WASHINGTON -- Solyndra executives invoked their Fifth Amendment rights more than a dozen times as House Republicans pressed them for answers regarding the solar company's collapse two years after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee.
"On the advice of my counsel, I invoke the privilege afforded by the Fifth Amendament of the U.S. Constitution and I respectfully decline to answer any questions," said Solyndra Chief Financial Officer W.G. Stover Jr. at a Friday hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigative panel.
CEO Brian Harrison gave the same response, telling chairman of the Energy and Commerce oversight subpanel Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) he hoped to assist the committee in the future.
Still Republicans plowed ahead with their questions.
"What is your plan to pay back the taxpayers the $535 million you owe them?" Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) asked the executives. "And when will you pay them back?"
Such lines of questioning drew sharp criticism from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who accused Republicans of seeking soundbites rather than answers.
"I just want to take this moment to assert the fact that I think it's unseemly and inappropriate for members to be asking questions that you know they will not answer," Waxman said, noting that a number of these same lawmakers had sought federal subsidies for clean energy in their districts, a point that has repeatedly been pushed by the White House.
Upton retorted that spotlighting lawmakers' past support for energy projects in their home states was hardly an appropriate way to respond to the Solyndra scandal.
"Let me just warn you and the other folks involved in this taxpayer rip-off," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of Energy and Commerce. "We're not done. No we're not."
In an interview with HuffPost after the hearing, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) echoed that sentiment.
"Investigations take time. Obviously no one in the White House wants to be truly cooperative, so you just have to take it a day at a time. But we'll get there," said Barton. "The American people put a half a billion dollars into Solyndra. That's a lot of incentive to get to the bottom of this."
WATCH highlights from the hearing below:
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