Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway refused Monday to appear before a House committee probing stuff she’s said that lawmakers say violated a federal law banning government employees from engaging in political speech while on the job.
Conway, with her boss’ blessing, ignored a subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee to answer questions about her openly endorsing Donald Trump’s re-election and criticizing Democratic contenders, all while on the job, in possible violation of the Hatch Act, Politico reports.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote the committee chair, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a letter stating that Conway wouldn’t be appearing, citing Trump administration policy that his people be “absolutely immune” from testifying before Congress, according to Politico.
A displeased Cummings said Conway risked being held in contempt of Congress if she failed to show before July 25.
“This is a clear-cut case. We are not requiring her to testify about advice she gave the president or about the White House’s policy decisions,” Cummings said, Politico reports.
“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,” he added.
As USA Today explains, the White House’s stance won’t make any friends with Democrats on the Hill:
The decision is certain to increase tension between Democratic lawmakers in the House and President Donald Trump’s administration, which has dismissed congressional investigations as politically motivated and has largely refused to comply with lawmakers’ demands for information.
Trump dismissed the recommendation of a government watchdog last month that Conway be removed from her job for “egregious, notorious and ongoing” violations of the Hatch Act. The provision is intended to prevent public officials from using their taxpayer-funded office to conduct partisan politics.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved the subpoena late last month after Conway declined an earlier invitation to testify.
Trump and Republicans say lawmakers are trying to violate Conway’s free-speech rights.
“Today, Chairman Cummings and Democrats on the House Oversight Committee continued their purely political campaign to harass the president and his close advisers,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. “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.”
Cummings seemed unmoved.
“This illegal activity—and the ongoing effort to cover it up—must not be allowed to stand,” he said.