Washington - A federal judge on Saturday ordered Dick Cheney to preserve a wide range of records from his time as vice president.
The decision by the judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, is a setback for the Bush administration in its effort to promote a narrow definition of materials that must be safeguarded under the Presidential Records Act.
The Bush administration's legal position "heightens the court's concern" that some records might not be preserved, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said.
A private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is suing Mr. Cheney and the Executive Office of the President to ensure that no presidential records are destroyed or handled in a way that makes them unavailable to the public.
In a 22-page opinion, Judge Kollar-Kotelly revealed that in recent days, lawyers for the Bush administration balked at a proposed agreement between the two sides on how to proceed with the case.
Mr. Cheney and the other defendants in the case, Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "were only willing to agree to a preservation order that tracked their narrowed interpretation" of the Presidential Records Act.
The administration, the judge said, wanted any court order on what records are at issue in the suit to cover only the office of the vice president, not Mr. Cheney or the other defendants in the lawsuit. The other defendants include the National Archives and the archivist of the United States.
In response to the ruling, a spokesman for Mr. Cheney, James R. Hennigan, said, "We will not have any comment on pending litigation."
The lawsuit stems from Mr. Cheney's position that his office is not part of the executive branch of government.
This summer, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, David S. Addington, told Congress that the vice president belongs to neither the executive nor legislative branch of government, but rather is attached by the Constitution to Congress. The vice president presides over the Senate.
The lawsuit alleges that the Bush administration's actions over the past seven and a half years raise questions over whether the White House will turn over records created by Mr. Cheney and his staff to the National Archives in January.