WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney won't name names, even as the Enron-collapse scandal reaches to the doorstep of the White House.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Cheney said congressional investigators had no right to a list of the business leaders, including Enron executives, with whom he met while formulating the administration's energy policy. If he did hand such a list over, he said, it would interfere with his job in the future.
The General Accounting Office won't be getting "a listing of everybody I meet with, of everything that was discussed, any advice that was received, notes and minutes of those meetings," Cheney said.
"Now, that would be unprecedented in the sense that that's not been done before. It's unprecedented in the sense that it would make it virtually impossible for me to have confidential conversations with anybody," the vice president said. "You just cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the president and vice president to receive unvarnished advice."
Cheney said his office already has given investigators numerous financial and other records.
However energetic Cheney's refusal, the vice president might not have the last word. David Walker, head of the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is pondering filing a lawsuit to force the administration to turn over the information. Such a lawsuit would be the first against the White House.
Cheney said he's not cowed by what he called a "creature of Congress" that can't invade the executive branch.
"I'm a constitutional officer, and the authority of the GAO does not extend in that case to my office," Cheney said.
Democrats, he said, are trying to revive a long-dead issue in order to score political points, Cheney said. Nothing substantial has changed since last August, when investigators sought similar information, he said. The GAO eventually backed off then.
"What's re-energized it now is the question of Enron and some efforts by some of my Democratic friends on the Hill to try to create a political issue out of what's really a corporate issue," Cheney said on ABC's This Week.
"What Enron's all about is a corporate collapse, maybe malfeasance in office, and that will be dealt with," he said. "But if the principle was valid last August, the collapse of Enron should not be permitted to undermine the principle."
Cheney was backed up by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who said the administration's confidential talks with advisers should be fiercely guarded.
"I believe very strongly in protecting the privilege of the president" on recommendations that may not come out in public domain, he said on NBC's Meet the Press.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.