Official Refused to Appear to Answer Questions About his Involvement in Violations of Federal Law
WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement about Department of Energy Director of Strategic Initiatives Morgan Wright’s decision to refuse to appear for deposition pursuant to a lawful subpoena. Wright today became the first individual to ever defy a subpoena for a deposition issued under Oversight Committee authority first established in 2007 under then Chairman Henry Waxman.
“The decision of this key figure in the Solyndra scandal to ignore his legal obligation to appear for a deposition is unprecedented and regrettable. This reflects poorly on not only Mr. Wright’s character, but also on Secretary of Energy Chu and other employees who worked on matters related to the loan program.
“This refusal to appear as ordered by a lawful subpoena only adds to the perception of wrongdoing and attempts to hide what really happened in the loan program office. Taxpayers will likely lose billions on the Obama Administration’s ill-conceived loan guarantee program and the appearance of cronyism only enhances the need for answers.
“Mr. Wright was given notice more than two weeks ago that he would be depositioned under rules written years ago by committee Democrats that explicitly bar agency counsel from representing him. His excuses for not appearing were last minute and not fully credible. I had already agreed with Ranking Member Cummings that we would discuss Mr. Wright’s concerns about representation when he arrived and before deciding whether the deposition would proceed today. Wright’s failure to appear was an act of bad faith.
“I am reissuing a subpoena for Wright’s deposition. This does not, however, absolve Mr. Wright from the consequences he, his current or future employers, or his associates at the Department of Energy may face as a result of his failure to meet his obligations today.”
Why is Morgan Wright’s testimony important?
- As the of Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Energy, Morgan Wright played a critical role in making decisions about controversial loan guarantees that largely benefited political supporters of the Obama Administration.
- Morgan Wright is a former investment banker at DeutscheBank. Career moves from high-paying investment banking jobs to federal positions are often part of a “revolving door” strategy to gain new contacts and that are later cashed in for an even more lucrative salary in the private sector.
- Under the §1705 Loan Guarantee Program, DOE awarded 26 companies loan commitments totaling over $14.5 billion. Three of these companies – Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Abound – have already gone bankrupt. Many others are struggling and taxpayers will likely suffer losses in the billions from failed loans.
- E-mails show that Morgan Wright was involved in an organized effort within the Department to use his non-official e-mail account to discuss loan decisions as part of an intentional effort to avoid scrutiny and disclosures under federal transparency laws. Wright was the recipient of one e-mail discussed in a Washington Post story from former DOE official Jonathan Silver. “Don’t ever send an email on doe email with a personal email addresses,” Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to Wright’s Gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable.” E-mails from non-official accounts have offered important insight into the decision making process at odds with narratives offered by Administration officials.
- The Oversight Committee first contacted Morgan Wright, the Department of Energy’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, on August 15, 2012, seeking e-mail correspondence related to his official duties that occurred on his non-official accounts in apparent violation of federal transparency laws.
- On August 28, the Committee sent another letter to Wright advising him to prepare for a potential deposition.
- As Wright had not responded to any inquiries by the committee, on Thursday, September 6 U.S. Marshals were tasked with serving a subpoena on Wright for a deposition scheduled for September 12.
- Despite the Committee’s month long efforts to seek Wright’s voluntary cooperation and serve him with advance notice of a potential deposition, Wright did not respond to repeated attempts by the Committee to contact him until Monday, September 10 – just two days before his scheduled deposition.
- Only on September 10th, did Wright first express concern that he did not have and believed he would not have legal counsel to represent him in time for his scheduled deposition. The Committee offered Wright numerous accommodations, including an offer for him to appear voluntarily on either Friday, September 14 or Sunday, September 16, in lieu of appearing for his deposition.
- Wright told the Committee he would not consider voluntarily appearing any earlier than Tuesday, September 18. This was unacceptable to the Committee as the completion of Wright’s interview (including the finalization of a transcript) is a necessary component for a potential hearing on Thursday, September 20.
- Wright was notified on August 28 that he needed to prepare for a potential deposition. He was subpoenaed for that deposition on September 6. He did not, however, raise concerns about counsel he had obtained having a conflict until two days before his deposition. The committee has not been contacted by any personal counsel for Wright acknowledging they have mishandled his case.
Ranking Member Cummings’ attempts to obstruct this deposition ignore his own record and the facts
- Ranking Member Cummings, in his five page letter of September 10 expressing concern about the subpoenas for depositions, did not raise any concerns about witnesses not having an adequate opportunity to obtain counsel. His complaints today are truly last minute, and are part of his continued efforts to obstruct oversight into clear mismanagement and violations of federal law. He has shown that he will say or do whatever he feels is necessary to obstruct oversight.
- While Cummings claims that Wright has fully cooperated, the facts contradict his assertion. A timeline of interactions shows Wright clearly does not want to speak to the Committee and refused for weeks to communicate. .
- Rep. Cummings’ letter from earlier today ignores the fact that the Committee’s deposition authority did not exist until 2007 when House Democrats empowered then Chairman Henry Waxman with the authority. The rules written by Democrats when this authority was put in place explicitly prohibit agency counsel from representing individuals in depositions. With the limitations created by Wright’s own unwillingness to communicate for weeks, the Committee did what it could to offer him notice of his obligations.
- While arguing that agency counsel should be present, Cummings essentially ignores the fact that rules excluding agency counsel were his own party’s creation.
Department of Energy Lawyers have a conflict of interest
- Department of Energy lawyers have a conflict of interest as they represent the interests of the Department and not individual Department of employees. This inherent conflict and their intrusion into Committee efforts to deposition Department employees, which by rule exclude the involvement of Department counsel, likely played a role in any claims of lack preparedness. Department of Energy lawyers, in attempting to interfere in the Committee’s efforts to obtain Wright’s cooperation and advise him of his rights and obligations, may have violated their obligations established by the District of Columbia bar to abide by and cooperate with lawful investigations by Congress.
What happens next?
- Chairman Issa will be issuing Wright a new subpoena and may consider other steps in response to his decision not to appear today. The previous subpoena had directed him to appear today at 1 pm. Wright’s failure to appear could be the basis of a federal criminal contempt of Congress charge.