The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted on Wednesday to authorize a subpoena for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway after she failed to appear at a hearing centering on her alleged violations of the Hatch Act.
The White House blocked Conway from attending Wednesday’s hearing, prompting the Democrat-led panel to authorize Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to issue the subpoena.
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“Here, we have a clear-cut case of a federal employee violating federal law over and over and over again,” Cummings said ahead of a tense debate between Republicans and Democrats.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued a report earlier this month citing Conway for multiple violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from participating in political speech while performing their official duties.
Lawmakers raised their voices at times as they sparred over the allegations, with Republicans asserting that Conway was unfairly targeted. The debate got so heated that Cummings repeatedly slammed his gavel to bring the committee back to order.
One Republican — Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan — joined all Democrats in voting to authorize Cummings to subpoena Conway. Amash is an outspoken opponent of the president and has called for his impeachment.
Henry J. Kerner, who leads the OSC, testified before the Oversight Committee on Wednesday to defend his report. A former GOP staffer for the Oversight panel, Kerner was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate.
In his report, Kerner described Conway as a repeat offender of the 1939 law, citing her comments about the 2020 presidential race and the Alabama Senate election in 2017. Kerner recommended that Trump fire her.
“Ms. Conway’s advocacy against the Democratic candidates and open endorsement of the president’s re-election effort during both official media appearances and on her Twitter account constitute prohibited personnel activity under the Hatch Act,” Kerner’s report stated.
The White House has gone on the offensive in response to the allegations, asserting that Kerner’s report violates her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and due process. A White House spokesman accused the OSC of “weaponizing” the Hatch Act.
The president, meanwhile, has said he does not plan to fire Conway, whom Republicans have lauded as an effective communicator for Trump’s message.
Conway has dismissed the alleged violations, quipping to reporters last month: “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” She accused the OSC of trying to silence her.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight panel, called Kerner’s report “outrageous, unprecedented, unfair — and it’s flat-out wrong.” He and other Republicans accused Kerner of singling out Conway.
“This subpoena is nothing more than a political spectacle,” added Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a senior member of the committee. “We have one standard for Kellyanne Conway and another standard for everybody else.”
Democrats dismissed the GOP arguments.
“With the president’s full support, Ms. Conway has engaged in an astounding show of defiance by increasing the frequency of her illegal activity and disparaging the law itself,” Cummings said.