Congressional investigators Wednesday demanded that Vice President Dick Cheney make available records of private meetings that he and other White House officials held with outside interests while crafting a national energy policy.
Escalating a confrontation with the administration, the General Accounting Office warned in a "demand letter" that if the information is not provided within 20 days, the agency will take the unusual step of seeking a court order to compel the White House to release the documents.
The GAO action, sought by Democratic lawmakers suspicious that the administration's energy policy was shaped by industry officials who contributed to President Bush's campaign, represents the first significant investigation of the Bush administration.
The White House has provided the GAO with 77 pages of financial documents, but the agency is seeking information about meeting participants, information they gave to the energy task force and minutes and notes of the sessions.
FBI GRILLED: Lawmakers urged a government-wide accounting of firearms and computers Wednesday after the FBI's disclosure that hundreds of laptops and weapons were missing from the agency. A bureau administrator acknowledged that no single official was responsible for keeping track of weapons or computers with classified information.
GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, called for the Treasury Department, which includes the Secret Service, to account for its guns and computers. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wants the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, to check every federal agency for missing weapons.
"If our premier law enforcement agency, the FBI, is so lax in keeping track of its guns, I shudder to think about what other abuses may exist at other federal agencies," said Dingell.
PHARMACIES SUE: Drugstore owners have filed a lawsuit to keep the Bush administration from promoting prescription discount cards in the Medicare program, pharmacy trade groups said. The stores say the Bush plan is "clandestine and unlawful" and would force them to bear the burden of trimming the cost of medicines for the elderly.
Elsewhere . . .
INTERN VISITED CONDIT SITE: Shortly before her disappearance, Chandra Levy used her laptop computer to visit Internet sites concerning Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., police said Wednesday. "She didn't stay long at any particular ones, but clearly had an interest, I think, in the congressman's activity," said Terrance Gainer, Washington's deputy police chief, in an interview with MSNBC. Police had been expected to release Wednesday a list of the Web sites she visited, but Gainer said it would be today at the earliest.
FATHER KILLS SELF: Hours after being sentenced for negligence in his son's death, a man killed himself with his hunting rifle in the same mountains near Salt Lake City where the 2-year-old wandered off last October while the father scouted for deer. Paul Wayment, 38, was to begin serving a 30-day jail sentence Wednesday. He pleaded no contest Tuesday to a charge of negligent homicide for leaving the boy alone in a pickup.
OHIO FLOODING KILLS 3: Thunderstorms dumped up to 6 inches of rain on Loveland, Ohio, killing a man and his daughter and knocking out power to 26,000 customers. The deluge also swept away a 16-year-old girl who was missing and believed dead Wednesday.
AT THE SPACE STATION: In their second spacewalk this week, space shuttle Atlantis' astronauts jumped ahead and installed an extra gas tank on the international space station's new entryway Wednesday despite computer trouble. Michael Gernhardt and James Reilly II latched two high-pressure oxygen tanks and one nitrogen tank onto the $164-million air lock, paving the way for its debut as a corridor for spacewalkers in just a few days.
BOY AT BOOT CAMP DROWNED: A 14-year-old boy sent to an Arizona boot camp for troubled youths drowned in a motel bathtub, vomiting mud, after being forced to stand in the sun when he said he wanted to go home, according to a court record. Authorities are investigating the July 1 death of Anthony Haynes.