October 14th, 2011
07:55 PM ET
Congress isn’t getting a glimpse of what’s on President Obama’s Blackberry – or any more internal White House communications related to the controversial federal loan guarantee to the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.
The House Republicans investigating the loan controversy had requested all internal White House documents about the issue, and the chairman of the relevant oversight and investigations subcommittee, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), had said that their request included e-mails on the President’s Blackberry. Today the White House counsel sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee explaining that they won’t comply with the request because it “implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
Given past administrations’ refusal to comply with similar congressional requests, the response is hardly a surprise. What’s the difference this time? President Obama is the first Chief Executive to carry a Blackberry, so it’s the first time a White House counsel has – even indirectly – turned down an attempt to peek at a president’s personal email. Neither the Blackberry nor his personal email is explicitly mentioned in the White House counsel’s letter.
On October 5, Stearns and Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton requested “all communications among White House staff and officials related to the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra” because they believed “the White House was closely involved in the monitoring of the Solyndra loan guarantee after it was issued.” They said these documents are necessary “to better understand the involvement of the White House in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.”
In her letter today, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler says “the three federal agencies most directly involved in the Solyndra loan guarantee, the Department of Energy, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury, are all cooperating with the Committee’s investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee.” Together, Ruemmler says the three agencies have turned over 70,000 pages of documents and are continuing to do so “on a rolling basis.” The letter also states that the White House has turned over another 900 pages related to communications between the White House and Solyndra, its representatives and investors. She offers to cooperate further with the investigators.
CNN has attempted to reach the Chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee for comment. Expect some kind of political fallout.