Committee Approves Subpoena After White House Fails to Turn Over Internal Solyndra Documents
"The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."
- President Barack Obama, January 21, 2009
WASHINGTON, DC - The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today voted to subpoena documents from the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President relating to the Solyndra loan guarantee. The issuance of the subpoena is the next investigative step in ensuring congressional access to documents that are specifically relevant to the Solyndra investigation. The resolution passed by a party line vote of 14 to 9 and the subpoena must now be filed with the House Clerk before being served to the White House, which is expected within 24 hours.
On Wednesday, Upton and Stearns met with White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler in an attempt to broker a deal in the ongoing effort to gain White House cooperation and obtain internal White House communications related to the ongoing Solyndra investigation. The committee leaders also invited Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), who were in attendance. Unfortunately, despite repeated efforts to negotiate document production without the need for a subpoena, the White House failed to produce internal White House documents related to Solyndra or answer basic questions about the documents.
"I wish it had not come to this," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "Over the last eight months, we have been reasonable and measured in our requests every step of the way, and despite Solyndra's bankruptcy, ensuing FBI raid, and explosive documents that have repeatedly shown we are on the right trail, the Obama administration and House Democrats continue to put up partisan roadblocks at every turn. American taxpayers who are now on the hook for half a billion dollars deserve answers, but unfortunately, we cannot get to the bottom of this matter without White House cooperation. We have made our case about the need for these documents. The White House has refused to produce them, and we have no choice but to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to compel them."
The subpoena is the second that the Energy and Commerce Committee has considered in the Solyndra matter. On July 14, 2011, the Oversight Subcommittee voted along party lines, 14 to 8, to subpoena Solyndra-related documents from the Office of Management and Budget. In the nearly four months since that subpoena was issued, the committee still has yet to receive all of the responsive documents from OMB.
During today's business meeting, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) also stated, "The Committee does not take this action lightly. Voting to authorize this subpoena is a necessary step in carrying out this Committee's constitutional obligations. We simply cannot allow the executive branch at its highest levels to pick and choose what they will produce, or whether they will produce anything at all. Keeping documents confidential because "˜public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure' or "˜because errors and failures might be revealed' is inexcusable. The American people demand more. We have a Constitutional duty to pursue this important investigation of the DOE loan guarantee program to further our legitimate role in conducting oversight over how the executive branch has spent the taxpayer's money."
A copy of the motion authorizing the subpoena, opening statements, the background memo, and the text of the subpoena will be available online HERE.
NOTE: Committee leaders have acknowledged their intent to respect Executive Privilege in this inquiry, although the White House Counsel, in two separate letters to the Committee, has yet to assert it. Committee leaders recognize that the president's personal communications would most likely be covered by an assertion of Executive Privilege. However, committee leaders fail to see why internal White House communications between senior White House advisors about a loan guarantee to a solar panel manufacturer would implicate issues of national security or the other foundations upon which the Supreme Court has recognized Executive Privilege. The administration continues to release lengthy and sometimes redundant Solyndra-related documents from the agencies, including the Department of Energy, but these document productions do not respond to the clear and necessary congressional request for internal White House documents.
On Wednesday evening, the White House Counsel's office responded to the committee's request with a proposal to limit the scope of the inquiry. Unfortunately, the communication did not confirm that the White House would deliver any requested documents, nor did it offer a timeline for cooperation. The committee determined the need to move forward with authorizing subpoena authority, but intends to continue working with the White House to negotiate the parameters of the document production under the subpoena, including consideration of their proposals on initial categories of documents to produce.
Internal documents and emails produced as part of the investigation - some of them only delivered after being compelled by an earlier subpoena - show significant interest in and monitoring of the Solyndra loan guarantee by senior West Wing staff. However, the documents produced thus far only reveal the involvement of White House staff when directly contacting outside agencies. For Example, the documents the administration released to the press Wednesday included emails between DOE and the White House that further illuminated the involvement of high level White House officials in the Solyndra loan guarantee. To determine the extent of the West Wing's involvement as critical decisions were being made about whether to proceed with the loan, it is essential to consider White House staff's communications with one another. The purpose of the subpoena for White House documents is to secure access to these internal communications among White House staff discussing their knowledge of the Solyndra loan and any efforts they made to secure the guarantee. The committee still hopes to work with the White House to obtain relevant communications from key personnel such as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, and Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden.
View a copy of Upton's and Stearns' October 5, 2011, letter to the White House HERE.
View a copy of the White House Counsel's refusal to cooperate HERE.
View a copy of Upton's and Stearns' October 18, 2011, follow-up letter to the White House HERE.
View a copy of the White House Counsel's second refusal to cooperate HERE.