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Bush Defends Cheney

President Bush called Dick Cheney "a fine business leader" Wednesday and said he was confident an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into Cheney's former company's accounting practices would exonerate the vice president.

The SEC is investigating the Dallas-based Halliburton Co. when Cheney was its chief executive.

"That matter will run its course...and facts will come out at some time," Mr. Bush said during a White House news conference with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski..

Asked whether he was confident the SEC would find that Cheney did nothing wrong, Mr. Bush said, "Yes,I am."

The president also sidestepped a question on his own business practices a decade ago as a director of Harken Oil Corp. Mr. Bush was investigated by the SEC on suspicion of insider trading in 1990, but that case was dropped.

Mr. Bush said his sale of stock "was fully investigated by career investigators" and the SEC. "The key document said there is no case," he said.

"The key thing for the American people is to realize that the fundamentals for economic vitality and growth are there," the president said, quickly changing the subject.

Despite a long-sliding stock market, "I'm an optimist about the future of this economy," the president said.

Asked about Cheney's dealings at Halliburton, Mr. Bush said, "I've got great confidence in the vice president. He's doing a heck of a good job. When I picked him, I knew he was a fine business leader and a fine, experienced man, and he's doing a great job."

Cheney has not publicly discussed his role at Halliburton since Wall Street's turbulence and mushrooming business scandals have thrust the issue of corporate responsibility into the limelight.

Congressional Democrats have said they may hold hearings into accounting at Halliburton Co. when Cheney was chief executive of the oil equipment company.

A watchdog group, Judicial Watch, has filed a shareholders lawsuit alleging that Halliburton overstated revenue by $445 million from 1999 through 2001. The suit suggests that Halliburton's accounting practices resulted in an overvaluation of its shares.