WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney has no obligation to turn over documents from his energy task force to the General Accounting Office and the agency's lawsuit should be dismissed, his lawyer told a federal judge Friday.
Paul Clement, the government's No. 2 lawyer, said that Congress had other ways to seek the information other than relying on the GAO, which is suing for the papers.
For example, Congress could subpoena them or seek information through the appropriations process, said Clement.
The GAO, an investigative agency of Congress, is suing Cheney because it has been unable to obtain documents related the energy task force's proceedings, including lists of individuals who advised the task force as it developed its energy proposals.
U.S. District Judge John Bates promised to make a decision as quickly as possible on whether the lawsuit should go forward. His decision is almost certain to be appealed by the losing side.
Carter Phillips, an attorney representing the GAO, argued that dismissing the case, as Cheney's attorney asked, would impede the GAO's ability to do its work as the investigative agency of Congress.
Phillips argued that the president and vice president are not immune from the oversight responsibilities of Congress and noted that the White House had refrained from invoking formal executive privilege to protect the energy task force documents.
Signifying the importance the administration is giving the issue, Solicitor General Theodore Olsen attended the court hearing, but did not speak.
The GAO filed its lawsuit last February after being rebuffed repeatedly by Cheney's office.