House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp challeneged President Barack Obama to turn over documents related to the Delphi pension scandal, hinting that a claim of executive privilege could be the White House’s only available legal avenue to avoid disclosure.
“The White House is withholding documents and has failed to provide a legitimate reason,” Camp told The Daily Caller exclusively on Thursday. “The president and his lawyers should either claim executive privilege and be prepared to defend it for each and every document or turn over the documents without further delay.” (RELATED: House Ways and Means chairman demands Delphi pension termination documents)
White House spokesman Eric Schultz would not answer when The Daily Caller asked if Obama will invoke privilege to avoid releasing the documents. Congressional investigators hope to determine who in the administration made decisions that cost 20,000 nonunion Delphi retirees their pensions during the auto industry bailout. Those workers’ unionized colleagues, meanwhile, saw their pensions preserved and made whole.
White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler suggested in an Oct. 12 letter to Camp that the president could indeed invoke executive privilege as a route to disregard congressional document requests.
“Your request for all EOP [Executive Office of the President] communications implicates longstanding and significant executive branch confidentiality interests,” Ruemmler wrote, “an encroachment upon [sic] which is unnecessary at this time.” (RELATED: Obama admin threatened with subpoenas for details on Delphi pensions)
Obama has used executive privilege to keep documents from Congress before: This summer, after House oversight committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa investigated the Operation Fast and Furious scandal for more than a year, Obama invoked executive privilege to conceal documents about the failed gunwalking program.
Camp began investigating the Delphi pension issue in August after TheDC obtained and published emails that showed the Department of Treasury and the White House’s Auto Task Force drove the pension cutoffs of the 20,000 nonunion Delphi retirees. The emails also contradict sworn testimony in which several Obama administration figures have said the decision to terminate the retirees’ pensions came from the more independent Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. (RELATED: Emails show Geithner, Treasury drove cutoff of nonunion Delphi workers’ pensions)
Camp’s committee is one of three in the House investigating the Delphi scandal. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are conducting their own probes.
Treasury has withheld documents from all three committees, which are now threatening Geithner and the White House with subpoenas unless the Delphi documents are surrendered to House investigators. House Speaker John Boehner has publicly thrown his support behind the investigations.
“Thousands of auto workers in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere deserve to know what role the Obama administration played in cutting their pensions while protecting the president’s union allies,” Boehner said in a statement Thursday. “A report by the nonpartisan GAO [Government Accountability Office] made it evident that unions were given preferential treatment during the taxpayer-funded bailout while nonunion workers saw their pensions cut by up to 70 percent.”
“And new documents that have been uncovered raise even more questions. The administration should stop stonewalling and start turning over all of the information requested by Congress at once. If the White House is going to boast about its auto bailout, it has an obligation to explain its involvement in the pension scandal to Delphi workers, their families, and taxpayers.”