WASHINGTON – Following is an excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Jan. 27, 2002.
TONY SNOW, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Let's switch to Enron. Much in the news. A lot of Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill want you to release the names of companies and individuals who participated in the deliberations of your energy task force. Why don't you release the names?
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, there's an important issue here. Tony, you've got a situation in which the president asked me to put together a comprehensive energy policy, the first week we were in office, because there was none. It was vital for our economic and our national security we do that.
So we produced a report. It's a good report. We worked for several months on it. It's got 105 recommendations in it. And we published thousands of copies of it, distributed it all over. The House has now passed its portion of it.
CHENEY: The problem we've had is that Henry Waxman doesn't want to have to deal with the substance of the report, but he's tried to attack the report by challenging the process, by saying we didn't meet with the right people. He's gotten the GAO involved now and demanding...
SNOW: Government Accounting Office.
CHENEY: Government Accounting Office — and demanding that we produce information about how the report was put together.
Now, we've given him an awful lot. We've given him all the financial records, the work that was done by the agency, all of that's gone to the GAO.
What we've not given them, and where the dispute lies, is they've demanded of me that I give Henry Waxman a listing of everybody I meet with, of everything that was discussed, any advice that was received, notes and minutes of those meetings.
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.
It, in effect, says that I, and future vice presidents, would be in a position where any time Henry Waxman or any other member of Congress wants to demand of me information about the meetings I hold, I'd have to give it to them. The lawyers in the executive branch are convinced this is a fundamentally bad idea.
SNOW: So you'll go to court over this?
CHENEY: As of last August, we've made that decision to go to court. We'd come to an ultimate showdown, and we've concluded that, in fact, we were prepared to go to court if that's what was necessary. At that point, the GAO backed off, and they, in effect, sort of put everything in abeyance.
Now what's happened is we've come back around, as a result of the Enron corporate collapse, some of the Democrats on the Hill are trying to re-energize this and try to turn it into some kind of political debate with respect to Enron.
But what's really at stake here is the ability of the president and the vice president to solicit advice from anybody they want in confidence, get good, solid, unvarnished advice without having to make it available to a member of Congress. The GAO does not have the authority to get into that particular arena. It has a...
SNOW: Is there any circumstance — you talked before about compromises, that there may be...
CHENEY: Well, I think we have compromised. We've given them a great deal of information. We have not given them those things that we believe that I have to have — I have to have the ability to talk to people in confidence if I'm going to effectively advise the president.
SNOW: So you will not give them anything more?
CHENEY: That's correct.
SNOW: No more compromises?
CHENEY: That's correct.
SNOW: David Walker, the comptroller general, said just yesterday: "We've never had any situation where we were absolutely stonewalled by a task force of this type. The law in past precedence says that Congress has a right to this information and can use the GAO to conduct a non-partisan review."
CHENEY: No, that's where the dispute lies, because the GAO is a creature of the Congress, created by statute. Their jurisdiction extends to agencies created by statute. That's not me. I'm, as part of the office of the president and the vice president of the United States, I'm a constitutional officer. And the authority of the GAO does not extend in that case to my office.
Now, I've been around town for 34 years, Tony. I've seen a constant, steady erosion of the power and the ability of the president to do his job. We've seen the War Powers Act and Anheim (ph) Powerment (ph) Control Act.
And time after time after time, administrations have traded away the authority of the president to do his job. We're not going to do that in this administration.
The president's bound and determined to defend those principles and to pass on this office, his and mine, to future generations in better shape then we found it.
And for us to compromise on this basic fundamental principle would in effect do that. It would further weaken the presidency, and we don't want to do that.
SNOW: Mr. Vice President, we're going to take a break.
But stay with us. We'll have a lot more on Enron, the economy and much more in just a couple of minutes.
SNOW: We're back with Vice President Dick Cheney. Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Two questions, Mr. Vice President, on this Enron and the GAO. Are there any circumstances under which a release of this information to the members of Congress, informally, to a committee, not the GAO, would be possible?
CHENEY: Well, there's, you know, there's no secret about what we did with respect to the task force. We talked to all kinds of people. I talked to energy companies, I talked to labor members, talked to environmentalists. Other members talked to a wide variety of people, and folks came in and discussed with us and gave us advice and recommendations. Some of them went out and made public what they did. That's fine. That's their business.
What I object to, and what the president's objected to, and what we've told the GAO we won't do, is make it impossible for me or future vice presidents to ever have a conversation in confidence with anybody without having, ultimately, to tell a member of Congress what we talked about and what was said.
You just cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the president and vice president to receive unvarnished advice.
HUME: Having taken that position, clearly you believe at law you will be able to sustain it.
CHENEY: We do.
HUME: A political question, and that is, whatever your motives and whatever the underlying reality, it is going to look as if, in the midst of the collapse of Enron and the attendant scandal, that the administration has something it doesn't want to tell, something it wants to hide.
Are you and the president prepared to endure what you know are going to be the political difficulties that that position will lead to, in order to vindicate this principle?
CHENEY: The issue here isn't, with respect to Enron, isn't what advice they may have offered the energy task force. The issue, with respect to Enron, is the corporate collapse. It's what happened when, for whatever reason, laws were broken, maybe the laws were flawed, maybe the accounting system was flawed, we'll find out, we don't know yet. But that's the political issue, with respect to Enron, as how that's handled.
HUME: I didn't say it would be fair. I just said you would receive it.
CHENEY: That's how it'll be managed. And what's happened there, of course, is the president's insisted on a full and complete investigation. We're going to make absolutely certain, if there are guilty parties there, if laws were broken, there's full prosecution under the law. We've got a pension reform 401(k) task force already working to look for ways to improve that.
We'll do whatever's necessary legally and, from a statutory and regulatory standpoint, to make sure that doesn't happen.
But if you go back to August, and the judgment in August was that it was important to protect this principle of our ability to seek advice on a confidential basis, and that that was legally sound and historically and constitutionally important, the collapse of Enron doesn't change that.
Why would you say, well, Enron collapsed, therefore, you ought to give up a basic fundamental principle of the presidency? It doesn't track.
HUME: It isn't logical, but there it is.
CHENEY: Well, but...
HUME: And I just wonder whether, if there are political costs — and there may be — are you saying here that you and the president are prepared to bear them?
CHENEY: I'm saying, again, reiterate once again, we feel very strongly that this is an important proposition.
And after all of these years, I think back over history, can you imagine an FDR or Teddy Roosevelt, in the midst of a grave national crisis, dealing with the problems we're having to deal with now, over here on the side as a matter of political expediency, trading away a very important fundamental principle of the presidency? That's not how you make a great presidents.
And I think from the standpoint of this basic proposition, we are right — I think people know we're right — and we'll do everything we can to sustain that position.
SNOW: You held up the energy plan before. Is there anything in that energy plan that was done specifically for or at the behest of Enron?
CHENEY: I can't say. I'm sure they supported many parts of it.
We talked to them about their role. They were the world's leading energy trader. At the time that they were involved, they were heavily engaged in this whole process of trading energy. It was a whole new development with respect to the way the markets worked, and they had good advice to offer in terms of how you dealt with that situation.
SNOW: So you don't agree with...
CHENEY: I can't say a particular proposal came from them. They advocated, for example, or opposed price controls on energy. But guess what? I've been opposed to price controls since I worked in Nixon's control program 30 years ago. So, my own views in 20 some years worth of experience are heavily involved there.
But I'm sure, you know, as I talked to a whole wide range of people, we gathered up information and advice and we put in there.
Ultimately, we should be judged based on what we put in the report. That's what I recommended. That's what the task force recommended to the president. And we benefited from talking with a wide variety of people in putting that report together.
SNOW: Well, Tom White, the army secretary, used to run something called Enron Energy Services. It is now being reported that was one of the spinoffs in which Enron was concealing its losses from investors. If that is the case, and if he knew about it, would you expect him to step down?
CHENEY: Well, I don't have any detailed information about what was going on inside Enron, obviously.
I know Tom White, and Tom White was a great soldier. He's a man who worked as Colin Powell's exec on my watch in the Pentagon. We are extraordinarily fortunate to get him to give up his private life and return to public service as secretary of the Army. And I'm got every confidence he handled himself in an ethically appropriate manner.