Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal

Democrats Ask Special Halliburton/Cheney Counsel
Wed Jun 2, 2004 06:39 PM ET

By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Democrats urged a special counsel on Wednesday to probe whether Vice President Dick Cheney broke the law through any involvement in the award of a government contract in Iraq to his old company, Halliburton Co.

For the second day running, Democrats demanded more answers to questions raised by a newly unearthed Army e-mail that said Cheney's office "coordinated" action on a contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure that was awarded to Halliburton.

Eleven Democratic members of the House of Representatives wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking him to name a special counsel to investigate Cheney's role.

"The public deserves to know the truth about whether the Vice President has illegally commingled his official and personal dealings," said the letter from Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and 10 other House lawmakers.

In the Senate, the Democratic leader said Cheney needed to explain himself in light of fresh questions about whether he had helped his old firm get the no-bid oil infrastructure contract last year.

"This is a very serious charge ... if indeed it is true, then it not only ought to be investigated, but corrective action needs to be taken," Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota told reporters outside the Senate.

"Certainly an explanation from Vice President Cheney and the White House is called for. The sooner that happens, the better," Daschle said.

Cheney's office and the Pentagon have denied that he helped steer the March, 2003 contract to the oilfield services giant where he had been the chief executive from 1995 until he joined George W. Bush's presidential ticket in 2000.

But with Bush and Cheney campaigning for reelection in national elections approaching in November, Democrats have seized on the e-mail as fresh ammunition against the Republican White House.

A spokesman said the Justice Department would review the Democrats' letter to Ashcroft. "We'll review the letter, and respond accordingly," Blain Rethmeier said.

The March 5, 2003, Pentagon e-mail, sent by an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official, was first reported by Time magazine on the weekend. It had located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a watchdog group.

The e-mail said Douglas Feith, who reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, approved arrangements for the contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry "contingent on informing WH (White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's (vice president's) office."

Its appearance revived Democratic calls on Capitol Hill for hearings into various details of U.S. government deals involving Halliburton, the biggest contractor in Iraq.

But Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee, says the panel will not be taking any action because Halliburton's contracts in Iraq already face probes by the General Accounting Office, defense auditors and the Pentagon inspector general.

U.S. officials have estimated the Texas company's Iraq deals, for everything from oil repairs to meals for the troops, could eventually total some $18 billion.

The March 2003 no-bid contract handed out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promised the company about $2.5 billion for rebuilding Iraq's oil industry. It was replaced in January 2004 by two contracts totaling $2 billion, with Halliburton retaining work in southern Iraq for $1.2 billion.

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