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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

News That Bush Administration Headed for High Profile Showdown with Congress

Aired January 28, 2002 - 07:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Up front this morning, news that the Bush administration is headed for a high profile showdown with Congress. Vice President Cheney said yesterday on the ABC News program "This Week" that he would not give congressional investigators any information about talks with energy industry executives by the White House Energy Task Force, that any dispute over those records would "probably get resolved in court."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the 30 or 35 years. Now, the fact is Enron didn't get any special deals. Enron's been treated appropriately by this administration. There's certain things I'm sure they disagree with, some things they agree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Let's bring in Major Garrett now, who has been following this developing story from the White House -- Major, what is the latest from there? Good morning.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

Vice President Cheney basically said it as clearly as anyone in the administration has, the administration is willing to go to court to make sure that the General Accounting Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, cannot wrest from the administration notes taken from its energy task force based on meetings with energy executives.

Vice President Cheney said this is a matter of executive privilege and the White House believes it can win this battle in the court.

The vice president also hinted that the reason this is all coming to the fore yet again is because of the larger political conversation about the collapse of Enron generally. The vice president pointed out that there was nearly a stand-off in the fall between the General Accounting Office and the White House over this exact issue. But the General Accounting Office did not file suit then and the vice president said it still may not file suit now. But the General Accounting Office said late last night, yes, indeed, it plans to file suit against the White House by the end of this week if there is not a compromise reached on turning over this information.

One other point worth making, Paula, the administration has hinted in various ways that if a Congressional committee that has proper jurisdiction over energy policy or White House oversight made an official request for this information, that congressional committee might, in fact, receive it from the White House. The White House just does not want to give it over to the General Accounting Office because it believes it does not have proper legal jurisdiction on this matter -- Paula.

ZAHN: But, Major, the one thing that is clear this morning, at least according to the "New York Times," the GAO is going to go through with this lawsuit. Why is the White House so convinced that it can win this one?

GARRETT: It's convinced based on the legal advice it has received from the White House Counsel's office and others looking at general precedent and clashes over executive privilege between the White House and Congress before. And, as the vice president outlined in that interview yesterday, he believes the White House has given up too many executive privileges to Congress over the past 30 years and he said this White House is determined on this point, if on no other points, to make sure existing executive privileges are protected.

However, I can tell you, Paula, there are many Republicans on Capitol Hill who wish this whole thing would just go away because they see themselves, Republicans generally, and the White House more specifically, tainted by the whole Enron scandal itself. They are very eager for the White House to work out some sort of compromise on this issue. GAO says it will sue by the end of this week. Between now and then something may happen to create a meeting of the minds -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, Major, we'll be counting on you to keep us posted on this one. Thank you so much. Appreciate that live report.

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