President Barack Obama won't be sharing his BlackBerry messages with House investigators seeking communications about Solyndra, the White House told Hill Republicans on Friday.
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders that they should still be happy with the trove of Solyndra-related documents they’re getting from federal agencies including DOE, the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
But Ruemmler said the investigators’ request for all internal White House communications about Solyndra — dating back to the first day of the Obama administration — "implicates long-standing and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests."
"Encroaching upon these important interests is not necessary, however, because the agency documents the Committee has requested, which include communications with the White House, should satisfy the Committee's stated objective — to 'understand the involvement of the White House in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration's support of this guarantee,’" Ruemmler added in her letter, to committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and oversight subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).
CNN reported on the White House rebuff Friday evening. POLITICO later obtained the letter from a government source.
Speaking to CNBC earlier Friday, White House chief of staff Bill Daley signaled that the GOP probably wouldn’t succeed in its request for Obama’s BlackBerry messages.
“One of the things you're seeing in the last number of years in this town is an enormous amount of requests for things, seems to take up a lot of people's times,” he said, according to an unofficial CNBC transcript. “I think it's a lot of politically motivated requests. But there's been a long history of White House communications being protected … from a lot of the legislative requests.”
To date, the Energy and Treasury departments and OMB have produced more than 70,000 pages of documents to the House panel, as well as nine briefings for committee staff, Ruemmler wrote.
The Obama administration has also handed over more than 900 pages of documents that detail communications between the White House and Solyndra, company representatives and investors.
Upton and Stearns asked for the internal White House communications earlier this month as part of their probe into Solyndra's $535 million federal loan guarantee and the company’s subsequent financial collapse.
While their letter didn't explicitly say they wanted to see Obama's BlackBerry messages, Stearns told reporters he considered anything related to Solyndra that was stored on the president's personal communication device part of his request.
“So if there's nothing on his BlackBerry, that's fine," Stearns said Oct. 6. "But if there's something on his BlackBerry, I would assume that would include that."
"I don't know how that technically works," Stearns added. "But we've asked for them, so we're hopeful we'll get some response."
Obama had to fight his lawyers just to be able to become the first president to use a BlackBerry, and so far no one has successfully gotten access to the messages.
A government source argued Friday that it shouldn't be any surprise that the request for internal White House messages was rejected.
“Not supplying internal White House communications is fairly standard historical practice,” the source said.
Emails released so far by the Obama administration have proven embarrassing on several levels. In May 2010, top campaign contributor Steve Westly warned Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett about the potential political consequences of having the president speak at Solyndra if the California solar manufacturer ran into financial trouble.
OMB and Treasury officials also repeatedly questioned DOE about the legality of their move to restructure Solyndra’s loan early this year in a way that left taxpayers on the hook for about $75 million if the company went belly up.
Ruemmler, however, argued in her letter that any GOP charges of political cronyism related to Solyndra don’t stick.
“There is nothing in the documents produced by DOE, OMB, Treasury or the White House that indicates the White House intervened in the Solyndra loan guarantee to benefit a campaign contributor,” she wrote.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 8:35 p.m. on October 14, 2011.