This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 3, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, a legal sledgehammer! A subpoena will be heading for the White House. A Republican-led House panel votes to subpoena White House documents related to Solyndra. Now, the oversight committee wants to know the extent of the West Wing's involvement in the half-billion-dollar loan to the now bankrupt solar company. They even want to see President Obama's BlackBerry messages.
Now, we spoke with committee chairman Cliff Stearns earlier tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.
REP. CLIFF STEARNS, R-FLA., ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Greta, good to see you, I guess.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. I know that you can't see me. I guess you're just looking into a camera.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, tell me, why -- why the subpoena for the White House?
STEARNS: Well, you know, we issued a subpoena on July 15 for OMB. And of course, the Democrats all voted against it. And we sent a letter to the White House, end of September, Greta. Then we sent two more letters in October asking for information specifically. And when we met with the White House counsel yesterday, we couldn't get any details. So we felt that they were slow-walking this whole process and we felt, Greta, we just had to move forward.
And so we passed out of the subcommittee today a request for a subpoena. And probably a subpoena will be delivered sometime today, we're hoping.
VAN SUSTEREN: And when is the return on it? You're asking for documents, is that right, sir?
VAN SUSTEREN: You're not asking for testimony, you're asking for documents. When -- what -- is there a return date on that subpoena, when you want these documents produced by?
STEARNS: Well, I can't tell you the exact return date, but I think we want to get it sooner rather than later because we've been working with the White House on and off for two-and-a-half months. And surely, after eight- and-a-half months of investigation, you would think they'd be ready for us because we sort of announced very early that we wanted these documents that would show, I guess, four things, Greta.
One, is there political influence that contributes to the selection of Solyndra and propping it up. And two, why didn't they react, or if they did react to the red flags coming from DoE. And thirdly, what about the subordination? Did they know about it? And how'd they coordinate it?
And I guess, fourthly, just to think about it, you have the leader of the free world involved with this type of investment. Why was he involved? And what was his motive? So I think those four questions the American taxpayers should get an answer to.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, this is going to go over like a lead balloon at the White House. I assume you know that. I mean, if you've met with them and they've said no to voluntarily -- so this is -- this is not going to be received well. Do you agree with that?
STEARNS: I think that's true. And I think because of the vociferousness of the Democrats on the committee today and how they tried to adjourn our committee -- then after that, they tried to amend the resolution, and they fought it tooth and nail. So I assume that they coordinated with the White House and with the White House counsel and all their staff.
And of course, Greta, we met with them, and we invited Mr. Waxman, the ranking chair and also Mrs. DeGette, who is the ranking member on the committee. And so we had them and their staff. We gave them every opportunity to talk to the White House counsel and to hear our comments to the White House counsel, too.
So we were transparent and open with the White House counsel, and we thought the Democrats should see it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I -- I anticipate that the defense to the subpoena will be that they'll raise executive privilege, that you're asking for information to which you're not entitled. I mean, it's -- I -- and I assume that's what White House counsel told you in advance of today, right?
STEARNS: You know, it's odd. She has not issued that they would use executive privilege. It is our understanding that they're going to provide the documents. Now, if somehow they do, Greta, that doesn't mean we don't get documents. They have to, under the law, delineate which particular documents they're talking about, which is -- affects national security and the president's privacy for consulting.
So we've got to see the delineation of those, and then we can decide whether -- if we agree with them or not. And if we do agree, there are still many more documents that we would like to see in the inner circle, the top advisers to the White House, and get their communications.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm a little bit curious. Now, this is -- this is directed at the White House, but in the broader picture of Solyndra -- and I don't know why I seem fixated on this. I guess it's because I'm a lawyer and I sort of have a semi-idea of what legal bills are like. But I still haven't figured out what it was that -- Solyndra had a legal bill that taxpayers, I guess, are end up sort of foot, having to do with this whole application for this federal loan.
And I wonder, have you even, like, taken a look at what this, you know, legal bill was? Because it seemed rather high to me for this. But I' just sort of curious. Maybe it's legitimate. But I'm curious, have you actually gone through Solyndra's records to see what the American taxpayers really ended up paying for?
STEARNS: Well, right now, it's in bankruptcy, and I think if the bankruptcy is transparent, we should be able to find that information. But we're thinking about asking Solyndra themselves for a copy of it. Obviously, they could turn it down. And whether it's, shall we say, relevant to our investigation, I'm not sure.
But I think it goes to the larger message is, they wasted so much money. They spent $2.5 million in a very short period of time to a law firm whose counsel was related to Mr. Stephen Spinner, who was pushing Solyndra in the Department of Energy. So you had that conflict of interest. And obviously, that's a good question. What was the $2.5 million spent for?
VAN SUSTEREN: There is another bill that sort of caught my attention. They paid about a million dollars -- it was some time in August 17th, they received a memo saying that without an infusion of cash, that they would, indeed, fail. And they did go belly up about two weeks later.
But that bill to one of those -- the company investigating them was a significant -- was a significant bill that I assume the taxpayers will end up having to pay, as well.
But I really can't -- I can't understand why it took a huge investigation because it cost them more to manufacture the product than they would get if they sold it. So it's, like -- it seemed like, why in the world were they trying to figure out whether the company was going to make it or not? No company's going to make it with that.
STEARNS: Well, no. And as you pointed out, they can't even manufacture these products and sell them for a profit. And it was pretty apparent early because the solar market for solar panels dropped almost 40 percent, in some cases even down to 60 percent.
So once they knew this, why were they continuing trying to prop this up, bring in two hedge funds? They were going to double down with $150 million. They gave them $75 million and subordinated taxpayers. So the question is, why were they doing this? And was it because of political influence or because they had contributors that were involved? I mean, those are the questions I think the American taxpayers want to understand.
And since the three loan guarantees that were put out, two of them are now in bankruptcy because the second one went bankrupt over the weekend -- and we're starting to see others start to fail here -- so that's why the president now has appointed, I guess, Herb Allison on a commission head (ph) to look in all the loan guarantees with Department of Energy.
And so lo and behold, I think the president now realizes, just as we do on the subcommittee, that this loan-guaranteeing scheme is not working and he wants to get ahead of it with Mr. Allison.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there's -- I guess that in all these investigations, though, that I assume that, you know, there's some caution that has to be exercised, that we need to respect executive privilege when it's appropriate and not engage in a fishing expedition for political reasons. And so I guess that I'm hoping that, in the end, that this is done with, you know, enormous good judgment, we get to the bottom of it, and that it's not simply one party battling another.
STEARNS: I agree, and that's what we're trying to do. Of course, this is an eight-and-a-half-month investigation. We're not just jumping off the cliff here. We're trying to do this systematically and methodically. And I think -- I think you'll see from the e-mails that we've been able to reveal that we're successful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you. And look forward to see what happens because I'm sure this is going to be an interesting discussion. And also I want to know, if you get the documents, I'm curious what's in the documents of any note. Thank you, sir.
STEARNS: Thank you, Greta.