Phil Washington, Joe Biden’s embattled nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration, has withdrawn his nomination, sources told Reuters Saturday evening.
One of the sources, a White House official, told Reuters that “an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks on Mr Washington’s service and experience irresponsibly delayed this process, threatened unnecessary procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, and ultimately have led him to withdraw his nomination today.”
Reuters’ piece went on to describe issues with Washington, a veteran, not having a waiver “from rules requiring civilian leadership to head the FAA” and questions about Washington’s competency and experience as obstacles, as well as a threat by Republicans to “use parliamentary tactics to object to Washington’s lack of a waiver.”
They didn’t refer to Washington’s miserable performance when questioned by Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) in which he went 0-for-7 on aviation policy, though.
Biden Nominee for FAA Chief Goes 0-for-7 on Aviation Policy Quiz by @SenTedBuddNC
— Chief Nerd (@TheChiefNerd) March 3, 2023
Nor did they refer to the exchange between Washington and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in which it’s quite possible that Washington committed perjury by claiming that a contract at the center of a pay-to-play criminal investigation in California in which Washington is “materially involved” was already in force before Washington became head of LA Metro.
While the LA Metro corruption investigation was known by the committee, and the execution of a search warrant at former LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s home was covered in the media, the fact that Washington’s name was prominently featured in the search warrant and that the whistleblower had given investigators information that Washington himself okayed the payments even after ethical questions were raised was brought to the national attention by RedState prior to the beginning of Washington’s hearing.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, Cruz detailed his issues with Washington’s nomination. After mentioning the issues with experience and competence, Cruz went into specifics about Washington’s criminal investigation problem:
“Unfortunately, the problems with Mr. Washington’s nomination don’t end with his lack of aviation experience. There are also serious concerns regarding outstanding allegations that Mr. Washington engaged in misconduct during his time as the head of the Los Angeles Metro. He has been named in multiple search warrants in an ongoing criminal public corruption investigation, and he’s been the subject of multiple whistleblower complaints.
One search warrant was executed just last September, not very long ago. It contained allegations that Mr. Washington pushed forward lucrative no-bid contracts to a politically-connected nonprofit to run a sexual harassment hotline that was hardly ever used, and that he did so in order to stay in the good graces of a powerful politician on LA Metro’s board. The allegations are the kind of local corruption sadly we see far too often across this country, in both parties.
“But a whistleblower who exposed the details of this alleged pay-to-play contracting scheme claims to have been retaliated against by Mr. Washington. After Mr. Washington left the LA Metro the agency settled these claims with the whistleblower for $625,000. I practiced law for a long time. you did as well. A $625,000 check is not a nuisance check. It’s not a “go away” check. It’s indicative that there’s a real there, there. Whistleblowers don’t get settlements for more than a half a million dollars if their claim is baseless.”
And, Cruz revealed that the criminal investigation in California is not expected to be complete for months, that Washington is alleged to have pushed through the contract to keep in the “good graces” of a powerful county supervisor, and that the White House hadn’t even asked the California Attorney General’s office for any details or timeline information on the investigation.
“Even more amazing, when my staff spoke with the California Attorney General’s office, the AG’s office told us that at the time they spoke they were not aware of anybody from the White House, from the FBI, or from the Senate who had even contacted them to ask about Mr. Washington’s ongoing involvement in the investigation. That’s truly stunning. That is, frankly, just not caring.
“It’s inexplicable to me that a president, that a White House would choose to nominate someone who is materially involved in a current ongoing public corruption investigation. Just imagine how damaging it would be to the FAA if Mr. Washington were confirmed and then months later he were to find himself indicted for public corruption. That would do real damage to an agency that needs serious trust in leadership.”
Something tells me that Mr. Washington did not want to see the whistleblower called to testify before the Senate, and that now-Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti didn’t want to see that either, since his office was also “materially involved” in the award of the corrupt contract.
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