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White House Must Save Enron Papers

February 2, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Justice Department ordered the White House and other federal departments Friday to preserve all documents relating to conversations with Enron executives about the firm’s financial condition.

The order, announced by the White House, covers all documents including e-mails, letters, computer records and notes since Jan. 1, 1999, nearly two years before President Bush took office.

Bush, a longtime friend of former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, has sought to distance himself from the gathering financial scandal surrounding the collapse of the Texas-based company and the loss of life-savings of thousands of workers and stockholders.

Responding to the Justice Department directive, Gonzales ordered administration officials to preserve the documents. ``You are directed to comply with the Department of Justice’s request in all respects,″ he said.

Hours before the White House announcement, Bush proposed reforms in pension laws in response to Enron’s collapse.

The energy-trading company filed for bankruptcy in December and became a political problem for Bush the next month when the White House announced that Lay had contacted two Cabinet members late last year as the company foundered.

Seeking to distance himself from the financial debacle, Bush threw his support behind the Justice Department investigation into possible criminal activity by Enron, ordered a review of federal pension laws and declared that he was outraged that Enron officials had not told workers and stockholders more about the firm’s financial condition.

Bush said his own mother-in-law, Jenna Welch, had lost more than $8,000 when Enron stock plummeted last year.

White House officials don’t deny there are deep ties between Enron and the administration, but say the company got no special treatment because of the relationship.

Vice President Dick Cheney or his aides met six times with Enron officials as he was putting together the administration’s energy plan. Several Bush advisers, including top economic aide Larry Lindsey and chief political consultant Karl Rove have had financial ties with Enron.

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