The chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Monday said the panel will vote to hold White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in contempt of Congress later this month unless she agrees to appear to testify in a hearing.
Despite a subpoena to testify last month, Conway did not appear at the committee’s hearing Monday. Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said the committee will hold a contempt vote on July 25, but implored Conway to testify before then to “help us avoid that situation.”
A letter sent to Cummings from White House counsel Pat Cipollone ahead of the hearing Monday said Conway would not appear at the direction of President Donald Trump.
“The President has directed Ms. Conway not to appear at the Committee’s scheduled hearing on Monday, July 15, 2019,” the letter said. “The long-standing principle of immunity for senior advisers to the President is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency.”
The White House also released a statement calling the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena a “purely political campaign.”
Last month, the US Office of Special Counsel — which is not involved with Robert Mueller’s investigation — recommended Conway be fired for violations of the Hatch Act. The office said Conway erred by “disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”
The Hatch Act is designed to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner, and, according to the Office of Special Counsel’s own explanation of the rule, it applies to federal employees as well as state and local employees who work with federally funded programs.
In his remarks Monday, Cummings called Conway’s testimony a “clear cut case.”
“This is bigger than just the Hatch Act or any other law,” he said. “This is about holding our government to the highest standard and not allowing individuals appointed by the President to be given special treatment when they flagrantly violate the law.”