolsbee on board amid controversy surrounding his private comments on free trade.

AP
6/11/8