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Obama Defends His Veep Vetter

(CBS)
From CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic:

ST. LOUIS -- Barack Obama dodged questions today about the head of his vice presidential search committee, James Johnson, and his questionable loans from mortgage lender Countrywide Financial by diminishing the role of the search committee all together.

Obama explained that Johnson and his counterpart, Eric Holder, are unpaid volunteers for his campaign, and that the decision of who to choose for VP ultimately rests with him.

"They are giving me information and, then, I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a VP candidates," Obama told reporters today.

"These aren't folks who are working for me. They are not people who I have assigned to a job in the future administration and ultimately my assumption is that this is a discreet task that they are going to performing for me in the next two months."

Last week, Obama struck a different tone about his search committee, who he said he has entrusted with helping him make the most important decision in his general election campaign.

When asked what instructions he has given his search committee, Obama told reporters last Wednesday, "I am a strong believer in doing this in a careful, deliberate way outside of the day to day political pressures that inevitably start to start up during this kind of thing. So, and listen, there's no decision that I'm gonna make that's gonna be more important before the November election. I intend to do it right and I'm not gonna do it in the press."

Johnson came under fire in recent days after The Wall Street Journal reported that he had obtained loans from Countrywide Financial through a personal relationship with the company's CEO, Angelo Mozilo. On the campaign trail, Obama has harshly criticized the company for paying Mozilo a multi-million dollar bonus at a time when home foreclosures are hitting record numbers. Obama has also criticized Clinton advisor, Mark Penn, for his relationship with Countrywide.

However, today, Obama blamed criticism of Johnson on political "games."

"I mean this is a game that can be played, everybody who is anybody who is tangentially related to our campaign I think is going to have a whole host of relationships," Obama explained.

"I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters."

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