House panel subpoenas Kellyanne Conway for refusing to testify about Hatch Act violations

Kellyanne Conway, a White House adviser. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to subpoena the White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday.
  • At the White House’s direction, Conway refused to appear before the committee to testify on violations of the Hatch Act, which bans certain political activity for people working in government.
  • The Office of Special Counsel earlier this month recommended that Conway be terminated for repeatedly flouting the Hatch Act.
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WASHINGTON – The House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday voted to subpoena the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway after she refused to testify in a hearing examining repeated violations of the Hatch Act, a law prohibiting officials in the executive branch from engaging in political conduct in their official capacities.

The committee voted largely along party lines, 25-16. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was the only Republican who voted with Democrats to issue the subpoena.

The committee’s latest action is yet another attempt to haul in high-profile Trump administration officials after being stonewalled.

The Office of Special Counsel earlier this month recommended that Conway be terminated for refusing to adhere to the Hatch Act.

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The OSC sent a letter to President Donald Trump outlining why it considered “removal from federal service” to be “the appropriate discipline.”

“Although the President and Vice President are exempt from the Hatch Act,” the OSC said in a statement, “employees of the White House are not.”

“OSC’s letter to the President accompanying the report refers to Ms. Conway as a ‘repeat offender’ and states: ‘Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law,'” it added.

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The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, on Monday detailed why Conway refused to attend the hearing.

“As you know, the precedent for members of the White House staff to decline invitations to testify before congressional committees has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties, and is based on clearly established constitutional doctrines,” Cipollone wrote to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Cummings got into testy exchanges with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan, and Rep. Mark Meadows, who both defended Conway and argued that she was being singled out.

“She’s a public official – who we pay, by the way – who has been accused of wrongdoing, and she refused to explain herself,” Cummings said.

“Let me be clear: I think that we have gotten to a point, sadly, where disobeying the law is OK,” Cummings said. When Meadows interrupted him to argue that Conway hadn’t violated the wall, Cummings banged his gavel and said, “Yes, it is!”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley slammed Conway for appearing on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday instead of testifying before the committee.

“We have offered her a platform to explain herself, and she did not show up,” Pressley said, adding, “This is completely disrespectful to us as a co-equal branch of government.”

Many White House officials have ignored subpoenas to appear before Democrat-controlled committees. As a result, several could be held in contempt, including Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and others could soon face stiff punishment for refusing to cooperate with Congress.