- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

Vice President Richard B. Cheney yesterday defended President Bush's right to refuse to identify the executives with whom the White House met in formulating the administration's energy policy.
Congress' investigative arm will soon decide whether to sue to force the White House to turn over documents on meetings last year with representatives of energy companies, among them the now-collapsed Enron Corp., a Houston-based company with deep ties to Mr. Bush.
Mr. Cheney acknowledged that the dispute "probably will get resolved in court." Last week, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had left open the possibility of a compromise.
"The ball is in the White House's court," Comptroller General David Walker, who heads the General Accounting Office, said in a telephone interview.
The White House said recently that representatives of Enron, an energy trader that was ranked the seventh-largest U.S. corporation, met six times on energy issues last year with Mr. Cheney or his aides. Thousands of employees and big and small investors nationwide lost fortunes in Enron's plunging stock as the company spiraled into the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history on Dec. 2.
The Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation of Enron and its longtime auditor, the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating since Oct. 31.
Eleven congressional committees have also opened inquiries.
Asked whether anything in the energy plan was included specifically for Enron or at its urging, Mr. Cheney replied: "I can't say. I'm sure they supported many parts of it. … I can't say a particular proposal came from them."
"Now the fact is, Enron didn't get any special deals," he told ABC's "This Week." "Enron's been treated appropriately by this administration."
"The problem we've had is that [Rep.] Henry Waxman [California Democrat] doesn't want to have to deal with the substance of the [energy] report, but he's tried to attack the report by challenging the process," Mr. Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday."
"Now, we've given him an awful lot. We've given him all the financial records, the work that was done by the agency all of that's gone to the GAO.
"What we've not given them, and where the dispute lies, is they've demanded of me that I give Henry Waxman a listing of everybody I meet with, of everything that was discussed, any advice that was received, notes and minutes of those meetings.
"Now, that would be unprecedented in the sense that that's not been done before. It's unprecedented in the sense that it would make it virtually impossible for me to have confidential conversations with anybody.
"It, in effect, says that I, and future vice presidents, would be in a position where any time Henry Waxman or any other member of Congress wants to demand of me information about the meetings I hold, I'd have to give it to them. The lawyers in the executive branch are convinced this is a fundamentally bad idea."
Mr. Cheney's statements on two Sunday talk shows raised accusations by some Democrats of White House stonewalling and the prospect of a battle over presidential privilege reminiscent of the Clinton administration's bitter Whitewater disputes with Republican lawmakers.
Democratic Party leaders said the White House is making a serious mistake and predicted that Enron would be a looming issue in this year's election campaigns.
"The American people have a right to know what the facts are," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I think the administration needs to open up, to be willing to be forthcoming with all the information regarding these circumstances."
Mr. Walker, the GAO chief, said he was not seeking any records of discussions between Mr. Cheney and his aides. "This has nothing to do with his constitutional position as vice president," only as head of the energy task force, he said.
Mr. Cheney told "Fox News Sunday" there would be no more compromises on the issue.
"The GAO is a creature of the Congress, created by statute. Their jurisdiction extends to agencies created by statute. That's not me. I'm, as part of the office of the president and the vice president of the United States, I'm a constitutional officer. And the authority of the GAO does not extend in that case to my office.
"… Time after time after time, administrations have traded away the authority of the president to do his job. We're not going to do that in this administration."

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