The White House is crippling a Senate inquiry into the government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina by barring administration officials from answering questions and failing to hand over documents, senators leading the investigation said Tuesday.
In some cases, staff at the White House and other federal agencies have refused to be interviewed by congressional investigators, said the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition, agency officials won't answer seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House, the senators said.
"No one believes that the government responded adequately," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. "And we can't put that story together if people feel they're under a gag order from the White House."
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the committee's Republican chair, said she respects the White House's reluctance to reveal advice to President Bush from his top aides, which is generally covered by executive privilege.
Still, she criticized the dearth of information from agency officials about their contacts with the White House.
"We are entitled to know if someone from the Department of Homeland Security calls someone at the White House during this whole crisis period," Collins said. "So I think the White House has gone too far in restricting basic information about who called whom on what day."
She added, "It is completely inappropriate" for the White House to bar agency officials from talking to the Senate committee.
... Lieberman said the Justice and Health and Human Services departments "have essentially ignored our document requests for months" while HHS has refused to allow interviews of its staff. He described the Homeland Security response as "too little, too late."
I have this strange feeling I have seen this movie before.