Justice Dept. Orders White House to Preserve Enron Documents

The Justice Department directed the White House and several federal agencies Friday to keep documents relating to conversations with Enron executives, the White House said.

In a letter to Alberto Gonzales, Bush's counsel, the department instructed the President to preserve all documents that "relate in any way to Enron's financial condition and/or business interests" whether or not it would otherwise be okay to destroy them.

"At this time, we are only requesting that you ensure the retention of these records," wrote Christopher A. Wray, principal associate deputy attorney general.

The White House will "fully comply with the request," White House spokeswoman Clair Buchan said.

Responding to the Justice Department directive, Gonzales ordered administration officials to preserve the documents. "You are directed to comply with the Department of Justice's request in all respects," he said.

Enron filed for bankruptcy in December and has since surfaced as a potential political problem for the White House as evidence of strong ties to the company subsequently emerged.

In January, the White House announced that Lay had contacted two Cabinet members late last year. Vice President Dick Cheney or his aides met six times with Enron officials as he was putting together the administration's energy plan.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from the investigation, as he received donations from Enron for his unsuccessful campaign for Senate in 2000.

Beyond the political ties, several Bush advisers have had financial ties with the company, including top economic aide Larry Lindsey and chief political consultant Karl Rove. The president has said his mother-in-law, Jenna Welch, lost more than $8,000 when Enron stock plummeted.

Bush has thrown his support behind the Justice Department investigation into possible criminal activity by Enron and expressed outrage that Enron officials had used accounting tricks to hide facts about the firm's financial condition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.