New White House emails have been released regarding the Solyndra scandal show that President Obama requested a briefing about the program which lost a half billion taxpayer dollars two months before it went belly-up. The president requested the briefing because he was being asked about the loans at political functions.
According to the Washington Post:
The documents, a series of e-mails among Energy Department staff members involved in managing the program, provide new details about the level of White House involvement in the controversial initiative. White House officials have said in the past that final decisions about which companies would receive the loan guarantees were made by career staff members at the Energy Department, not political appointees.
.….The documents, provided to The Washington Post by Republican investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, show that White House aides asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to deliver a June 27, 2011, presentation to the president on the status of the loan program. The interest in a presidential briefing came as other senior administration figures were challenging parts of the program and debating whether the Energy Department was cutting deals that gave “unjust enrichment” to private companies.
An Energy staffer explained that the president “wants to know its status” so he could be prepared when the loan program came up “at official events and political events where he interacts with [the] business community and Congressional members.” The e-mail from the department’s chief of staff, Brandon Hurlbut, went on to say that many people attending such gatherings “have some affiliation or interest in the numerous applications received that involve substantial funds.”
The documents to not indicate whether the briefing happened, but I believe it did, after all he is the President, think about what you would do you do if the head of your company asked for a briefing?
Committee Chair Darrell Issa and other Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote to Obama requesting a “full and complete” explanation of his involvement in the issue and seeking additional internal documents, including a list of all private individuals with whom the president met to discuss loan projects. The Democrats on the committee did their “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” dance.
Issa explained in the letter:
“The American people have a right to know the level of involvement you and other senior White House officials had in the loan guarantee program,” the committee members wrote. “Your interactions with business leaders at political events affected decisions to give billions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees to green energy companies.”
According to the emails there was much bickering between Energy Secretary Chu and some senior Obama economic advisers over the program. Then Chief of Staff Daley was brought in to settle the dispute which was over the question of Solyndra loans fitting the profile of how the stimulus dollars were supposed to be spent.
Obama’s senior economic leaders, including then-Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew, expressed concerns that the project was spread over several years and did not have any immediate impact on the local economy. Lew, now Obama’s chief of staff, told a DOE staffer after the Daley meeting that he was not opposed to the general idea of the project but was just “protecting the president.”
After the meeting, Jonathan Silver, the director of the Energy Department’s loan office, celebrated “total victory” over his administration opponents. He described in an e-mail to a colleague how Chu came as “close to an annihilation of the economic team’s position as you could possibly hope for.” Silver speculated that Daley had given the economic team “a fig leaf” and that the Energy Department’s victory was cause to “do some serious gloating.”
According to WAPO a draft of the presentation prepared for Obama reported the loan program which included Solyndra had committed more than $34 billion and asserted that it had created or saved 68,000 jobs.
Those talking points forecast little risk from the program, although Solyndra was already showing signs of distress: The department months earlier had negotiated a loan restructuring amid threats that the firm would have to liquidate for lack of operating cash.
“DOE expects that all loans will be repaid,” one presentation slide said. “When loans are repaid, the benefits — including the creation of tens of thousands of jobs — will have been obtained at little cost to taxpayers.”
We all know how that turned out.
So what do we know for sure? IMHO president Obama was told about Solyndra, but in his defense, there is no certainty whether he was told the company was in trouble–in fact the evidence so far indicates that he wasn’t told.
The problem is with the evidence released so far there is no way to tell what the President was actually told and/or where the discussions went. I agree with Issa that more investigation is needed.
One thing we do know, the only “green energy” programs such as the Solyndra loans generate is the heat coming off the burning of taxpayer dollars. And with a national debt approaching 16 Trillion dollars, we cannot afford to waste billions on these types of programs.