RAY SUAREZ: The legal showdown between the White House and the Government Accounting office has been looming since the middle of last year. Last spring, two democratic Congressmen asked the GAO to get information about meetings of an energy taskforce headed by Dick Cheney. The Bush administration objected to providing the details. On Sunday, the Vice President said the GAO had overstepped its legal authority.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: 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 the Vice President to receive unvarnished advice.
RAY SUAREZ: The standoff gained new life last month, shortly after the collapse of energy trading giant Enron. The taskforce reportedly met with energy industry executives, including former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. Yesterday, in an unprecedented move, Congress' watchdog agency announced it will sue the White House to get the records. In a letter to Congress, GAO Comptroller General David Walker said his agency wants to know the purpose of the meetings and who attended them. "The information we're seeking is clearly within our statutory access authority. The Congress has a right to the information we are seeking in connection with its consideration of comprehensive energy legislation and its ongoing oversight process."
RAY SUAREZ: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters yesterday that the administration contends the GAO has no right to details from the closed-door sessions.
ARI FLEISCHER: The President will stand strong on principle, fighting for his right and the right of all future Presidents to receive advice without it being turned into a virtual news release. The President will fight for this right in a court of law, and the White House expects to prevail because our case is strong, our policy is sound, and principle is on our side.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressional Democrats argued it's the public's right to know.
SEN. BYRON DORGAN: It's not about Democrat and Republicans, it's about open government and the right of the American people to understand who was part of the taskforce to create these recommendations on energy policy.
RAY SUAREZ: The GAO Is expected to file its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Washington sometime next month. This will be the first time the agency has sued the executive branch.