WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., has alerted White House Counsel Albert Gonzales of his intention to seek authority to issue a subpoena to the Executive Office of the President at the Committee’s next business meeting, scheduled for May 22, 2002. After a lengthy exchange of letters and a meeting with Gonzales, Lieberman has concluded that the White House will not voluntarily provide the information the Committee requested pertaining to its investigation into the government’s oversight of Enron. Attached is Lieberman’s response to the counsel’s latest communication, dated May 16.
May 16, 2002
The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales Counsel to the President The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20500
Dear Judge Gonzales:
I have received your letter dated today concerning the Committee’s March 27, 2002, request for information about certain communications Executive Office of the President (EOP) officers or staff had with or relating to Enron Corporation. Because your letter fails to give the Committee a commitment to provide all information requested in the March 27 letter, I have concluded that I have no choice but to seek authorization to issue a subpoena to the EOP at the Committee’s May 22 Business Meeting. As you know, the Committee sent the EOP an information request on March 27, 2002, as part of its inquiry into the federal government’s oversight of and interactions with Enron. That letter sought information about only three categories of communications – the bulk of which involved contacts with Enron – and the information the Committee sought with respect to those categories was not particularly expansive.
As noted previously, this request was narrower than those sent to a number of other federal agencies – for example, the SEC, CFTC, FERC and the Labor Department – each of which was asked to provide many more categories of information and each of which was asked to recall events dating back a decade. Each of those agencies provided the Committee with detailed responses within three or four weeks of the Committee ’s request. In contrast, more than seven weeks have passed since the Committee’s request to the EOP, and the Committee has received virtually no information from you. Indeed, the only material you have sent us is copies of letters responding to other Congressional inquiries and a transcript of a Presidential press conference. These documents are inadequate on their face even as a partial response to the Committee’s request. The letter from the Vice President’s Counsel, for example, appears to address only meetings, not all communications, and even with respect to the events it discusses, fails to provide the few details sought in the Committee’s March 27 letter (such as the identity of all who attended the meetings).
Just as importantly, you do not indicate whether these documents purport to reflect the totality of responsive communications in which the President or Vice President were involved or whether you are even taking steps to determine whether that is the case. At the same time, you have not disavowed your repeated refusal to acknowledge that the Committee may rightfully ask for much of the information sought in its March 27 request and consequently have left unclear whether you intend to provide us with significant portions of the information requested. You previously told the Committee, for example, that you find the Committee’s request for information about Enron-EOP communications regarding the National Energy Policy “removed from the Committee’s legitimate inquiry,” and that you believe that the efforts to obtain information about Enron-EOP communications regarding appointments “intrude deeply into the President’s core constitutional responsibilities.”
You have informed me that your internal search for information “may elicit information” on these topics, but you still have declined to assure the Committee that, absent a specific and particularized claim of privilege, you will provide the Committee with all responsive information uncovered in your search. You also have failed to provide the Committee with any assurance that your search will be reasonably calculated to produce all responsive information. As the Committee’s May 3, 2002, letter explains – and as I reiterated in our May 16 meeting – sending a survey of the sort you have composed to a limited number of EOP personnel does not seem calculated to produce information about all communications covered by the Committee’s March 27 request.
You mention in your letter that you “would be pleased to inquire of additional appropriate personnel suggested by the Committee.” I appreciate that offer, but I have already taken you up on it; as I explained at our May 16 meeting, all EOP personnel should be asked whether they have information responsive to the Committee’s request. Moreover, they should be asked not just whether they themselves had such communications, but whether they have information about any such communications. It is hard to see how sending out an e-mail or memo to all EOP personnel with a request of this sort is burdensome in any manner. I have not ignored the fact that your May 16 letter states that you “should be able to provide relevant information to the Committee” at some point in May. However, in light of our previous correspondence, our meeting last week and your letter’s failure to address the issues outlined above, I must assume that you do not intend “relevant information” to mean “all responsive information.”
In short, your most recent communication has forced me to conclude that – despite the Committee’s extensive efforts to resolve these issues with you and our extreme patience in waiting almost two months before demanding a response – the Committee cannot reasonably expect to receive the information sought in its March 27 request at any time in the near future. Having reached that conclusion, I regret that I have no choice but to seek authority from the Committee to issue a subpoena to the EOP at our next business meeting, which is scheduled for next Wednesday, May 22. I will ask the Committee to hold that agenda item in abeyance only if you can provide the Committee with assurances that (1) you will promptly take steps to broaden the search along the lines discussed above and in the Committee’s May 3 letter in order to obtain all information sought in the Committee’s March 27 letter, and (2) you will provide the Committee all information sought in the Committee’s March 27 letter by the end of May.
Joseph I. Lieberman