Politics: White House Directs Kellyanne Conway to Defy House Subpoena - - PressFrom - US

PoliticsWhite House Directs Kellyanne Conway to Defy House Subpoena

01:55  16 july  2019
01:55  16 july  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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WASHINGTON — The White House is directing Kellyanne Conway , the president’s counselor, to reject a request to testify before a House committee about The White House has also instructed its former top lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, to defy a subpoena to testify before congressional lawmakers.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has grown defiant over the multiple alleged violations of the Hatch Act. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo. The House Oversight and Reform Committee will vote to authorize a subpoena for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday if she does not

White House Directs Kellyanne Conway to Defy House Subpoena© Tom Brenner for The New York Times The House Oversight and Reform Committee authorized a subpoena for Kellyanne Conway last month.

WASHINGTON — White House officials directed Kellyanne Conway on Monday not to comply with a congressional subpoena compelling her to answer to accusations of multiple violations of a federal ethics law, invoking the “longstanding principle of immunity for senior advisers to the president.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee authorized a subpoena for Ms. Conway last month after Henry J. Kerner, a special counsel for a nonpartisan government watchdog agency, told the committee that Ms. Conway should be fired from the White House for her “egregious, repeated and very public violations” of a federal ethics law called the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities at work.

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WASHINGTON — A year ago, few “on the outside” — a phrase perhaps tellingly favored in the Trump White House — would have guessed that Kellyanne Conway would be the one hanging on as other high-profile aides pull their rip cords.

But President Trump has vowed to defy all subpoenas, and on Monday, when Ms. Conway was due to testify, Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, told Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the chairman of the oversight panel, in a letter that she would ignore the summons. Invoking the claim of absolute immunity, Mr. Cipollone wrote that “in accordance with longstanding, bipartisan precedent, Ms. Conway cannot be compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters related to her service as a senior adviser to the president.”

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The move is the latest turn in a growing confrontation between the House and the executive branch, as they battle over just how far Congress’s oversight power extends and whether a president’s senior aides are “absolutely immune” from subpoenas. The White House has blocked testimony from a number of the president’s top aides, current and former, invoking that claim.

Trump Aide Conway Expected to Ignore House Panel’s Subpoena

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In response, Mr. Cummings threatened to hold Ms. Conway in contempt if she does not comply by next week. The House is scheduled to hold William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, in criminal contempt on Tuesday for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas related to the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

“We are not requiring her to testify about advice she gave the president or about the White House’s policy decisions,” Mr. Cummings said. “We are requiring her to testify before Congress about her multiple violations of federal law, her waste of taxpayer funds and her actions that compromise public confidence in the integrity of the federal government.”

Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, described the subpoena in a statement on Monday as part of House Democrats’ “purely political campaign to harass the president and his close advisers.”

Kellyanne Conway defies subpoena, skips Oversight hearing

Kellyanne Conway defies subpoena, skips Oversight hearing Rep. Elijah Cummings previously issued the subpoena after the White House blocked Conway from appearing before the committee voluntarily. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that oversees Hatch Act compliance, cited Conway last month for multiple violations of the 1939 law, which prohibits government employees from participating in political speech while performing their official duties. The Democrat-led Oversight Committee has been looking into the issue.

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“Democrats continue to overreach and politicize the Office of Special Counsel — this time, by trying to silence Kellyanne Conway with ill-founded, phony allegations about the Hatch Act,” Ms. Grisham said.

But government ethics groups condemned the White House’s refusal to comply with the subpoena.

“No one is above the law, even if they work in the White House,” said Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Ms. Conway must be held to the same standard as all federal employees governed by the Hatch Act.”

The Hatch Act is meant to ensure that government employees avoid the appearance of partisanship and do not use their official authority to influence the results of an election. The special counsel’s office, led by Mr. Kerner, accused Ms. Conway of being a “repeat offender” of the law, citing multiple official interviews she gave in her capacity as a White House spokeswoman in which she attacked Democratic presidential candidates unprovoked.

Absolute immunity, the claim invoked by the White House, is separate from the concept of executive privilege. The Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations has taken the position that the president’s closest advisers have such immunity from congressional subpoenas so they cannot be forced to comply with demands for testimony. But the theory has not been fully upheld in court, and Democrats believe it is unlikely to stand up when tested.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

Read More

House panel postpones Kellyanne Conway contempt vote amid talks with White House.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings said he was postponing the vote “as I work with the White House to try to reach an accommodation” on Conway’s testimony.

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