DOE Says Author of Solyndra Restructuring Legal Memo Cannot be Interviewed Under Oath
WASHINGTON, DC - Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) are urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to make DOE officials available for transcribed interviews under oath as part of the committee's ongoing Solyndra investigation. Among other DOE officials, committee investigators are interested in interviewing Susan Richardson, Chief Counsel of the DOE Loan Programs Office and author of the DOE legal memorandum on restructuring the Solyndra loan guarantee which violated the plain letter of the law. On October 18, 2011, DOE informed the Committee that DOE was refusing to make officials including Richardson available for transcribed interviews by committee investigators. DOE's attempt to block a formal transcribed interview of Richardson comes in the wake of the White House refusal to turn over internal Solyndra communications.
In the letter to Secretary Chu, Upton and Stearns write, "(W)e had hoped the DOE would allow Ms. Richardson to appear voluntarily and answer the Committee's questions during an in-depth, transcribed interview. While the documents provide some information about the DOE's decision on subordination, the Committee has many unanswered questions concerning its creation. Mr. Lynch has indicated that the DOE is willing to make Ms. Richardson available to testify under oath at a hearing about the restructuring and subordination. We are therefore puzzled as to why DOE refuses to make her available for a transcribed interview on the same matters, and ask you to reconsider your position. It is time for all the facts to come out about the Solyndra loan guarantee, and we hope for the DOE's continued cooperation in providing the Committee with the information it needs to conduct its investigation."
The use of transcribed interviews is standard procedure in congressional investigations. Under the Democrat's leadership in the last Congress, committee staff conducted transcribed interviews of witnesses in its investigations related to Toyota vehicles, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and an explosion at a Bayer CropScience plant.
Background on Richardson's Legal Memo on Solyndra's restructuring
Two versions of Richardson's legal opinion on Solyndra's restructuring have been produced to the committee through its ongoing investigation; one version was handed over by the Office of Management and Budget in August after being compelled by a subpoena, and the other version handed over by DOE in September, a full seven months after the committee first requested documents from DOE. The DOE turned over the legal memorandum only after the OMB production revealed its existence. While the memos contain the same content, one version was addressed directly to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the other was not. Senior officials at both the OMB and Treasury Department have questioned the legality of DOE's restructuring.
Although Richardson has participated in several group briefings with committee investigators, those briefings had occurred before the committee had learned of the significance of the various versions of the memo. The investigation has now reached a point where transcribed one-on-one interviews under oath are necessary.
View a copy of the letter HERE.